Today’s Reading: Romans 9
We now enter three of the most difficult chapters of the entire New Testament, Romans 9–11. We are venturing into, what we call in theology, election, predestination, and the Sovereignty of God. There is no way we can discuss with clarity all of these important words in detail in our brief time together, but we can at least introduce them. As we start today in Romans 9, let’s be challenged by the verses ahead. First, we need to brush up on our Old Testament stories to figure out what Paul is talking about.
Paul starts with the Genesis story of Rebekah and Isaac’s children, Jacob and Esau, and something God did after they were born. That something had nothing to do with the children but with God’s character:
There was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! (Romans 9:10-14)
Remember the story of Jacob and Esau, the twins. Esau is the older and Jacob is the younger. Who is older is important. Why? The book of Genesis is a window into what cultures were like before the revelation of the Bible. One thing we see early on is the widespread practice of primogeniture—that’s when the eldest son inherited all the family’s wealth. That is how they ensured the family kept its status and place in society.
The second or third son got nothing, or very little. And here is what I want you to see on the sovereignty of God.
Pause for a moment first. What is the sovereignty of God? The sovereignty of God is God exercising His prerogative to do whatever He pleases with His creation because He created everything. He can do this because it belongs to Him. God does it by virtue of ownership.
For example, if you came into my home and said, “I don’t like the way you decorated this room. You should put furniture here against the wall.”
My response would be, “When you start buying the furniture you want to move and paying the mortgage, then we can consider your opinions and viewpoints. Right now your views mean nothing, because I am the owner.” God is in charge of this planet, so He can do whatever He wants.
Daniel 4:35 puts it this way: “He does as he pleases” (NIV). That’s sovereignty.
Why doesn’t that bother me? Because God is all wise, all loving, all powerful. I can trust His sovereignty. I don’t trust any man’s sovereignty, because they don’t have the character and nature to wield that kind of power. As Charles Spurgeon says, “Cheer up, Christian! Things are not left to chance: no blind fate rules the world. God hath purposes, and those purposes are fulfilled. God hath plans, and those plans are wise, and never can be dislocated.” Or Corrie ten Boom puts it simply, “God doesn’t have problems, only plans. There never is any panic in heaven.”
So back to our verse: God chose not the oldest son to carry out His plans but the younger one. That is countercultural. We should be saying, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau,” not Jacob. Culture is not in charge of God.
Throughout the Bible, when God chose someone to work through, He chose whomever He wanted, and in this case Paul reminds us that He chose the younger sibling in Genesis. Think for a moment of who else God chose.
He chose Abel over Cain.
He chose Isaac over Ishmael.
He chose David over all seven of his older brothers.
Time after time He chose not the oldest, not the one the world expected and rewarded. Never the one from Jerusalem, as it were, but always the one from Nazareth.
Then Paul finishes the sovereignty of God thought with these verses:
So, what does all this mean? Are we saying that God is unfair? Of course not! He had every right to say to Moses: “I will be merciful to whomever I choose and I will show compassion to whomever I wish.” Again, this proves that God’s choice doesn’t depend on how badly someone wants it or tries to earn it, but it depends on God’s kindness and mercy. (Romans 9:14-16, TPT)
Let me close with these powerful words from David Qaoud:
“The sovereignty of God is a sweet pillow that you can lay your head at night. It is a beautiful truth not only that God is in control over all, but is also working everything out—the good and the bad—for your good, and his glory. This sweet doctrine is medicine for the soul that you can take in any season of life.”