For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.               Romans 11:29

In Genesis 15, God cuts Covenant with Abraham and it is astounding.  First, God does this literally in Person and that in itself was pretty special.  Nowhere else in the Old Testament does God take such a direct hand in bonding Himself to humanity as here.  Nowhere else is God so close to being human as here.  If only He could take that one step more and actually be in the flesh …  But He can’t.  Not yet. This would have to wait until Jesus comes to earth.

The second thing is that the Creator, the Source of all Life, He Who is Life, takes the solemn vow that if ever He breaks Covenant, He will die.  That is amazing – His commitment is that absolute:  No matter what Israel will do or not do throughout its history, God will never walk away from this bond that He locks Himself into.  Even when He must send them into captivity, they go with His promise that He will bless them wherever they find themselves; and He will bless the land in which they are because of them; and He will bring them back to their home.  No, He will never turn His back, never break His Covenant with them until the cross of Jesus – and that’s another story.

But now comes the unique twist that particularly has emphasis on our text today.  In this Covenant God commits everything, even His Life, to this bond with this man – and Abraham?  He does nothing: he’s in a trance, he is just an observer.  He has made no commitment – for fourteen years he has no Covenant obligations, until finally two chapters later he now is to commit himself and his household by Circumcision..  For fourteen years God is fully committed and obligated in this relationship, He will not back away His promise, and it does not matter what Abraham does or does not do.  This in a nutshell is the one-sided steadfastness that God will demonstrate throughout the history of Israel: no matter what they will do or will not do, He will keep His promises.

It is really a very little sentence.  There are only nine words to the sentence.  But have you any idea of the power and force behind it?  “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!”

What does that say to you?  “The call of God is irrevocable!?”  “The gifts of God are irrevocable!?”

This should have a great deal of breathtaking comfort: St Paul is saying that God doesn’t change His mind!  No matter what the called person may or may not do, God does not withdraw the commitment He makes to that person.  When God has put Himself into a Covenant situation, there is no turning back.  He never regrets His decision.  Nothing will break His bond – nothing!  That’s what was already defined in the opening pages of the Bible.  Isn’t that fantastic!

St Paul is talking from a position of strength and confidence – this is no conjecture on his part.  He can point all the way back to Abraham as to how God irrevocably binds Himself and so he expects no less even today from God’s vows.  But what is this “call” which Paul is talking about?  We say pastors and some teachers have a call – is this what is being talked about?  These may be included but actually this call is something far greater.

Within Romans, in chapters 9 to 11, Paul is dealing with the heartache of Israel’s rejection of Jesus, rejection not only of the Person of Jesus (Who He was and what He did), but also a rejection of God’s way of doing things – here specifically, God’s way of bringing life and salvation to mankind.  And they had rejected all of this.  They held to their comfortable, self-righteous, work-righteous law, trying to make that which condemns us become our salvation.  The history of salvation within Israel had ground to a halt.  And Paul’s heart just aches for them.

They had had the calling to be God’s People – God’s very own People here on this earth, His very special People throughout all of eternity.  And they had rejected it.  Although God will never back down on His commitment, they stepped outside of this intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.

This was really not something new.  As you read through the Old Testament, from the wanderings in the wilderness with Moses, through some sordid episodes during the time of the Judges, and all too often throughout the reign of the kings, Israel time and again had rejected God’s way, they had time and again rejected the call to be His special and distinctive people.

Standing back and viewing this history, what hits you full in the face was that in spite of all the hassles and grief that Israel caused God, He never once withdrew the special place that they had in His heart and within His great plan of the ages.  They walked out on Him, they spit in His face, they desecrated His house – but the call remained – irrevocable – down through centuries, and according to St Paul, still stands even today.  Now that’s irrevocable.  That’s the way God’s commitment is.  And that is what is so astounding.

It is comforting as well.  You see, what St Paul was also explaining was how that call has been widened to include you and me as well.  Oh, but Paul warns us to not become too self-conscious and proud – the history of Christians has not been all that different from Israel’s.  And yet how amazing that there is never a string attached, no change of God’s mind, no revoking of His call to us for eternity.
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This is serious!  Such a prestigious calling in all the universe – and yet Israel right now receives nothing from it!  In Jesus, forgiveness, life, freedom, and innumerable other blessings sit right on their very doorstep – they trip over all of these things as they go in and out of their synagogue, and when they observe their holy days – yet it does them no good.

