Attempting to gain a greater understanding of Romans 8-9. I am reminded of the Princess Bride quote, "you keep using that word. Inconceivable! That word...I do not think it means what You think it means."
"...it is important to remember that in using Isaac and Jacob to illustrate God’s prerogative to choose whoever he pleases, Paul was not concerning himself with the eternal destinies of people. His concern was solely to show God’s sovereignty in electing people to a historical vocation. "
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2008/01/how-do-you-respond-to-romans-9/#sthash.9dAC0k78.dpuf
In my thinking and I believe this is what the commentary stated above is speaking about this cannot be solely an election of Jew/Gentile issue. The twins were brothers. Both born of the same line. What it is speaking about is that God's election for service for His purposes are not based on physical requirements. These are earthly things that will pass away. They only have relevance here in the time in this particulate cultural understanding or shaping. Or to put it in today's context our particular cultural shaping. Man is famous for focusing on the physical and making it the important thing because we are finite beings who live and interpret from what we know and understand; the tangible.
God through Paul is saying let go of what you know and understand. Follow me as God alone apart from your understanding of how the world or more importantly how I as God work!
Esau should have been first. That's how the "created order" according to their cultural understanding was supposed to work. Ishmael should have been chosen. That's how the "created order" according to their cultural understanding was supposed to work.
Think deeper with me: lineage was supposed to be through the male not the female...yet Ishmael was rejected. The firstborn had the birthright not the second yet Jacob was chosen. God chooses whom He will to do what He decides and He will destroy your cultural understanding of temporal physical importance to do so.
Why? Because He is greater and He wants us to understand this. He doesn't desire us to know and follow a God who binds His powerful hands with chains made from temporary materials.
He wants us to know and trust Him past what we see and understand. When God said Israel he didn't mean physicality. He deals with tissue of spiritual heritage both in salvation and vocation.
He was showing them they were secure if they followed but not guaranteed because of the state in which they were born. That Israel could mean a gentile by physical nature.
Begs the question....if He does that here then what else do we need to reconsider. How are Christians today playing the role of Israel and determining calling or usability by God based upon the temporal and tangible while God is Calling and putting into place His choice based on greater criteria.
Just some early morning thoughts to consider...