February 2 - Romans 9:10-18

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Romans 9:10-18 – God's Mercy

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”  What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, 

         “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  

It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

This is an interesting look at the Old Testament story of Esau and Jacob. Many of us look at this and see how unjust it was that Esau lost his birthright through deception. If tradition tells us that the first born should receive that, than any other thing is wrong.

But, Paul reminds us that God is not bound by anything that humans decide. God chose Jacob to become a patriarch of the Jewish nation and it did not matter what Esau or Isaac believed should happen. God has mercy on whom he will have mercy; it matters not what we think.

While Paul is using this story to explain why God expanded the adoption of others into his kingdom, it is something that many of us in Western culture should be reminded of continually. We do not have a lock on God's compassion and mercy. Because we interpret scripture one way does not mean that others who interpret it differently might not be correct. It is impossible for us to see beyond what we have always been taught, but one of the most interesting courses I took in seminary exposed me to how people in other cultures, who do not have hundreds of years of interpretation beginning in Europe and coming through into America, interpret the words found in Scripture.

We must be careful that our hearts are not hardened by our own strict adherence to rules of interpretation we develop. God's creativity never ceases and his name will be proclaimed in all the earth, no matter the language or the culture. We should not presume to get in his way.