Listen to Paul’s yearning heart!  The Jews know that the call of God is irrevocable, even today.  Even Satan knows that the call of God is irrevocable – look at how throughout history he has attempted to eradicate this People who have such a special spiritual estate  And yet it does them no good.  They will not see the benefits of such a central position before all the universe, for they have rejected the calling, rejected God’s way of doing things, and rejected what they were intended to be and do as His personal representatives.

That’s quite a forceful warning to US!  The question of the lessons today is: YOU are God’s People – what are you doing with that special calling?  The woman in today’s Gospel [Matthew 15:21-28] was a person who clung so fiercely and so immovably to her faith in Jesus and God’s way, that she was willing to take rejection, abuse, even disgrace.  She was willing to let God have His way, no matter what the cost.  She was willing to put herself out on a limb for the sake of what she knew the Lord could do in her life.  She was God’s person – and yet she wasn’t one of God’s specially called People.

Did you notice something else in this passage?  “The gifts are irrevocable” – recognize that it does not say “The gift,” which could simply mean salvation or Jesus Christ.  Certainly that is included in Paul’s encompassing statement.  But the term is plural: gifts.

That’s because in many other places (throughout the New Testament especially), being God’s People is not a static thing.  You just don’t stand around when you are God’s person – you are always God’s person TO someone else.  You represent God, you bring Him into the concrete realities of life – as Luther put it, you are “Little Christs” – people are to rub shoulders with GOD through you.

Therefore you are equipped with gifts – it may be the gifts of serving others, the gifts of helping in a special God-empowered way, or the gift of being an evangelist, or the gift of being generous toward the work of the Lord, or the gift of administration – or whatever way the reality of God, especially of Jesus, is brought into the activity of daily life.

And these gifts are irrevocable.  Don’t you dare say that you do not have a gift, because you then directly contradict the Word of God!  And it is not a matter of one gift but of GIFTS!  And, as we grow older, this statement reminds us that irrevocable means that never is there a time when we can step out and retire from having God’s gifts; never can we step out of His call to be His representatives in this world.

Yes, the gifts and call of God are irrevocable – God will never change His mind about you, He will never withdraw His desire that you be His person – forever.  Paul’s simple statement declares that God’s tremendous mercy and grace as displayed throughout history is unchanged even today.  You will always be someone very important, special and necessary to our Lord.

And, unfortunately like Israel, we also have too often rejected His calling, we have rejected His gifts – every day of our lives there have been more times than we care to admit when we have not lived up to being God’s person – to our families, among our friends, in front of our co-workers, even to ourselves.

Yet Paul reminds us that the call of God is irrevocable.  Isn’t that what the fact of this service is all about?  We are reminded that God remains steadfast.  Isn’t that what the Sacraments are all about?  Here at the Baptismal font we have the declaration of God Himself that He is with us His children, here is the bonding of God which is unbreakable, here is the call that sets us into eternity, the call from which God will never back away.  Here is the commitment of God to death should He ever break His commitment to us, should He ever discard the special place we have in His heart, in His world and in His work.  It is here where He declares this is all irrevocable.

So now He comes again in Holy Communion, God come off His throne, out of the perfection of heaven, to be in our midst, demonstrating that His commitment is still irrevocable, unbreakable.  He must be here, because this is the bond He has unalterably committed Himself to – this is God’s powerful witness of a steadfast and eternal connection – which from His end will never be withdrawn.

Now He calls you to renew the bond, to join Him once again, to discover the extraordinary and exciting life He holds out to you.  He bids you to come to His Table so that He may reveal once again His serious earnestness, bound up in His Body and Blood, to place you into of all which He has in store for you forever.  As you come in new determination and in repentance, “taste and see the Lord is good” [Psalm 34:8] and that His commitment to you personally is indeed “from everlasting to everlasting” [Psalms 103:17; 106:48].

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