Romans: The Clearest Gospel of All
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#25 – The True Israelite, Part 1
(Romans 9:6-13)

In chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans, the great Apostle Paul sidetracks.  He doesn’t sidetrack from his great theme of Romans, which is Righteousness by Faith, but he sidetracks from his concern for the Christian church at Rome, and he directs his concern now to his own people, the Jewish nation.

Even though Paul was called by God, set aside, to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentile world, he had a tremendous burden for his own people, the Jews.  This concern, this fact is all the more amazing when we realize that his own people, the Jews, hated him.  They felt that he was a traitor, and yet Paul loved them, as we shall see in this study.

But the fact that we are dealing now with three chapters that have to do with the Jews does not mean that we Gentile Christians should skim over these chapters, because the same Apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that the history of the Jews has been recorded in the Bible, for our benefit, upon whom the ends of the worlds have come.

The famous historian Santana made the statement once that if we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it.  That’s exactly why God has recorded the history of Israel, because he doesn’t want us to repeat what they went through.  He wants us to learn from their mistakes.  The Jews were a very privileged people.  In fact, if you look at Romans 9:4, listen to what Paul tells about his own people:

Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.

He says to these Jews God had given:

  1. the adoption,
  2. the glory,
  3. the covenants,
  4. the giving of the law,
  5. the service of God, and
  6. finally, to them God gave the promises.  Or as Paul put it in Romans 3:2 which we’ve already covered:

    ...They have been entrusted with the very words of God.

They were a blessed people, but what did they do with this wonderful truth that God gave them?  They perverted the oracles of God and they rejected the promise of God in Jesus Christ.

Likewise, I believe we, as Adventists, have been a very privileged people.  I believe that God has given us some wonderful truths.  Foremost, 100 years ago he gave us a clear understanding of God’s unconditional good news of salvation.  And if we had not made the same mistake as the Jews, this earth would have already been lightened with the glory of Jesus Christ.  But we are still groping in darkness.

Just recently a Calvinist, of all people, published a book.  He’s entitled it What’s Good about the Good News?  At the bottom of the book is this statement:  “The plan of salvation in a new light.”  While I read this book with great delight, it was also with some sadness, because that new light God gave this church 100 years ago.  So God has to bring it to the world through a Calvinist.  But it’s not too late, folks.

We are going to study three chapters.  Yes, they are dealing with the Jews, but they have been recorded for our benefit.  According to chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans, the Jews failed on two major counts, and their failure has very important significance to us.  We dare not repeat their same mistake.

  1. They failed to understand what God meant or what constitutes true Israel.  They thought that as long as they were the descendants, the physical descendants of Israel’s three fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they qualified to be God’s elect, or God’s covenant people.

    And there are many Adventists who think that just because they have their name in the books, they qualify to be God’s children.  Well, I have bad news for you:  that doesn’t qualify you to be a child of God.  There are some backsliders who have pleaded with us, “Please don’t remove our names.”  Might as well, they don’t come to church.  But they think that their name in the books gives them some ticket to heaven.  I have sad news for you; the fact that you belong to God’s remnant church and your name is in the books does not qualify you for heaven.

    The fact that the Jews had Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their fathers did not qualify them for heaven.  They made this mistake:  they had not understood what God meant by Israel; they had failed to see why God gave them three fathers.

  2. The second mistake, which was, of course, the result of the first mistake, is they failed to recognize God’s way of saving sinful man.  The promise that God made is that One of those seed of those three men would be sent by God to be the Redeemer of the world and that salvation is by faith alone in His righteousness, and not by your own lawkeeping.  But they failed there.  The result is that God had to take the keys of the kingdom and give it to the Christian church.

Now the key statement in Romans 9 is in verse 6, and I want you to look at it.  Paul makes a statement there after expressing His concern for the Jews, who were blessed, in verse 6 of chapter 9, he says:

It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.

Now what does he mean by that statement?  God gave Israel many things:  He gave them covenants, He gave them the Sanctuary service, and He gave them promises.  Now all those things were summed up in one promise which He gave not once or twice or three times but many times repeated after that.  He gave this promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  That promise was that their children, their seed, would be the inheritance of the New Canaan, the promised salvation.

Then Jesus, at the end of His ministry, turns around to this very same people — you’ll find this statement in Matthew 23:37-38 — He turns around to the Jews at the end of His ministry and He says to them:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate.

