May the Word of God speak unto “Our Excuses and Our Mighty Mouths”
All of us attempt to justify our actions at one time or another with excuses. When people give an excuse, they give a reason or explanation to defend or justify an action or an inaction, a fault or offense; Usually we will give others a reason for NOT doing something, or a reason why something went wrong.
“Excuse” comes from the Latin meaning “out of cause”: We offer a cause or a reason for not doing something that we should…. we give a bizarre “excuse.”
Billy Sunday, the baseball star turned evangelist who lived from 1862 – 1935, said that “An excuse is the Skin of a Reason, Stuffed with a Lie.” Today, we are going to look at a few excuses Apostle Paul states Israel used for not believing.
Romans 10:15-21Disciples’ Literal New Testament
15 And how may they proclaim if they are not sent-forth?— just as it has been written[a] [in Isaiah 52:7]: “How beautiful are the feet of the ones announcing-good-news–of good things!” 16 But[b] they did not all obey the good-news, for Isaiah says [in Isaiah 53:1], “Lord, who put-faith-in our report?” 17 So[c] the faith[d] comes from a report-hearing[e], and the report-hearing through a word[f] about[g] Christ.
But It Is Not As Though Israel Did Not Hear
And It Is Not As Though Israel Did Not Know
19 But I say— it is not that Israel did not know[j], is it? First, Moses says [in Deuteronomy 32:21] “I will provoke you to jealousy over what is not a nation. I will provoke you to anger over a nation without-understanding[k]”. 20 And Isaiah is very bold and says [in Isaiah 65:1] “I was found by the ones not seeking Me. I became visible[l] to the ones not asking-for Me”. 21 But with-regard-to Israel He says [in Isaiah 65:2], “I held-out[m] My hands the whole day toward a disobeying[n] and contradicting[o] people”.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
The most meticulous and thorough presentation of the glorious Gospel of Christ is found in the book of Romans. It also meticulously details man’s own depravity, humanities estrangement from God and man’s reconciliation back to God. The book of Romans could be called the seedbed for all Christian doctrine… giving us a systematic, step-by-step teaching of the fundamentals of our faith.
Paul pounds home the truth that God’s gracious offer of righteousness is by faith. He points out that it is equally accessible to Jew and Gentile alike… for all are sinners and have fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23).
All have the sentence of death over their heads.. and without exception, all of us need a Savior. Paul points out that no-one, Jew or Gentile alike, is exempt from God’s condemnation for all have sinned and are in need of a Savior – all need to be justified by grace, through an abiding faith in the Son of God – Christ Jesus.
It baffles the mind of those that have taken up God’s free gift of salvation.. that His offer of reconciliation should be quickly, summarily rejected by so many.
It is astonishing that so many refuse to believe on His name and be rescued from condemnation and an eternity in hell.
And yet throughout the old and new testaments we discover with no small amount of astonishment.. the foolish depravity to which the human race has fallen and man’s arrogant refusal to accept God’s free gift of salvation.
Prophets like Jeremiah grieved at the unbelief in the heart of man when his call for Israel to return to the Lord was treated with such blind, malicious contempt.
Isaiah mourned at the hardness of men’s heart, when he wrote:
LORD: who has believed our report?’
Who has believed the saving message that God has tried to deliver through so many prophets?
Who has believed the word of the Lord and who is willing to admit that there are none that are righteous – not even one.
How few see the need to turn from their sins and believe on the Word of the Lord – and the gospel of grace?
In the first part of chapter 10 of Romans, God tells us what happens to a heart that calls on, believes in, and confesses the name of the Lord Jesus Christ .
We concluded with the prophecy which was first fulfilled in Christ and now is fulfilled in us as the Church in Romans 10:15: “Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS (the Gospel) OF GOOD THINGS!” (Quoted from Isaiah. 52:7)
The Lord Jesus set His feet on this earth from His Heaven and proclaimed the Gospel in His Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension.
His Ministry of miracles and healing proved beyond the shadow of a doubt, that no one but God could do those things! He proved over and over again HE WAS MESSIAH, THE ONE PROMISED from God, who would DIE FOR OUR SINS.
But, still, there was disbelief, there was unacceptance of the Gospel message.
Excuse #1: A Hearing Problem?
WHO COULD POSSIBLY REJECT THE Power and Clarity of the GOSPEL of God’s Grace in Jesus Christ?
Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit continues in Romans 10:16: “However, (UH-oh!) they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?”
The truth is that VERY FEW believed the report. Israel killed the prophets who preached God’s Word, and then they killed THE ONE, the LORD JESUS, which the prophets had foretold. But that does not change the way that God works:
Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” 18 But I say, surely they have never heard, have they?”
