God’s Unfailing Promise (Romans 9:6-13)

Main Idea: God makes a way when there seems to be no way.

Text:

Sing along if you’re comfortable doing so!

Amazing hate, how can it be?
That You, My King, would condemn me?

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless hate of God

Yeah, He hates us
Oh, how He hates us
Oh, how He hates us
Oh, how He hates

It’s interesting that we often sing about the love of God, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a song about the hatred of God. Maybe there are some, I don’t know, but if so, they’re few and far between. And before you say that God is love, which of course is true, the Bible is clear that God hates sin, and even hates sinners. Psalm 5:4-5.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot dwell with you. The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all evildoers. (Psalm 5:4-5)

And that’s in the Psalms, which was the hymnal of the Jews and the early church, meaning that this was sung in praise to God.

Can you praise God for His hate? What if that even means that God hates your parent or your child, who hasn’t yet received Jesus? Can you praise God for His hate?

Romans 9:6-13

Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither is it the case that all of Abraham’s children are his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring. For this is the statement of the promise: At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son. And not only that, but Rebekah conceived children through one man, our father Isaac. For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand— not from works but from the one who calls—she was told, The older will serve the younger. As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau. (Romans 9:6-13)

Father, help us to believe Your promises, and live our lives based on Your promises. Help us to rest in Your love. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

When I became the pastor of this church in 2009, I really thought that within a few years, we would grow to be a church of around 1,000 people, or at the very least, the largest church in Nokomis. I had plans to build a larger sanctuary, maybe a multi-purpose room big enough to be a gymnasium during the week, and I imagined that people would drive hours a week to worship as a part of our church.

Did I fail?

When Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to end racial discrimination and segregation through nonviolent resistance, but ended up being murdered for it.

Did he fail?

After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God promised that the Offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. And while shepherds watched their flocks by night, God promised through the angels that the birth of Jesus was good news of great joy that shall be for all the people. Would God keep this promise, or has the word of God failed?

As we saw last week, God gave Israel the promises of the Old Covenant. Among other things, He promised Abraham His unconditional blessing. But as you read the Old Testament, you find that the people of Israel didn’t seem to trust in the promises. They went their own way. And even when they didn’t go their own way, and thought that they were following God, their way of following God was different from how God desired for them to follow. At one point, God told them:

For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

I’ve always found this verse interesting because God was the one who instituted the system of sacrifices and burnt offerings. Through so much of the Old Testament law, God was very specific about how sacrifices should be made, and how often they should be made, and who should make them, and then God says, “That’s not really what I desire! I desire faithful love.”

I think this is why grace is so offensive to us. In our desire to fix ourselves, we would rather have a list of things to do. “Go to church this often, give this percentage of your income, go to confession and say these certain words, and you’ll be forgiven.” But that’s not what God really wants of us. He wants our hearts.

Now, when we give God our hearts, we’ll often do many of these things, but not because we’re trying to get God’s stuff. We naturally and joyfully begin to do them as we simply rest in His unfailing promises.

It’s like the difference between a child trying to paint a masterpiece, versus just painting for fun. Children often make the most precious drawings and paintings not when they’re working really hard to be good, but just as they play.

So does your obedience to God feel more like work, or play?

So after God made Israel promises, and after all the events in the Old Testament in which Israel kept turning away from God, turning instead to works of the law, Jesus comes along and tells the Pharisees that they were all wrong about what it means to follow God. And that’s the idea that Paul has in mind in our passage this morning. Verse 6.

Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither is it the case that all of Abraham’s children are his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring. (Romans 9:6-8)

So God gave Israel all these promises, but they failed to receive them because they thought that they deserved them and earned them through their works. But as we’ve already said, we can’t earn the blessings of God. God’s blessings come by grace through faith. So the Pharisees, and many in Israel didn’t obtain the blessing because they sought to earn it.

It’s like this test that many teachers have given their students.

[Video of Easy Test]

Many teachers have given their students this test, telling them, “Don’t worry. Just read the instructions carefully, and you’ll do just fine.”

So the test includes all kinds of strange instructions. But the first instruction is simply to read everything before doing anything. And the last one is simply to put your name on the top and be done.

So often in life, we’re scrambling around, staying busy, trying to accomplish things, thinking that’s the purpose in life, when God tells us simply to believe. For God loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

You see, the promise given to Abraham is for all who believe, having the same kind of faith that Abraham had. That’s what we saw in Romans chapter 4.

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. If those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made empty and the promise nullified, because the law produces wrath. And where there is no law, there is no transgression. This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants – not only to the one who is of the law but also to the one who is of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all. (Romans 4:13-16)

So as of right now, for a time, not all of the descendents of Israel have yet received the blessing that God promised to Israel, because they haven’t believed. They are cut off from the promise, so that even though they are physically descended from Abraham, they are not yet considered to be the children of the promise.

So who are the children of the promise? God told Abraham to look up. Count the stars, if you can. And He told Abraham, “So shall your descendants be.” God also told Abraham when He first gave Abraham His promises, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

And yet, this promise would be fulfilled in a specific way. Abraham couldn’t seek to obtain the promise himself, but had to have faith. Verse 9.