In other words, there’s no hope for you.  This has created a problem, because I believe that when he made that statement in Romans 9:6, Paul had in mind a statement that God made in Numbers 23 and especially verse 19, and that was:

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?

God is not like man, who breaks promises.  Whatever God promises He will keep.  He had promised that all of the three fathers — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — that their children would belong to Israel, would be the elect, they would be God’s covenant chosen people.  And now Christ says, “I leave your house desolate.”

And Paul says, “Does that mean that God has failed to keep His promise?” That is the issue he discusses in chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans.  After the discussion, he comes to this conclusion (Romans 11:26):

And so all Israel will be saved....

God will keep His promise.  That answer to the question in Romans 9:6 has caused a lot of confusion in the Christian church.  There are some who believe that after God has dealt with the Gentiles, He will give the Jews a second chance, and then the Jews as a nation will no longer reject the Messiah, they will accept and ALL Jews will be saved.

But to understand Romans 11:26, we need to understand the logic of Paul’s argument beginning with chapter 9.  We need to ask the question, “What did Paul mean by the term ‘Israel’?”  What did He mean by that term?  And how is Israel going to be saved?  Because these are the two areas where the Jews failed.  These are the two areas that Paul corrects, and points out the problem.

With this background, let’s go through chapter 9 now.  What I’m going to do is give a general study, an exposition of chapter 9.  Then, the next three studies will be on this one topic:  what constitutes true Israel.  Because we as Christian-Gentiles need to know the answer to that question.

I’ll tell you why, because God doesn’t have two people, Jews and Gentiles, God has only one people, Israel.  Either you belong to Israel or you don’t.  But the question is, “What constitutes Israel?”

In the first five verses of chapter 9, Paul expresses His concern for His fellow Jews.  And I want to repeat, it is amazing that Paul had a concern for the Jews when you realize how they treated Him.  Turn to Acts 21; we have here a historical incident that will show how the Jews felt about Paul.

In Acts 21, Paul had returned from his last missionary journey.  He had come to Jerusalem to give a report to the Brethren on what God had done through his ministry, and James called him aside and said, “Praise the Lord for what God has done to the Gentiles through your ministry, but I want you to know, Paul, that a lot of Jews in Israel have accepted the Messiah.”

And Paul said, “Praise the Lord!”

“But there’s one problem, Paul,” says James.  “These Jews feel that you are a traitor to Israel.  They feel that you are against them, against their law, against their system, against their temple.  We know that this is not true.  So why don’t you give them some evidence?”

James gave him some “good advice.”  “Go through the cleansing ceremony, shave your head, etc.”  Well, I would have no problem to do that, some of you would.  But Paul was a good obedient fellow.  I don’t know if He accepted that advice as good or bad.  But since James was a pillar of the church, he said, “James, I will do what you say, because I don’t hate these people.  I don’t hate my own people.”

So he did follow the advice, but it backfired.  After he had gone through the cleansing ceremony, he entered the temple, and listen to what the Jews did.  They grabbed him, first of all.  Then, in Acts 21:28, they cried out:

Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place [i.e., the temple].  And besides, he has brought Greeks [Gentiles] into the temple area and defiled this holy place.

Can you imagine, it is to such people that Paul is talking about in Romans 9:1-2:

I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit — I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

“You may think that I’m against you, you may think that I’m a traitor, but God can read my heart that I have great sorrow, and continual grief in my heart for my own fellow Jews.”

Then he makes a statement, a statement that has caused me to really ponder.  Have you ever wrestled with verse 3?  Do you know what Paul is saying in verse 3?  Here is evidence that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  For here we have evidence that Paul is not lying, he’s telling the truth, his conscience also bearing witness in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit would not have allowed him to record this if he was lying.  What is he saying?  He is saying that “I am willing to be lost forever if this would save my fellow Jews who hate me.”  That is the power of the gospel.  Romans 9:3-4a:

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.

Do you know what that phrase means, “accursed from Christ”?  It means to be lost eternally, no more heaven.  It means to be burnt up in that lake of fire.  Paul is saying, “I am willing to do that, that’s how much I love my fellow Jews, if that would save them.”  But he knows it doesn’t, but that is what he’s willing.

There is only one other man that expressed the same ideas for the Jews, and that was Moses in Exodus 32:32, where he said, “Lord, please don’t destroy these rebellious people.”