Paul is saying: With such clear and powerful prophecy, could it at all be possible that Israel never heard the MESSAGE of the Gospel? Could it be possible that MOST of Israel had a “self-centered” hearing problem? Can Israel honestly stand up and give the excuse: We didn’t hear the message of salvation?
Paul responds with the second half of verse 18: Indeed they have; (NO WAY! NO EXCUSE; THEY HAVE HEARD THE MESSAGE) “THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD.”
Here Paul quotes Psalm 19:4: “Their sound has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world.” Psalm 19:1 begins: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Day and night, CREATION SPEAKS LOUDLY AND CLEARLY of the Glory and the power and the work of the Almighty God.
The excuse does not stand because Creation sings the Father’s song:
Romans 1:18-23Disciples’ Literal New Testament
God’s Wrath Is Upon All Sin
Because God Revealed Enough of Himself In Creation For The World To Be Without Excuse
19 Because the thing known of God is evident[e] in[f] them, for God made it [self] evident to them. 20 For His invisible things— both His eternal power and divine-nature— are clearly-seen, being understood since the creation of the world in the things made, so that they are without-excuse.
And Having Known This Truth About God, The World Did Not Honor Him As God
21 Because having known God, they did not glorify Him as God or give-thanks, but became futile in their thoughts, and their senseless heart was darkened.
They Turned From The Glory of The Immortal God To Their Crafted Images of God
22 While claiming to be wise, they became-foolish 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for a likeness— an image of a mortal person and of birds and of four-footed-animals and of reptiles.
If you go back to the beginning of Romans, read Romans 2-3, you find that NO ONE IS RIGHTEOUS and there is not one single usable excuse, and everyone is liable! No one can say: I don’t believe because I never heard.
Excuse # 2: Lack of Understanding?
Here’s excuse number two:
Romans 10:19 “But I say, surely Israel did not KNOW, did they?”
OK let’s bury deep the first excuse: We can admit Israel heard the word, but maybe they just didn’t UNDERSTAND (know) the Word. Could that be valid?
That they heard it but didn’t understand it? Could Israel’s excuse be that over the long course of years, “we just didn’t understand the message of salvation?”
Paul’s response Romans 10:19b is:
“First Moses says, “I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER. (YOU)”
Paul’s response comes from:
Deuteronomy 32:21-22 New American Standard Bible
21 They have made Me jealous with what is not God;
They have provoked Me to anger with their [a]idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people;
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation,
22 For a fire has flared in My anger,
And it burns to the lowest part of [b]Sheol,
And devours the earth with its yield,
And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
In essence, Israel caused God to be jealous by going after other gods, so God’s hope is to arouse jealousy within them, not by rejecting them, but by drawing other people outside of Israel to come to His Salvation.
How could anyone possibly not understand the message of salvation?
Not only did God give Israel the general revelation which He gave to EVERY CREATURE on this planet, but He gave to them HIS WORD and LAW, and they still disobeyed and followed other Gods.
We looked at the first part of Psalm 19 where the theme of God’s General revelation in creation is explained.
If you look at the second half of Psalm 19, you hear that Israel received the Perfect WORD and LAW of God, and they STILL rejected God.
So both of Israel’s excuses are groundless: They HEARD and UNDERSTOOD and still rejected God’s Grace. God’s response is heard in Roman 10:20:
Romans 10: 20 And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME, I BECAME MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME.” (from Isaiah 65:1: “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name.”
The overwhelming majority of the nation of Israel both heard and understood the message of God’s salvation of justification faith, but did not believe God’s promise, and when His Promised ONE arrived, they rejected and crucified Him.
They would NOT admit they needed God’s salvation nor submit by faith and grace. They were offended by the hearing and understanding of God’s Word and Grace and by a righteousness which comes by faith.
They were quite content to remain in their own self-righteousness and sin.
Their response to Deuteronomy 32 was basically: “Go ahead, give your grace to the Gentiles; at least we have our Judaism and we’re happy with that! We don’t want or need anything else.”
Romans 10:16 Disciples’ Literal New Testament
16 But[a] they did not all obey the good-news, for Isaiah says [in Isaiah 53:1], “Lord, who put-faith-in our report?”
What a disheartening thing to know that not everyone will accept Christ Jesus as Lord. Eventually they will confess this with their mouths (Philippians 2:11) but the timeframe to accept this gospel message is while we are in the world.
Christ came to redeem the world, although he knew, not everyone would accept him.
John 1:11-13 Disciples’ Literal New Testament
11 He came to His own things, and His own ones did not accept Him. 12 But all who did receive Him, He gave them— the ones believing in His name— the right[a] to become children of God, 13 who were born not of bloods[b], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God[c].
