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This was a picture taken in 2006 outside our apartment building in Vancouver BC.
As some of you know because you visited us in Vancouver we lived near a fun and energetic community called Granville Island.
This is a recent picture of our visit to Vancouver.
With our visit I was reminiscing a bit on our time there.
I can remember a period of time when I thought that God had failed.
We moved to Vancouver a beautiful world class city.
Tiffany struggled with depression. I struggled to be satisfied with the progress of the church. I struggled with Tiffany struggling. Really I struggled with God’s reliability. It was not suppose to be like this.
I observed some of my friends in Vancouver who had little interest in relationship with God and they seemed happy. They seemed satisfied. Life was good.
They had nice places to live, budding careers, and were off to Whistler Ski resort on the weekends living the good life.
God had failed.
I had not signed up to struggle. I had signed up for a successful growing church, a happy family, and at least comfortable living arrangements. Comfortable of course being a relative term. I wanted at least what my friends had.
God I was doing this thing “all right” and I’m getting the short end of the stick, while those that don’t care for you are living the Good Life.
What a rip off! God you have failed!
God had not failed.
I had failed to align my expectations with the reality of God’s promise.
Jesus said, In this world you will have trouble. Take heart I have overcome the world.
I had trouble, but I should not have been surprising trouble.
The reason I thought God had failed was because my expectations were not met.
Last week in Romans 9:1-5 we read of Paul’s heartbreak over the Jewish people rejecting Jesus.
The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people.
The expectation would naturally be that when the Messiah Jesus showed up on the scene all the Jewish people would flock to Jesus.
That is NOT what happened. Many of the Jewish people rejected Him.
Since many of the Jewish people are cut off from God because of their rejection of Christ does that mean that God has failed?
Failure looks apparent because expectations are unmet.
In Vancouver I thought God had failed because my expectations were unmet.
Paul today is going to reset expectations. God’s promise was not just for the Jewish people.
God’s promise given to Abraham was that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham.
In our passage today Paul gives three illustrations of how God is reliable when expectations are set rightly.
As we look at this passage, I want us to focus on God’s big story of redemption.
We can get laser focused on the individual stories of Abraham, Sarah and Jacob
Could Abraham or Jacob have done anything other than what God had ordained?
Did they have any real choice in the matter?
Those are important questions but I do not think they are the main point of the passage. Paul wanted his readers to see that God is reliable in authoring the story of redemption to all people. His story is bigger than the Jewish people. God authored the BIG story of redemption and ordained the small stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to bring about the opportunity for redemption for all.
As I’ve looked at our passage today, I’ve not viewed it as God choosing some and God rejecting others. This passage is about God fulfilling His promise to make salvation possible for all people.
His BIG story of redemption is that HE loves all people.
HE made a way through Jesus Christ, HIS son for every person to be saved.
Every person must decide am I going to go God’s way or my way?
As we think of the BIG story I am praying that God would help us see how He has ordained our small stories to fit into his BIG story.
Let me read Romans 9:6-13.
It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
Paul’s theme in Verse 6
9:6a It is not as though God’s word had failed.
In all of Paul’s writings he quotes the Old Testament roughly 80 times but in chapters 9-11 Paul quotes or makes reference to the Old Testament 24 times.
30% of Paul’s Old Testament quotes are found in these three chapters.
The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.
What God has promised then has come to pass now!
Failure here means fallen flat. Imagine walking down the sidewalk, and you hit a crack in the sidewalk, BAM – you fall flat. Stopped dead in your tracks.
It is not as though God got our hopes up and then crushed our hopes
His promise has not fallen flat.
It may appear that God failed because expectations are not aligned with God’s promise.
God has not failed and Paul is going to give us three illustrations of how God word has not failed.
Not all Israel is Israel
Verse 6b: Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
Physical birth does not guarantee a special status in God’s eyes. This is not a new thought for Paul.
Remember Romans 2:28
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Just because a person has the outward trappings of being a Jew or could claim to descend from Abraham does not mean they belong to the Israel.
Israel within an Israel is not an idea that originates with Paul.
Throughout the Old Testament God spoke of keeping a remnant.
When the children of Israel went into exile, God kept a remnant.
When the children of Israel disobeyed in the desert and worshipped the Golden calf, there were a few whom God kept.
When Elijah thinks he is alone and the only one who is following God in 1 Kings 19, God tells Elijah that there are 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
God’s word has not failed. There has always been and Israel within Israel.
True Israel made of people who by faith lived to please God
Isaac and Not Ishmael Romans 9:7-9
God made a promise to Abraham and gave the means through which he would fulfil the promise.
Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
Who is the child of the promise?
Isaac and his descendants.
Who is the child of physical descent?
Ishmael and his descendants
Let’s review the story of Abraham and the promise given to Him.
I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Abraham is promised to be the Father of a great nation.
Not only that but this nation would be a blessing to all peoples of the earth.
Through the nation of Abraham the Jesus would come.
Sarah and Abraham get impatient.
They are looking forward to God’s promise but they have no children.
Abraham fathered a child with Hagar, Sarah’s servant and the child is named Ishmael. The story is found in Genesis 16
Ishmael is not the child that God has promised. God’s will was to give Abraham a child through Sarah.
God did just what he has promised.
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.
God makes a promise. Abraham and Sarah get impatient.
“How could God keep this promise? We need to help God out.”
God is writing His story of redemption. Abraham and Sarah are part of the big story but God is the author.