Because God had told him, “I will destroy them and make out of you, Moses, the father of a new nation.”

And Moses said, “Please don’t do that.  If you can’t forgive them, blot me from the book of life.  Wipe me out from salvation that they may live.”

That is the revelation of agape manifested in the flesh.  That is the kind of people God is going to produce in these last days.  Not one or two, but a whole church of people.

You cannot do it by works.  It is by faith alone that you can experience this power, because you and I cannot generate this kind of love.  The only love you and I can generate is egocentric love, love that seeks its own, the love that the disciples revealed before the cross.  They did not accept Christ because they loved Him; they accepted Christ because they believed He was the Messiah and they wanted to be number one in the kingdom.  It was only after the cross that they were willing to die for Christ.  But here is Paul, a transformed man, revealing in His life the power of the gospel.  He says [Romans 9:3-5]:

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.  Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.

That’s his introduction for His concern for the Jews.  Then, the first thing he tells his Jewish brethren, “Jews, I want you to know that God has not failed to keep His promise.  The problem is not God, the problem is you.  You have failed to understand what God means by Israel.”  And so the second half of verse 6 says:

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.

In other words, the fact that you have the blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, doesn’t qualify you to be an Israelite in my eyes, says God.  Look at verse 7:

Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Do you realize what Paul is doing here?  He’s playing with words, with concepts.  You see, Abraham did not have only one son.  He had two sons, at least two initial sons.  He had Ishmael, and he had Isaac.  And Ishmael had a legal right to call Abraham Father.

But Ishmael doesn’t belong to Israel.  So Paul is saying, “The fact that you are a descendant of Abraham doesn’t qualify you to be Israel because Abraham also had Ishmael and he could call Abraham Father but not call himself Israel.  You have to have even Isaac as your father.”  Now Ishmael did not have Isaac as his father.  Look at verse 8:

In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Esau could claim both Abraham and Isaac as his father, but Esau doesn’t belong to Israel.  By the way, when you read verse 13:

Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Please don’t take the English meaning of the word “hated.”  God did not hate Esau; God rejected Esau and the reason why God rejected Esau is because Esau rejected God.  If you read the whole history of Esau, you will notice that he sold his birthright — which means he sold what God had promised him — for a bowl of lentil soup.  But the word “hated” is the wrong word in English; it should not have been used.  But, anyway, that’s what it says here in your Bibles.  But please remember, what is Paul saying here when he says:

In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

As I read the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, I come across a phrase that is repeated time and time again.  For example, one day the Jews came to Jesus, and they asked him a question.  It had to do with salvation, and going to heaven.  Jesus made a very strange reply; I wrestled with it for a long time.  He said [Matthew 22:31-32]:

But about the resurrection of the dead — have you not read what God said to you, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”?  He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

And I said, “What do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have to do with the living?  As I began to wrestle with this, I made a wonderful discovery, and that’s what I want to share with you in my next three studies.  I’ll tell you what the discovery is:  that God gave Israel three fathers, for a very specific purpose.  That these three men are to be the prototype, the pattern, the example of what all the children of God should be like.  In other words, in order for you to be an Israelite, you have to have the qualities of these three men.

Abraham stands for faith.  He is the father of all who believe.  And we will come to that, we will go one by one.  Isaac, what’s special about Isaac?  You look at the Bible, he did nothing special.  So what does he represent?  Very simple, not what he did, but how he came into this world.  He was born from above.  And Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born from above, unless you are born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

Let me give you a text, we’ll come to it in more detail.  Galatians 6:16.  You see, both Romans and Galatians are dealing with the same topic, just from different angles.  Galatians 6:16:

Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

What rule?  Verse 15:

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

That is what Isaac stands for.  And, as we will see in Galatians 4, Paul will say about Christians, Gentiles and Jews, believers, “We, like Isaac, are the children of promise.”

So Isaac stands for the New Birth.  Now what about Jacob?  Do you know why God changed the name of Jacob to Israel?  Because what did he do?  By the way, do you know what the name “Jacob” means?  It means “schemer.” And human beings are always trying to scheme one way or the other to go to heaven.  God gave a promise to Rebecca before Jacob was even born, that Jacob would have the birthright.  But Jacob said, “Boy, my problem is that my brother was born first.  I tried to pull him back by the heel but he would not come back.  And so, legally, he has the birthright.”

