A short series on Romans 8 – 11. Part 3.
God knows better than we do what is needed, just as the potter who shapes the malleable clay knows what is best for the outcome desired. He alone knows what he is crafting on the potter’s wheel, just as God alone knows what good he intends for our lives that require the current challenge to provoke our growth and reliance upon him. We don’t always like this.
19 You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ 21 Has the potter no right over the clay…?” (Romans 9:19-21a ESV).
Of course, the answer to the question is that God the Potter always has the right over the clay in every way. In his hands, we are formed uniquely.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).
Even as we’re still uncovering the purpose that the Lord has for our lives, we are still God’s poem, his masterpiece, his workmanship. God has a plan. Our life’s work is to discern his plan and to labor in harmony with it.Even as we're still uncovering the purpose that the Lord has for our lives, we are still God's poem, his masterpiece, his workmanship. God has a plan. Our life's work is to discern his plan and to labor in harmony with it. Click To Tweet
For millennia God worked and created among the scattered peoples of the earth, orchestrating the events of each culture and each life, bringing forth the time when the Good News of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ would make redemption available for all of humanity.
This required unique histories, customs, and stories within each culture, realities that would open the door to salvation at just the right time.
Patiently, God worked, bringing together the realities that would produce growth, kindness, and a desire to know this God who hovered lovingly close and intimate, wooing our hearts. He calls people, “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.“ (Romans 9:24b).
Is he calling you?
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:25b-26 ESV).
The broken heart of God was behind all of this. For God is passionate, and his own people rejected him. When year after year, generation after generation had passed, ancient Israel had become increasingly like the surrounding cultures, once requiring Elijah to face off with four hundred prophets of Baal to simply remind Israel who their God actually was.
We are just like ancient Israel. We complain and we wander away, actions indicating that we don’t really believe that God knows what’s best for us.
Isaiah expressed God’s emotions about ancient Israel’s betrayal:
“27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.‘ 29 And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah‘” (Romans 9:27-29 ESV).
In spite of the faithlessness of ancient Israel, their hard-heartedness, and their idolatry, God did not destroy them. Rather, ancient Israel learned about the consequences of their actions. The Lord fulfilled what he had said many years previously in Exodus 20:4-6 and in Deuteronomy 32:17-22.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me [option 2], 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments [option 1]” (Exodus 20:4-6 ESV).
Hatred is personal. To regard God as odious, an enemy, one to spurn, is the reality for many, for they do not know Yahweh as a God of love. They do not want to be in relationship with him. Choosing to hate God, to regard him with resentment, hostility, and animosity, comes with consequences that are spelled out clearly above [option 2].
Those who hate God [option 2] refuse to acknowledge the Lord’s kindness and to avail themselves of his help, therefore causing a generational repetition of their hatred. One person hates God because their father was cruel and unkind. Sadly, they then repeat this type of behavior in some form or another in their own family. Because it was their only reality, they subconsciously carry it out. Sin is natural and learned. Without God’s help, we cannot break this cycle from generation to generation. He is necessary.
“22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22-23 ESV).
By our own decision to continue the cycle of hatred, to choose to live like this, to carry out the sins of our forefathers, the term “vessels of wrath” details the outcome of the natural course of hatred. God demonstrates his justice in this way: People who do these things do not get away with them when they stand before God, even if they slide through life evading justice.
God is a God of justice. The meaning of the original text defines his “wrath” like this: “God’s utter abhorrence of sin, but longing mixed with grief for those who live in it, referring to divine judgment to be inflicted.”
If you have been a victim of one who never repented of their crime nor admitted its impact on your life, the reality that God is just is a blessing. You want justice. The Lord will bring that justice. The sentencing Judge is just.If you have been a victim of one who never repented of their crime nor admitted its impact on your life, the reality that God is just is a blessing. You want justice. The Lord will bring that justice. #Justice Click To Tweet
But who are the “vessels of mercy”? Those who listen to God’s call, turn from their sin, and choose his ways, committing themselves to him. These love the Lord [option 1] and pursue obedience to him.
On these, God’s pours out his steadfast love, his mercy, his compassion, his active pity. Mercy is extended for the alleviation of the consequences of our sin. Mercy is the application of God’s grace. God has rescued us from the pathetic condition of our sinfulness. This is the result of Option 1.
When the Lord brings justice, he wins hearts. As outsiders, Gentiles who weren’t raised knowing anything about God Almighty, our ancestors and we ourselves came into this situation with pagan practices and sins.
We recognized our desperate need for God when we heard the Gospel, and we turned from willful transgression and toward the Lord in repentance [option 1], entrusting ourselves to Jesus. And then, the long, slow process of growth in faith, love, and obedience began.
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame‘” (Romans 9:30-33 ESV).
Though we’re Gentiles, foreigners, not originally of his people, still God makes us his own, members of his family. In this way, he provides all the resources needed for us to overcome the habitual sins passed on by our ancestors and the sins we have acquired through our own willful choices.
“25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay” (Romans 9:25-28 ESV).
Where are you in God’s plan?
If God has called you to himself, if you feel God tugging you near, no matter who you are, surrender to his love. Fall into his arms. The Lord reaches out to us as we stumble along, feeling for him in the darkness, attempting to find him. And all along, here he is, present in his Word and in our lives.
All are welcome. God’s arms are open wide.If God has called you to himself, if you feel God tugging you near, no matter who you are, surrender to his love. Fall into his arms. The Lord reaches out to us as we stumble along. All are welcome. His arms are open wide. Click To Tweet
When we believe that Christ Jesus died for our sins and entrust ourselves to him, body and soul, we also receive the promises and blessings spelled out in the Scriptures and sung so beautifully in the song I’ve shared below.
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