Sovereign. Possessing supreme or ultimate power. Absolute in authority and unrestricted in supremacy. Omniscient (knows all), omnipotent (can do all; all powerful), and omnipresent (everywhere at all times).
God is sovereign, and I am not. And that is part of His mercy as well. Romans 9 is a tough chapter for many people, but in God’s sovereignty, we see His goodness, mercy, grace, pursuit, and patience.
God raised up a people – the Israelites – to unveil His plan. Piece by piece. Story by story. Hint by hint. Their adoption, their history, the covenants, the Law, the worship, the promises, the patriarchs, the lineage of Jesus – the Christ; the Messiah.
In God’s sovereignty, He chooses the line from which the Messiah would come. But in His love and grace, it isn’t lineage of the flesh that saves us; it is a lineage of the promise available to all who believe.
In God’s sovereignty, He shows mercy, compassion, and even allows hardening. Paul references Moses and Pharaoh. And while the end result was destruction of so much of Egypt, God was patient and pursuing. Ten times Pharaoh and the Egyptians saw God’s power and authority on display with an opportunity to submit to Him. And ten times Pharaoh rebelled, choosing to cling to his personal power and position while watching those under his control suffer horrifically. We have a choice to say no to God, and God has a choice to say, “okay…have it your way…if this is what you want, let’s see how it works out for you.”
But God continues to wait for us and pursue us. The prophets consistently preached both invitation to choose God, and consequences for saying, “not now” one too many times.
God chose the exact perfect time the Messiah would enter earth in the flesh. God chose the exact perfect time the Messiah would shed blood for our sins. And God has chosen the exact perfect time for the Messiah to return one day and complete the restoration for those who put their faith in Him and to unleash His wrath on those who continued to say, “not now, I’ve got this. I’ll do this myself.”
Paul begins Romans 9 with great sorrow and anguish that his Jewish family, given all their history with God, can’t see be past their religiosity and plant their eyes on the Messiah. He agonizes over what they are missing and the devastating results that will follow.
Paul asks why Israel, who was pursuing a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law, but the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness attain it. He answers, “Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone.” In other words, you will never attain it if you are counting on human works…only by grace, through faith in the work of Jesus. Instead of seeing Jesus as the answer to all they had been searching for, they stumbled over Him. Jesus fulfilled what we could not, and this is where we put our faith. I visualize Paul yelling, “WHY CAN’T YOU SEE? YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN EVERY BENEFIT OF BEING ABLE TO SEE! THE SCRIPTURE YOU HAVE MEMORIZED SINCE CHILDHOOD POINTS TO IT. THIS IS IT. THIS WAS ALWAYS IT. JESUS IS IT. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BELIEVE.”
This is a message for any of us who have had all the benefits of a Christian upbringing. We know the stories. We go to church. We volunteer to serve. We generously give. But do we have faith, or do we rely on our actions and religious routine? One will save us and the other will not. Do we know and believe in Jesus as Messiah, Savior, Lord? Do we stumble over the stumbling stone – our activities getting in the way of relationship and submission? Is our heart hardened by the culture around us full of posturing, striving, being independent, focusing inward, feeling entitled because of our good works…or is our heart positioned to believe that it isn’t us who saves us? You alone, Jesus.
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