Genesis 25:21-23 Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
Jacob’s life and testimony highlight a very important work of God that often is misunderstood—that is, God is free to choose and do what He wills. Everything God does is perfect and good and right. We see this unfold in Jacob’s life as God ordained that he would be served by his older brother. In his time and culture, this was unprecedented, but God had a plan from the beginning for these two boys. When we have a high view of God, then we will be joyful and full of faith in Him when we consider His hand on our lives from birth to death.
The Bible says:
Psalms 139:13-14 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made …
Job 14:5 Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass
Such teaching is also affirmed by Paul when he says, “‘In him we live and move and have our being’ …” (Acts 17:28).
God continues to give us breath each moment. Elihu says of God, “If he should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust” (Job 34:14-15; cf. Ps. 104:29 RSV).
God is the one who wills to give us life both physically and spiritually. He is also the one who determines our days and our end. This is a massive truth about the sovereignty of God that all too often is misunderstood or thought of in unbiblical ways. The truth is, the sovereignty of God over our lives is a great comfort to us and source of our praise when we rightly understand it. I pray today’s study stretches you and shapes in you a biblical view of God that brings about this comfort and praise.
In Genesis 25, we read how Isaac conspired to thwart the Lord’s intent to bless Jacob (Genesis 25:19–28; 27:1–4) and how Rebekah and Jacob lied, cheated, and stole to get what God said belonged to Jacob anyway (Genesis 27:5–29).
Even though the blessing went to Jacob as it was ordained by God, all of the human players suffered for their sin: Jacob went into exile as a result of the trick he and his mother played on Isaac, and Rebekah died without ever seeing her favorite son again (Genesis 27:41–45; 28:1–5; 49:31).
Just because the means to the end that God wanted involved sin and dishonesty, it does not mean God approves of evil or ever directly does evil, but He does work in spite of the sinner to achieve His good ends.
A great example of this is captured in Joseph’s words to his brothers who sold him into slavery: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
While Genesis 28 (Jacob’s ladder/blessing) and Genesis 32:22-32 (Jacob wrestles with the angel of the Lord) are amazing stories and worth your study, I want to get to Romans 9 this morning as it sheds a great deal of light on God’s sovereign choice over mankind of which Jacob’s testimony so importantly testifies.
Look with me again at Romans 9:6-11.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls
Did you notice that God’s choice for whom He loved and whom He hated is not because of anything they did, either good or bad? It was not because of their works or their foreseen faith, but instead it was based solely on the purpose of God’s sovereign election.
Romans 9:11 is the reason for announcing Jacob’s election before his birth, “… in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.”
We need to feel the weight of this sentence. When God tells us why He does something as eternally fundamental as unconditional individual election, He is giving us information about the nature of ultimate reality–namely His reality–that is more foundational and more important than all other human knowledge or understanding.
Nothing is greater to know about God than why He does His most fundamental acts. And here is one of these massively important sentences. Question: Why, God, do you do this great work of unconditional election? Answer: In order that (my) purpose of election might continue, not because of works, but because of (Me) who calls.
Paul makes a huge affirmation here! God did not choose Jacob because of works he had already done. Nor did He choose him because of works that he would do later. In other words, here Paul is ruling out foreseen good deeds or faith in Jacob and foreseen evil deeds or lack of faith in Esau and he is saying, “God’s election is not based on deeds in any way—not deeds already done and not deeds undone and not foreknown. God’s election is free. That is God’s glory and right as God. Therefore, His purpose in His election is to be known and enjoyed and praised as infinitely glorious in His free and sovereign choice.”
Romans 9:12 says, “she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’”
These words were spoken while the kids are in the womb that we read in Genesis 15:23.
Romans 9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
For many people, they get hung up on these words that God would hate anyone. I contest that this is only because of a small view of the depth of our depravity and a man-made diminishing of our sin before a holy God. Because with the wretchedness of our sin in full and right view, it is not “Esau I hated” that should trip us up, but instead the words “Jacob I loved” that should seem outrageous. That God would put his love on any of us wretched sinners is the unbelievable thing here. Not that He would hate the sin that stands against His holiness and worthiness.
