God’s Merciful Choosing (Romans 9:1-16)
Remember that this book of Romans was written to the multicultural church in Rome working out how to be united in Christ despite their diversity.
- Romans 1-3:20 outlined the common problem of sin.
- Romans 3:21-5:21 revealed God’s solution, a righteousness that comes by grace through faith in Jesus!
- Romans 6-8 unpacks the believer’s new relationship with the flesh, sin, Satan, the law & our new position & experiences as God’s children, empowered by the Holy Spirit and Romans 8 ends with promises of the future for all those who believe in Jesus.
- The question which Paul now addresses in chapters 9–11 is whether the promises God made to Israel will still be fulfilled? This is important because if God’s promises to the Jews remain unfulfilled, how can Gentile Christians be sure that God will fulfil the great promises to all believers that conclude chapter 8?
(Romans 9:1-5): As a Jew himself, Paul expresses anguish over the many Jews who reject the good news about Jesus the Messiah. He would rather be personally cut off from Christ if that would change the situation. The Israelites were an honoured people; God chose them; they experienced God’s glory; they received God’s covenant promises, the Law & God’s instructions on worshipping Him. The heroes of the faith were Jewish, and so was Jesus the Messiah – they are a blessed people!
(Romans 9:6): Yet the vast majority of Israelites have not believed in Jesus, but this is not because God’s word has failed in some way; instead, it is because of God’s purposes in election.
(Romans 9:7-13): Paul shows how the true Israel (God’s children) have always been not an ethnic group but rather those God elected (God chose).
- Isaac & Ishmael were both children of Abraham, but God chose only Isaac
- Jacob and Esau were both children of Isaac, but God chose only Jacob and did so not because of anything good in Jacob (vs11)
- God did this so that His purposes in election (choosing) might stand (vs11).
- We are saved (become God’s people) not by works or by ethnicity but by the sovereign choice of God (vs11).
(Romans 9:14-16): But is God unjust in choosing in this way? “By no means!” (vs14). God is sovereign and free. No one deserves God’s mercy; no one deserves God’s choosing of them. God revealed Himself to Moses, saying; “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” God doesn’t need to answer to anyone regarding why He has acted as He has.
Salvation for the believer depends not on the will of human beings or the effort of human beings, but totally on God the merciful one (vs16).
If you are a believer in Jesus, then you have been chosen by God (adopted by God as we learnt from Romans 8)! You have been included in the great family of faith, the people of God, the children of Abraham, the children of promise. All of this was the plan and the purpose of God who has been merciful to you in choosing you in this way so that He might be glorified as the One who chooses.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What does this passage teach me about God & faith?
2. What does this teach me about myself, what is God saying to me?
3. What should I do as a result?
Lessons from a persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8)
I loved this parable from a few weeks ago!
Just an explanation of the pictures, Alexandra my daughter (7yrs) draws during family devotions at breakfast, she draws “what she sees in her head” – love it. Here she has drawn the widow and the judge and then herself and God who chose her!
Why is this parable recorded in Scripture?
Luke tells us why in verse 1… This parable is in Scripture so that we would always pray and not loose heart in our praying. Why is this necessary, well it’s because we do loose heart in our praying (haven’t you?), because from our perspective, when God’s answer is seemingly delayed we tend to unravel…
We can identify with the widow, who has a need and she needs to persist to get an answer. Sometimes, actually oftentimes when we are praying there appears to be no answer. We can learn from this widow and her example to persist in our prayer and not give up.
What questions does it address, ask or answer?
1) Unanswered prayer or delays in answered prayer.
God always answers our prayers, He just doesn’t always give us the answer we are looking for or in the time we would like, but He does answer our prayers.
One of my greatest lessons in life came through unanswered prayer…
We had left everything, sold everything to follow God’s call to come and lead Oasis Church in Amanzimtoti. One of the things we needed was for me to sell my shares in a private company to help us buy a home in Amanzimtoti. I concluded a deal to sell my shares and we moved, bought a home knowing that the money for the house would only be due on transfer of the property and so we had some time before the money from the sale of my shares would be needed.
But then the purchaser didn’t pay! In fact he didn’t pay ever in the end. We were stuck having bought a house and not able to afford a bond at the full purchase price and nothing seemed to be happening, my prayers were dominated not with prayer for the church but wrestling with God over this delay, disappointment and very real financial problem that presented itself and seemed not to be resolving itself.
Eventually on a prayer walk about 7 months later I felt God speak to me about my heart in the whole issue, God told me to forgive the man who had reneged on the deal. It was at that time that God taught me that it is possible to be right but not Christlike, but that is not being right at all! So I repented and within a short time someone else offered to buy my shares and the problem was resolved.
It’s been said that God always answers our prayers either with; yes, no or not now. Why are my prayers unanswered? This is a common question. Luke makes Jesus’ purpose clear in prefacing the parable with; “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
God wants us to persist like this widow did, even in the face of seemingly unanswered prayer or delay. When we read this parable and we hear what the unrighteous judge says, we need to then hear Jesus’ words spoken to encourage us
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
God will never be rightly charged for forgetfulness or not paying attention or not caring about us or not loving us – His children. We need to remember these things when there appears to be delay or when what we prayed for did not happen.
We pray to the Father who loves us, we are taught in this parable that God is attentive to the cries of His chosen ones (“His elect”), He does not delay long over them. The question is not whether God is faithful to us, mindful of us or listening, the real question in this parable is whether we will continue to trust God even when there are delays or when the answers to our prayers are not what we have asked for or thought was best. Will we trust God then? That’s the real question.
We put God on trial but in reality we are the ones on trial not God. Which leads to the next question/issue raised by this parable…
2) The parable ends with a question focused on us…Will God find faith on the earth?
The question Jesus poses to each one of us is; “Will we persist in our faith, in our prayers like she did in her requests?” We know God will find faith on the earth, the question is whether it will be our faith?
What mystery does this text speak to?
The mystery of election.
In making His point, Jesus contrasts two things:
1) God and the unrighteous judge
2) The elect of God and the widow
We who have believed in Jesus are incredibly valuable to God. We are “His elect” (ESV) “His chosen one’s” (NIV). Jesus is making a similar argument to the one found in Matthew 6:25-34 where we are told not to worry because if God our Father cares for the lilies of the field, the grass and the birds HOW MUCH MORE will our Father not care for us?
Here in this parable, Jesus is making the same type of argument, God chose us, we are very valuable to Him, she was unloved and with little value and yet she was heard, HOW MUCH MORE will we who are so valuable to God be heard by God!
In our day, many believers wrestle with the doctrine of election, it is full if mystery and an offence to the modern mind in a number of ways.
However, it was not some topic to avoid for Jesus, but rather a truth that was meant to encourage the disciples.
May we be like this widow who persisted in her requests to an unrighteous judge who saw no value in her, being encouraged knowing that we come not to some unrighteous judge but to our Heavenly Father who loves us and who chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) because He loved us (Ephesians 1:5).
May we like her therefore not give up but continue to trust God, believing even when we can’t see the evidence of His love and continual care for us, may we believe that He knows what is best for us and often it is not what we think is best for us, may we trust Him and His purposes for our lives.