Is God really unjust in His choices? Romans 9:8-19
In the introductory article, I had explained what exactly the problem was. Now, we take a look at the first analogy Paul made to address the problem. To understand these texts, we have to put ourselves into their customs, their beliefs and what was going on in their hearts when paul was addressing them. We have to take this approach because Paul was addressing them in a dramatic way.
In these verses Paul embarked on explaining how God gave this ‘promise’ that was universal. He gave two names that we have missed because of the misunderstanding of the entire chapter. Paul gave Isaac and Jacob. What really is peculiar about these two? We would recollect that Isaac had an elder brother by the name Ishmael who was a child of Abraham’s effort. In other words, what Abraham could afford (Human capability); but then came Isaac, the child of promise so to say for through Isaac God began the fulfilment of His promises to Abraham. This ‘promise’ is actually Jesus(the entire chapter on Galatians chapter 3 emphasizes this). How did God bring about this ‘promise’ we might ask? By God, choosing or electing to a ‘vocation’ instead of a ‘salvation’. In other words, God was choosing a people of priests, a people of royalty and not specifically a nation. God was choosing the Israelites over the Moabites for priesthood and was choosing the Israelites over the Edomite’s. We do know that the Moabites were descendants of Lot and the Edomites were descendants of Esau. Here is what we need to ask? If the Israelites were chosen purely on their nationality for the promise, then we could logically conclude that no other nationality can partake of this promise but that is not true from the Bible. For we know that Ruth a Moabite, partook of this promise. This shows that Paul was not discussing about the personal salvation of Isaac and Jacob but their ministerial roles. There is yet another interesting thing we have overlooked in his choice of these two. Both were juniors that were elevated. Isaac was the second but was given the privileged role to the promise. Similarly, Jacob was the second child but was as well given the esteemed ministerial role. This shows that God was overturning the status quo(vs.12) and you might say that is just unfair? This was a just question for a Jew to ask given that the first child is the one, by right, to assume higher roles. This was evident when Samuel visited Jesse to pick an heir, again not for salvation but for ministry (David was to lead Israel as their king). Jesse did not even think of David since according to custom, the first child is always the best choice for glory. Samuel as well bought into this culture until God told him, He doesn’t operate that way. He chooses whomever He wants out of mercy.
It was this thought that led to Paul making the statement: “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”(vs.15). In other words, God has the exclusive right to choose whomever He wills for his work. This work, as has been shown by the choice of these two and what they did had nothing to do with their salvation but their roles as fathers of nations. Paul then went on to say, it is not about who wills or runneth but God that shows mercy(vs.16). Paul was connecting this to their thought of ‘the first born should lead’ custom. It was for this same ‘ministerial role that God raised Pharaoh so that His “…name might be declared throughout all the earth.” (vs.17).
Given that Paul pointed to this example and the Jewish knew the history of Pharaoh, their thought exactly was: “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?”(vs.19).
The reason for this question was why would God then complain or judge me given that He has not chosen me for His glory (ministerial duties)?
As we study this chapter, we also come to this point and we as well ask this question in honesty. We can’t try to claim God is just while we can still see from the text He was doing something unjust. So, “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” In the next series, we will look at how Paul answered that question.