So he tried to scheme to get that birthright.  He didn’t have to.  He had to learn the hard way that when God promises something, he gives it to you.  All you have to do is believe.  Finally, he learned the hard way that there’s only one way to get the promise and that is to cling to God.  Then God said, “Because you have prevailed, I will change your name to Israel.”  So Jacob stands for those whose faith endures unto the end.  As Jesus said in Matthew 10:22:

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

So these men represent three qualities.  It is not being their literal descendants that saves us.  This is the argument of Paul, verses 6-13, in our study.  It is not those who strive, those who run, who are God’s chosen people, but those who believe, those who are born again, and those who through faith don’t give up but they endure to the end.

Then, in verses 14-29, a big section, Paul explains that God’s salvation and God’s mercy is based in His sovereignty and not on human rights.  Not one of us can claim salvation, whether you’re a Jew or whether you’re a Gentile, as Paul has already proven in Romans 3:9,

...We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile because all are under sin.”  “There is none righteous,” there is no one who qualifies to be saved by native right.

“Whether you are a descendant of these three men or whether you are not, it doesn’t matter,” says Paul.  “Salvation is based on God’s sovereignty, which means that He and He alone has the right to say who is saved and who is not.  You and I have no right to question Him.”  He gives two examples.  One example is in Romans 9:17:

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh:  “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

What is Paul saying here?  Because God is sovereign, everything that happens, happens because He allows it.  He allowed Pharaoh to become the most powerful person, the head of the most powerful nation in the world that was known in those days.  Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world in the Exodus time.  God allowed that, for Pharaoh to become the most powerful.

Then he took a small, insignificant people who were serving as slaves to this great, powerful nation and he says, “I am going to deliver these people with a mighty hand so that I can prove that even Pharaoh is no match with me.”

Have you battled with sin, and it has knocked you down?  I want you to know, folks, there is a power, there is One Who is greater than the power of sin, Jesus Christ.  As we saw in Romans 8:3, “He condemned sin in sinful man.”

But how do we experience that power, by trying?  No.  By paying money?  By going on a pilgrimage to Israel?  No, by faith alone.  There is much battle these days over sanctification.  I want to make it clear:  justification, sanctification, glorification — all those three come from God.  Why are we worried about God’s part, as if He needs help?

But how are these three things experienced?  By faith, folks.  Our part is faith.  God’s part is justification; God’s part is sanctification; God’s part is glorification.  You cannot produce any of those three; it is God Who will do it.  Our part from beginning to end is faith.  “The just shall live by faith.”  As Paul says in Romans 3, from beginning to end it is nothing but faith.  I am justified by faith, I am sanctified by faith, and I am glorified by faith.  My part is to believe and to surrender to the truth that God has given to us in Christ.  The second example is found in verse 21 of Romans 9:

Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

In other words, when a potter makes a pot, he may make it for the use of the king, or he may make it for the use of the menial person down there.  Who decides what kind of pot that clay is going to be made into?  The Potter, folks, and the clay has no say in the matter.  The clay doesn’t say, “Why did you make me menial?” You and I have no right to question God.  But here is the truth, folks.  Look at verse 22:

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction?

Who are the objects of wrath?  Ephesians 2:3b:

Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

All of us, Jews and Gentiles, are by nature the children of wrath.  That’s what we deserve, if you want to talk about what we deserve.  But God will show mercy on whom he will show mercy.  As I read scripture, He has shown mercy not only to the Jews but also to Gentiles.  Look at verses 23 and 24 of Romans 9:

What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Out of His sovereignty, God chose to save all men in Christ.  The Calvinists say, “No, only the elect, whom He predetermined to be saved.”  The Bible doesn’t teach that.  And the Armenians, to which we belong, say, “No, what God did was only a provision, but we have to do something before He will save us.”  The Bible teaches neither.  That’s the new light.

But God gave it to this church 100 years ago that, in Christ, God legally justified all people.  And if anyone is lost, it is not because of Adam’s sin, not because of your sins, but because you deliberately, wilfully, persistently, and ultimately said to God, “I don’t want your gift.  And I don’t want You.”

Then God will not force Himself, because there is a choice that God has given.  In other words, in His sovereignty, God saved all mankind, but in His sovereignty He also created all people with the freedom of choice.  He will take nobody to heaven who doesn’t want to go to heaven.  But anyone who rejects heaven needs to have his or her head examined.  That’s all I can say.