For this is the statement of the promise: At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son. And not only that, but Rebekah conceived children through one man, our father Isaac. For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand— not from works but from the one who calls—she was told, The older will serve the younger. (Romans 9:9-12)

So not only did God have a specific way that He would fulfill His promise, it was through a specific course of events. God chose Abraham and promised him a son. And then God chose Isaac, not Ishmael. And then God chose Jacob, not Esau. And in each of these situations, there was something incredibly surprising that made it seem impossible. Abraham and Sarah were old. Ishmael and Esau were each born first, but it was through Isaac and Jacob that the promise of God would be fulfilled. At one point, God even told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to test his faith, and Abraham just about went through with it before God stopped his hand, because Abraham was confident that God could raise him up. I think Abraham was finally catching on that God’s plan doesn’t come about the way we would expect, because God wants to make it abundantly clear that He makes a way when there seems to be no way.

And God does it this way, it says, so that we would know that God’s purpose according to election might stand—not from works but from the one who calls. You see, even when we hear and receive God’s promises, we tend to feel like we need to bring about God’s promises ourselves, or at least like we had something to do with it. Like when Abraham had a son with his wife’s servant, Hagar. And like when Esau thought he was entitled to the blessing just by being born first. But God says, “No! It’s not because of you, it’s My choice to bless you.”

So we read in verse 13:

As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau. (Romans 9:13)

There have been many attempts at lessening the shocking reality of this verse. First, some say that God hated Esau, it’s only in the sense that He loved Esau less than Jacob. Kind of like how Jesus told His disciples that unless we hate our father and mother, we cannot be His disciples. Jesus wasn’t telling us to literally hate our parents, but rather that our love for Jesus ought to be so strong that every other relationship in our lives, even that of our parents, wouldn’t come close.

Second, some also say that God’s love of Jacob and hatred of Esau has less to do with God’s feelings toward them, and more to do with God’s actions toward them. So, we see in history that God blessed Israel, the descendents of Jacob, while the Edomites, who were the descendents of Esau, eventually died out.

And I think maybe there’s some truth to both of these ways of looking at why it says that God loved Jacob but hated Esau, but I also think there’s a simpler solution than either of these.

You see, when Paul wrote this, he was quoting from Malachi 1. Starting in verse 1, it says:

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. Yet you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Even so, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.” (Malachi 1:1b-3a)

So right off the bat, we see that this statement was made in the context of reminding Israel of God’s love, even when Israel doubted God’s love. Continue reading Malachi 1. It says:

“I turned [Esau’s] mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Though Edom says, “We have been devastated, but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of Armies says this: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called a wicked country and the people the Lord has cursed forever. Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say, ‘The Lord is great, even beyond the borders of Israel.’” (Malachi 1:3b-5)

So, yes, Israel was shown God’s favor, and Edom received judgment, but notice that the purpose was so that Israel themselves would make a declaration, saying, “The Lord is great, even beyond the borders of Israel.”

The point of God loving Jacob and hating Esau was so that we would praise God for His judgment. It’s so that we would look at God’s sovereign choice and say, “Wow! That’s a good choice! That’s a good judgment! The Lord is great and worthy to be praised, even beyond the borders of Israel.”

And, you know, unless you were born a Jew, you are also beyond the borders of Israel.

So we could talk about Jacob’s faith, and Esau’s lack of faith, and we could talk about God’s actions toward each of them, but that’s not really the point. The point is, God made a choice, and God’s choice is always good.

And we see the same thing in Romans.

For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand— not from works but from the one who calls—she was told, The older will serve the younger. (Romans 9:11-12)

God did it this way so that His purpose of election would stand. He chose because He has the right to choose. He did it this way to demonstrate that we don’t make ourselves, we don’t save ourselves, as if we could be strong enough, or morally good enough, we must only trust in His grace, and His judgment, and recognize, “Wow, that’s a good judgment.”

That’s what we do when we trust in Jesus. We recognize that Jesus dying on the cross, receiving the judgment of God, is a good judgment. It was a necessary judgment. If there was any other way for us to be saved, Jesus would not have gone to the cross. But it was the only way. Our sins offended God’s character, and we all deserved judgment for them, so Jesus took the judgment of God upon Himself, so that we can receive His grace.

Before going to the cross, talking about going to the cross, Jesus said in John 12:

“Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-32)

God makes a way when there seems to be no way. It seemed as though we were lost, and dead in our sins, but then Jesus died for us. It’s clear in the Bible that God hates the wicked, and all of us were wicked, so just as He did with Esau, God hated us, but God also demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

As Pastor David Platt once said, “God hates sinners, and God loves sinners.” I think maybe we don’t often sing about God’s hate, because we don’t rightly understand His hate. God hates sin, and sinners, but God also loves us and longs for us to know Him and rest in His love.

In other words, as Pastor Peter Hiett once said, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated,” said God, who is Love. So Paul wrote to Timothy that even when we are faithless, God remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

So I hope you’re beginning to see that God is up to something much bigger than we often give Him credit for, just as racial reconciliation was bigger than Martin Luther King, Jr., and just as God didn’t hasn’t grown our church to over 1,000 people. God will always do things and say things that we don’t yet understand, because God’s ways are always greater, and bigger, and higher than our ways.

But we can be sure of this: God is faithful to His promises. God promised us all that His steadfast mercy never comes to an end. So even if you feel convicted and condemned by God, that’s only so that you would right now stop doubting His love for you, and turn to Him in faith.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Romans 9:6-13
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