God is reliable and his reliability is demonstrated when He opens Sarah’s womb and she conceives a son – Isaac. – Child of Promise
Third Illustration of God’s reliability
Jacob and Not Esau 9:10-13
Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
Paul takes his illustration a step further with Jacob and Esau.
We can see how God chose Isaac and not Ishmael.
Isaac was Sarah’s child and Isaac was the child of promise.
Why Jacob and not Esau? They have the same dad, same mom, and conceived at the same time.
God chose Jacob.
Before the twins were born. Before either had done anything good or bad.
So that his purpose in election might stand
What was his purpose?
Not by works but by Him who calls.
God chose Jacob but not because of something bad that Esau had done and not because of something good that Jacob had done.
Jacob was chosen so that God might demonstrate His grace.
Jacob did not deserve to be chosen.
Esau did not deserve to be chosen.
We choose based on past experience and future prospect.
I am choosing to stay at this hotel because I had a good experience there last time.
I am choosing not stay at this hotel because I had a bad experience last time.
God chose to demonstrate his grace
Jacob was a swindler and a deceiver but God chose him to be the one through whom the line of the Messiah would come.
God uses and used messed up sinful people to bring the plan of redemption to the world.
He chose Jacob.
He chose Abraham – A liar and man who acted cowardly on two separate occasions.
He chose Sarah – A woman who mocked God. A women who gave her servant to her husband so that he could father a child.
These people were not a cut above. They were ordinary sinful people chosen for God’s grand purpose.
What about the last phrase verse 13?
“Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.”
We cannot take it to literally mean that God hated the individual Esau.
1 John 4:8
Anyone who does not love does not know God for GOD is LOVE
God chose corporately the Nation of Israel (Jacob) over the Nation of Edom (Esau)
Paul is quoting here from Malachi 1:2-3 The Hebrew word for hated in Malachi means to love less.
Malachi was written 400+ years after Jacob and Esau.
During these 400 years, the nation fathered by Esau, Edom, had committed great atrocities against the Jewish people. These atrocities do not bring God pleasure. He certainly loved them less.
Does that mean no one from the nation of Edom will be saved and part of God’s family?
No – Amos 9:12 talks of God saving a remnant from Edom.
Ruth, the Moabites from the neighboring nation of Edom is in the line of Jesus. God did not reject every individual from other nations.
This passage is not about the individual story of Jacob and Esau. The passage is about God keeping his promise to bring salvation to all people.
What does this mean for us today?
This is God’s great story of salvation. He is active in the world to faithfully make Himself known. He does not fail to reveal himself and make relationship with him possible.
How does this great story of God’s sovereign hand in history affect my daily Monday – Friday, Saturday morning working in the yard life?
Let me offer three things.
As you think about God’s sovereign hand in history to bring about redemption let it lead you to Gratitude.
Practice gratitude by remembering the time that your story intersected with God’s great story of redemption.
Who did God use in your life to help you see and understand the Gospel?
For some of us it was a parent, for some a Sunday school teacher, for some a friend or co-worker.
In God’s sovereign plan he determined the time set and the exact place where you would live so that you might reach out and find Him even though He is not far off.
I am grateful that I was born to Charles and Linda Bartlett on May 16, 1975 in Tampa Florida. I am grateful to God that they introduced me to Christ at an early age.
At the age of 5 the Holy Spirit woke me up on a Sunday night and I went to my parents and asked questions about heaven and life after death.
They pointed me to Jesus and the saving life he provided if I would place my trust in him.
Since that time 37 years ago has my life been completely peachy? NO
But I do have the GOOD Life. I do have relationship with God.
I need to take time and be thankful for God’s sovereign hand in my life to bring me to salvation.
Secondly, let that gratitude lead us to GROWING CONTENTMENT.
Ephesians 2:10 We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I am not an artist. I actually have no desire at all to be an artist.
Here is my artwork.
Here is Jamin’s artwork.
I could spend my time wanting to be more like Jamin and wanting to have the skills that he has and complaining that I don’t have his talent.
I could get on with growing in the strengths and gifts that God has given me.
Gratitude – Being thankful. Replaying in my mind the sovereign work of God to bring me to salvation and to bring me to this place in my life.
Growing Contentment – recognizing the person God has made me to be, the place he has me is no accident. I am God’s red-headed handiwork.
Not perfect, but still his and no accident.
Lastly becoming willing instruments.
Abraham and Sarah were trying to force God’s promise into action.
Jacob even though promised to be the blessing decided he needed to deceive his father into giving him the blessing.
Can we be people who trust in God’s sovereign hand and be willing instruments when our number is called?
Not trying to force God’s hand but living as willing instruments in God’s hand.
Story of Pat and Harvey.
Harvey was baptized at the YMCA on Father’s day and then he baptized his grand daughter.
Pat is Harvey’s neighbor. Pat reached out to Harvey in a difficult time.
Harvey told me, Pat came along at just the right time in my life.
Pat invited Harvey to small group. Harvey came to group for several months.
The guys in the group loved on Harvey and invested in Harvey.
When I asked Pat about this story he said, “The group loved on him (HARVEY) and encouraged him from the start, I was just the bus driver.”
On the way to Ron Morford’s place to shoot guns, Harvey made a decision to turn his life over to Christ.
Pat was a willing instrument. The guys in the group were willing instruments.
Harvey is grateful that in God’s sovereign plan Pat was his neighbor.
God help us live content where we are (jobs, houses, relationships, status) so that we might be willing instruments in your sovereign plan.