A short series on Romans 8 – 11. Part 2.
The Lord’s passion for us is what makes him a Lion who is not at all tame. God’s love is bloody, messy, and painful. It involves inserting himself into human flesh via conception, to be pushed out through a birth canal, to live with us, to die with us, and to rise so that we can be with him forever.
God’s love produced guidelines, promises, and pledges made by the highest Judge in the universe, the One whose rulings can never be overturned. When he tells us that he will do something, he does it. The promises of God are graciously and freely given. They are not negotiated.
God stepped into our chaos and made a legal, never-to-be-broken promise, opening wide the door and inviting all of us to enter into his family for all eternity, no matter our lineage and nationality, both Jew and non-Jew:
“6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son‘” (Romans 9:6-9 ESV).
Abraham’s son Ishmael and his descendants were not the children of the promise, but of the flesh. Ishmael was born to Hagar, but God had promised a son through Sarah. That son was Isaac, whose birth required faith. Isaac was the child of God’s promise.
Abraham had thought that another woman would do, but God miraculously brought forth Isaac from Sarah’s barren womb. Isaac’s descendents through his son Jacob, who was later named Israel, became the Jewish nation, God the Son’s family.
Not only did God choose Sarah, but Jesus’ lineage listed in The Gospel of Matthew includes the names of four women also particularly named as part of his lineage: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba.
This is a messy family lineage, one to which we can relate. Tamar was cheated of her rights and so disguised herself as a cult prostitute in order to trick Judah and receive what was rightly hers. Rahab was a Canaanite innkeeper who wanted to meet the God of the Jews. She did everything she could to keep her entire extended family fed and safe. Ruth was a foreigner from Moab, with whom Jews were to have no dealings, yet she became the great-grandmother of David. Bathsheba, who was most probably coerced (or worse) by David on that rooftop, eventually bore him Solomon, from whom descended all of Judah’s kings, and the promised Messiah.
God loved us so much that he sent his One and Only Son to be born into a family with this ignoble and fraught family tree. His pedigree was entirely human, shot through with sin and messy circumstances. God with us.
In Romans 9, Paul continues writing along these lines, including Rebekah’s words about her warring twins within her womb. “And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 24:23 ESV).
God is almighty, omniscient, and wise. He knew the course of salvation history from before the foundation of the world. Hence, he spelled out this designation between Jacob and Esau before their birth. He foreknew them.
God had many reasons for these dealings, but one crucial reason had to do with us, Gentiles, non-Jews, the teeming multitudes of the rest of humanity.
Could people who were not of this family tree be included in God’s promise and made part of his family?
Could God save our people, who were viewed as being entirely without merit, having no family relation or connection to the Hebrew nation?
Could God save Gentiles? Yes, he can. He always had, all along the way.
Not only did he weave in people from outside the Jewish nation into Jesus’ lineage to get this reality across, but he deliberately set the stage for the promise of relationship with him to clearly be made to all people.
“9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:9-13 ESV).
Election. That word that people fight over. Not one of us would come to God on our own, though he beckons each one. He came because he loves the world. The word “election” in Koine Greek is ekloge, and it simply means “choice, selection, the benevolent purpose of God by which any are saved.”
Yes, God can elect to save Gentiles, Paul writes, just as God earlier chose the people and ways in which he wove together a human family for his Son.
The genealogy of Jesus Christ wasn’t random. God worked generation by generation, ovum and sperm by ovum and sperm, to create the shape of God the Son’s messy family. His work was meticulous, microscopic even.
God’s weaving together of the family of faith is likewise meticulous. God, who knew each one of us from before the foundation of the world, hovers over us from conception to death and beyond, shaping our bodies, allowing circumstances we would never have chosen, but which we later discover were essential for drawing us toward God.
Wooing our hearts, God makes us aware of himself through the beauty of his creation and of his words and through the hardship of our trials. Step by step, he draws us to himself. We think we chose him, but he actually chose us, pulling us near.Wooing our hearts, God makes us aware of himself through the beauty of his creation and of his words and through the hardship of trials. Step by step, he draws us to himself. We think we chose him, but he chose us. Click To Tweet
God is personal. God is love. God is intimately involved. God calls us.
And yet, many don’t answer his call, many turn their backs, many don’t see his beauty or hear his voice urging them to step toward him. Even though he knows the outcome, still his call rings throughout the earth, for even the heavens declare the glory of God.
None of us deserve to be saved, for all of us are wretched. As I wrote this post, the events occurred at our Capitol as Congress met to tally the votes of the Electoral College. The wretchedness of humanity was on full, violent, and gory display.
We don’t deserve God’s love, and yet, he loves us. He pursues us.
As God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Exodus 33:19).We don't deserve God's love, and yet, he loves us. He pursues us. "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Exodus 33:19). Click To Tweet
Our calling is in God’s hands. God planned to include us who are outside of his Jewish family — Gentiles, non-Jews — to join them and also become members of his family for all eternity. This was always his plan.
Through Paul, the Lord said it clearly to ancient Greeks in the Areopagus.
“26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:26-31 ESV).
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy. God calls to each one of us to turn and now go his way, to accept his mercy and love, to become one of his children. He wants us. He longs for us.
If you don’t know him yet, turn to him and welcome him in.God calls to each one of us to turn and now go his way, to accept his mercy and love, to become one of his children. He wants us. He longs for us. If you don't know him yet, turn to him and welcome him in. Click To Tweet
Anyone on the planet can become a follower of Christ.
“14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:14-16 ESV).
When you hear God’s voice calling, for you are near and dear to his heart, when you’re aware of the kindness of his work in your life, and you sense a deep need for him in your soul, turn to him. Turn to him now.When you hear God's voice calling, for you are near and dear to his heart, when you're aware of the kindness of his work in your life, and you sense a deep need for him in your soul, turn to him. Turn to him now. Click To Tweet
He makes “known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23b ESV). That’s us, prepared beforehand like a vessel for the love of God and for his glory to pour into our hearts, transforming our lives.
Give him your heart. Cleave to him in faith. Love him in return. He is faithful, and you will love him forever and ever.
The first post in this Series: Not a Tame Lion
My award-winning, faith-filled fiction illustrates our human story, wrestling with our brokenness and the storms that wreak havoc in our lives. Find the books here: http://bit.ly/MelindasBooks.