Then he gives evidence to the Jews, in verses 25-29.  He gives evidence, number one, in Hosea to show that God planned the salvation of the Gentiles right from the beginning:

I will call them “my people” who are not my people....

Then, in verse 27, Paul tells them the sad fact is that even though He has saved all Israel, only a Remnant (i.e., the faithful) will be saved.  Why?  Is God breaking His promise?  No, because of He says in verses 30-33.  I want you to notice why because now we are dealing with the second problem, the second failure of the Jews.  The first one was they failed to understand the significance of the three Fathers.  In this they had failed, and this failure led them to the second major failure:  they had failed to see how God will keep His promise, how God will save all mankind, how God will save Israel.  Here it is, verses 30 and 31:

What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness [who did not try to save themselves by their own good works], have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith [because that’s God’s way of saving all men]; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.

There are two ways that you can try to be saved:  one is God’s way, one is man’s way.  God’s way is in Jesus Christ that becomes yours only by faith.  That’s God’s way.  Man’s way is how?  What the Jews tried.  Why did the Jews fail?  Romans 9:32a:

Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.

There are, sad to say, people in my church who are trying the same method.  Why can’t we learn from the mistakes of the Jews?  They are trying by the works of the law.

By the way, the phrase “works of the law” is the New Testament definition of the English word, “legalism.”  Is Paul against the law?  No!  He’s against works of the law.  He’s against legalism; he’s not against the law as a standard of Christian living.  He’s not against the law as the fruits of salvation.  He will touch on that when we come to chapter 13 when he will say, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.”  He’s against anyone trying to go to heaven outside of Christ.  And, by the way, you cannot have any mixture.  You can’t say, “Christ plus me,” or “Christ plus works of the law.”  It is Christ and nobody else.  Then he goes on to say [Romans 9:32b]:

They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.”

Do you know who Paul called a stumbling stone?  Jesus Christ.  He is a stumbling stone for those who want to try to go to heaven by their own righteousness.  Why?  Because when you try to go to heaven by your own righteousness, you are saying that, “I’m good enough to be saved.”  You are denying what God says, that “You are 100% sinner.  You need a Savior.”

One day, Ellen G.  White asked her angel, “What will be the shaking?  What will bring about the shaking in this church?”

The angel said to Ellen G.  White, “It will be the straight testimony of the Laodicean Message.”

Do you know what the Laodicean message is?  Revelation 3:17-18:

You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

“Buy from Me white raiment.”  The word “buy” means “exchange”; it means giving up your self-righteousness in exchange for Christ’s righteousness.  If you don’t believe me, please look at Philippians 3:9, where Paul gave up his righteousness in exchange for the righteousness of Christ which comes by faith.  Philippians 3:8-9:

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

After Ellen G.  White makes that statement, she made a statement to the ministers.  I have taken that statement and put in my Bible.  I want to read it to you.  I put it there not for you but for me because it’s for ministers.  It’s found in Testimonies to Ministers, pages 64-65.  But this truth applies to you, also.  Regarding the shaking, she says this is what will cause the shaking, the presentation of Christ our Righteousness, and I believe it’s already begun:

“They [i.e., these ministers, who are self-righteous, who are depending on their righteousness, or even on what God does in them] are not willing to be deprived of the garments of their own self-righteousness, they are not willing to exchange [that’s what the word “buy” means] their own righteousness, which is unrighteousness, for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure, unadulterated [no mixture] truth.”

The Jews made two mistakes.  Must we repeat those mistakes?  Why can’t we look at the history of Israel and say, “Lord, please deliver us from the same mistakes.”

Let us never get the idea that because God has given this church wonderful truths that we are better than the other Christians.  We don’t have that monopoly.  Why did God give it to us?  I can’t answer, except that he’s sovereign.  Not because we deserve it.

And please remember, there’s only one way God has promised to save all mankind, and that is in His Son Jesus Christ.  You can’t buy Him, you can’t earn Him.  The only way that righteousness can be yours is by faith, by saying like the Publican said when he prayed, “God forgive me, a sinner.  I am depending entirely on your mercy, on your righteousness, on your gift, Jesus Christ.”

May God help us that we learn from the mistake of the Jews, and not repeat it, is my prayer in Jesus’ name.

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