Jesus came first to the nation of Israel and proclaimed peace between them and God. However, they received him not.
Paul says the same thing in today’s passage,
“not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Romans 10:16).
Isaiah foretold that the Israelites would reject Jesus.
Paul is quoting from Isaiah 53, which is a passage about Jesus. This is one of the most powerful chapters in the entire Old Testament.
It foretold everything Jesus would suffer on the cross. Isaiah starts out this beautiful word with saying,
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1-3).
Christ knew that his own people would reject him and esteem him not. Yet he still came to redeem them, what a marvelous thing.
Why did the 1st Century Israelites reject Jesus?
For us, in 2022, we can look back through the Hebrew (Old) Testament with Jesus as our filter and identify every passage that was spoken about him. We can even read these passages out loud to others without telling them where they were found and the listener can tell you that it is talking about Christ, often the assumption is that the passage is actually the New Testament.
However, the Israelites read these same passages but looked for something entirely different than what Christ turned out to be.
They were looking for a warrior king and not a servant.
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, that Word fell on deaf ears, fulfilling what Isaiah prophesied about them.
” ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10).
Jesus spoke about the same truth in the parable of the Sower of the seed.
There are four kinds of soil to sow and depending on the condition of the soil is whether or not the seed grows and bears’ fruit. Jesus spoke this parable to this nation and when the disciples asked him what was meant by it, he quoted this passage in Isaiah. He spoke to them in parables because of the condition of their heart which kept them blind and deaf to these amazing truths. If their heart would have been ready to hear it, he would have turned and healed them.
The Israel of the 1st Century in this case was the first kind of soil.
The farmer went out to sow seed, but it fell upon the path and the birds ate it up quickly. When Jesus told this parable to the disciples, he explained…
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11-12, Mark 4:13-18).
Jesus told in Matthew’s version the reason the seed is quickly stolen,
“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (Matthew 13:18-19).
Now the condition of the soil made it easy for the seed to be eaten up by the birds, because the soil fell upon a path. A worn path is hard and compacted. In many cases it is impenetrable by something like a seed. For a seed to germinate it has to get down into the soil. But when it falls upon hard ground germination is not possible. The seed can be easily eaten because it is lying upon the surface.
Jesus said the seed was the word of God and Satan comes to steal it. If we don’t understand the word and the word falls upon deaf ears and the condition of the heart is impenetrable than stealing the word takes no effort.
In this case, 1st Century Israel was the first kind of soil. They were expecting a Messiah that was entirely different than Jesus, so their notions blinded them to the truth of God’s word.
Like Isaiah said, their hearts are calloused, their ears dull and their eyes are closed (Isaiah 6:10). As Jesus spoke to them, Satan walked right behind him and picked up the seeds of eternal life that he spoke.
They allowed him to steal the word of God that had the power to save them because they had not prepared their hearts to receive it.
What a discouraging thing this must have been.
But this stands as a warning for us.
Paul said in the very next verse of Romans 10 that “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
This is how faith comes, by hearing the gospel and believing and receiving it.
This message comes from Christ and just like the hard condition of the heart blocked the words of life, the fourth kind of soil received it with gladness and produced an abundant crop.
“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23, Mark 4:20, Luke 8:15).
When called, separated by God, we will always have our excuses to either act on that calling or not act on that calling. Invariably, our first choice is to reject the Word of the Lord as Samuel did, but with help and guidance from others, we will respond to God as He needs, requires us, to respond. (1 Samuel 3:1-10)
The Word of God is the Word of God. The seed is the seed, but the condition of the soil determines the abundance of the crop or even whether it sprouts at all.
Praise God the message of salvation continues to be equally efficacious for Jew and Gentile alike, and in his epistle to the Roman followers, the Apostle Paul presents in minute detail every aspect of God’s righteous condemnation of sinful man… and his gracious offer of reconciliation through the death burial and resurrection of Christ our God and Savior.
Let us undertake to read, mark, learn, inwardly digest its truth and tell others the message of reconciliation and redemption – although sadly the are likely to be those who do not obey the message through pride, unbelief and rebellion.
This is a good word for us today; we can hear the Word of God; we can prepare our hearts to receive the Word of God, then speak of them. It is my prayer that we keep your heart soft and pliable before the Lord ready to receive his word.
Be the fourth kind of cultivated soil and receive this word with gladness. Let this seed penetrate and germinate in your heart yielding much eternal fruit, amen.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
God, from the beginning, you were the word. You sent your only son to save us all and he even allowed himself to be tortured and crucified to obey you. Bless me with the gift of understanding and of unshaken faith in you. Let me know the meaning of your words in the Bible and how to live accordingly. Open up to me the door of my heart and fill me with your light and understanding. Amen.