Now, the question that always comes up when studying this topic is the very question Paul poses himself in order to be very clear about what he is saying about God here. That question is, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?”
His answer: “By no means!” (Romans 9:14)
Before we read on, we must hear with great clarity what Paul is saying here.
If you feel the doctrine of God’s election seems unjust or makes God look unloving or not worth following, Paul’s words to you here are clear—that is not the case. By no means is there “injustice” on God’s part. In other words, we have to correct our skewed view of God that causes our heart to not like His sovereign work in this area.
Next, Paul gives an example.
Romans 9:15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” This is a quote found in Exodus 33:19.
Exodus 3:14, God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.”
In other words, God explained His name here as “I am who I am.”
In Exodus 33:19, He explains His name as “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy.” The structure is the same, and the meaning is simply expanded. God’s name, the essence of His glory, is that He is absolutely and without cause or constraint from outside Himself. He is who He is.
Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Again, his selection of those to whom He gives mercy is first His choice, not ours.
Additionally, the receiving of mercy is not based on “human will or exertion”.
Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
What is God’s priority in doing these things? The demonstration of His power and the proclamation of His name in all the earth!
Romans 9:18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Is this saying that man is the one who decides if he receives mercy unto life and/or if he receives a hard heart unto destruction? No! It is by God’s will, God’s decision, for God’s purposes, for God’s fame. God is purposeful in everything.
Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
Again, this is the argument of the flesh back then that Paul was addressing, and it still is today.
Look at Paul’s answer:
Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
By what authority does the created tell the Creator what he should have done in creation? Paul makes this point as he specifically describes God’s sovereignty in unconditional individual election.
Romans 9:21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
Romans 9:22-23 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory
So again, God’s purpose is to show His wrath (one of His divine attributes), make known His power, and make known His glory. Then Paul brings it back to who we are talking about.
Romans 9:24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
This is in reference to His saving love for Jacob and Jacob’s descendants as opposed to Esau and Esau’s lineage.
God’s electing prerogative is clearly displayed here. God chose Jacob over Esau, not on the basis of anything Jacob or Esau had done, but according to His own free and uninfluenced, sovereign purpose. To those who might protest, “That is unfair!” Paul simply responds by asking, “…who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (v. 20 NASB).
In order to help round out our view of God’s work in this way, we can see that the truth of God’s election is seen all throughout scripture.
Out of all the people in the world, God chose Abraham and removed him from Ur of the Chaldeans and made him the father of a great nation. That’s why Israel is called, “His chosen ones.” (Psalm 105: 43)
Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (cf. Deuteronomy 14:2)
The Lord your God chose a people for His own possession out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. And God said it wasn’t because they were better than any other people. It wasn’t because they were more attractive than any other people. God said it was because of His own free predetermined will to set His love upon them, and for no other reason.
God works His sovereign election in the New Testament era as well.
A few examples of God’s election in the New Testament:
In the New Testament, the redeemed are those who were “chosen of God” (Colossians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9; 5:13; Revelation 17:14), meaning that the church is a community of those who were chosen, or “elect”.
When Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16 NASB), He was underscoring this very truth. In the New Testament, the church is called the elect or the chosen.
In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he was thankful for them “because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation”.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
Today’s study of Jacob serves as a great truth to our souls that God is over all things. He chooses whom He will. He gives life to whom He will and calls our days to an end when He chooses. This is a huge foundation under our feet and basis for our faith in God. He will not be thwarted, and He will not lose any of His people. God’s purpose in election is put on display in a magnificent way through the life and testimony of Jacob.
The next time you face life’s biggest storms or insurmountable odds, know who breathed life into you, who chose you and who has your days numbered. Know that God’s plan and ways are best, and He will see His perfect plan through for His glory and our good.
Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine