“His Own Choice” ( Romans 9: 8 – 23, Knox Bible ) by Carley Evans


Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinc...
Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinck (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam).

Does Paul mean to say that God chooses whom He blesses? Paul may as well say, “Of course I do!” Paul pulls out some ammunition from the old covenant scriptures. He mentions the clear division between Pharoa and Moses – one an object of God’s wrath, the other an object of His mercy. Paul briefly tells of Abraham’s two sons; he says, “You know them; you know how that all came down.” Then he fleshes out the story of Rebecca’s two sons: Jacob and Esau. He writes:

“God’s sonship is not for all those who are Abraham’s children by natural descent; it is only the children given to him as the result of God’s promise that are to be counted as his posterity. It was a promise God made, when he said, When this season comes round again, I will visit thee, and Sara shall have a son. 10 And not only she, but Rebecca too received a promise, when she bore two sons to the same husband, our father Isaac. 11 They had not yet been born; they had done nothing, good or evil; and already, so that God’s purpose might stand out clearly as his own choice, 12 with no action of theirs to account for it, nothing but his will, from whom the call came, she was told, The elder is to be the servant of the younger13 So it is that we read, I have been a friend to Jacob, and an enemy to Esau.”

Paul hears the protests. He realizes how this sounds to the human ear. God is unfair. How dare He pick and choose us like that. How dare He send some of us to eternal hell while rescuing only a few of us! Paul counters:

14 What does this mean? That God acts unjustly? That is not to be thought of. 15 I will shew pity, he tells Moses, on those whom I pity; I will shew mercy where I am merciful;16 the effect comes, then, from God’s mercy, not from man’s will, or man’s alacrity. 17 Pharao, too, is told in scripture, This is the very reason why I have made thee what thou art, so as to give proof, in thee, of my power, and to let my name be known all over the earth.18 Thus he shews mercy where it is his will, and where it is his will he hardens men’s hearts.19 Hereupon thou wilt ask, If that is so, how can he find fault with us, since there is no resisting his will? 20 Nay, but who art thou, friend, to bandy words with God? Is the pot to ask the potter, Why hast thou fashioned me thus?21 Is not the potter free to do what he will with the clay, using the same lump to make two objects, one for noble and one for ignoble use? 22 It may be that God has borne, long and patiently, with those who are the objects of his vengeance, fit only for destruction, meaning to give proof of that vengeance, and display his power at last;23 meaning also to display, in those who are the objects of his mercy, how rich is the glory he bestows, that glory for which he has destined them.

Do you believe in destiny? Do you know God’s sovereign power? Do you protest against His own choices? When you recognize and accept God’s mercy in the light of Romans 9 and John 1 and Ephesians 1, to name a few, then you may find yourself melting away, or as Job puts it so well, “repenting in dust and ashes.”

“Who Is The Innocent In Hands?” ( Psalm 24: 3-6, WYC ) by Carley Evans


“3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord; either who shall stand in the holy place of him? (Who shall go up on the hill of the Lord? who shall stand in his holy place?)

The innocent in hands, that is, in works, and in clean heart; which took not his soul in vain, neither swore in guile to his neighbour. (Those with innocent hands, or works, and with clean, or pure, hearts; they who took not their souls unto idols, nor swore falsely to their neighbours.)

He shall take blessing of the Lord; and mercy of God his health. (They shall receive a blessing from the Lord; mercy from the God of their salvation, or of their deliverance.)

This is the generation of men seeking him; of men seeking the face of God of Jacob. (This is the generation of people seeking him; of people seeking the face of the God of Jacob.)”

I know a little of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church; I know the psalms are considered weapons against the forces of evil. As the liturgy progresses with each side of the church chanting the verse to the other side and the other side chanting the next verse to the first side – and so on, back and forth; the sounds rise and form a shield. I’ve personally felt the power of the Word of God in the audible liturgical services at Mepkin Abbey.

Participation in the liturgy, for me, is an honor I wish all Christians might experience firsthand.

In the Christian Book of Prayer this psalm – Psalm 24 – is one that stands out as special along with Psalm 95 and 100 and another I can’t recall right this minute.

God asks us, “Who shall come up here to Me? Who is able to stand in My Holy Place?”

And He answers His own question, “The innocent in hands, the clean in heart, the one who does not lie.”

I know Who that is! Do you?

“Chosen Into Heritage” ( Psalm 33: 12, WYC ) by Carley Evans


What is the problem with acknowledging that God chooses – that God has the final say, so to speak? Why does this truth bring us up short, if it does? We know from scripture that God chooses Abram from whom He creates an entire people – people He identifies as His own and who are identified by Paul as the original olive tree while the remainder of God’s people are grafted into this original vine.  We know God chooses Moses over Pharaoh, Joseph over his brothers, Jacob over Esau. He chooses Mary over all other women to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. We acknowledge these choices of people, and do not balk.

“Blessed is the folk, whose Lord is his God; the people which he chose into heritage to himself.”

We recognize that ultimately God’s blessing is what sets these people and us apart from others. To think it is anything else – especially to think it is anything we do or say that is somehow better than what others say and do – is an erroneous belief. God chooses us “into heritage to Himself.”

And all the people say, “Amen.”

 

“Reconciled” ( Genesis 33: 8, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Jacob sees Esau coming toward him with 400 men at his side. Quickly Jacob arranges his children among Leah, Rachel, and two slave women, perhaps in an effort to protect as he puts Joseph in the rear position. He goes on ahead, bowing seven times as he approaches his brother, Esau. Jacob, by bowing seven times, is telling his brother that he sincerely regrets earlier deceptions and is ready to submit to the older of the twins.

But Esau surprises Jacob, hugging and kissing him. Together, they weep as they reconcile.

When Esau sees the women and children, he wants to know about “this whole procession” and what it means. Jacob answers that his intention is to “find favor” with his brother. (Genesis 33:8) Esau tells Jacob to “keep what you have.” He says that he “has enough, my brother.” (Genesis 33:9) Jacob says he has seen “God’s face” in the face of his brother and so pressures Esau to “take my present” “since you have accepted me.” (Genesis 33:11, 10) Esau relents and accepts the gift Jacob brings him — now, what is this gift?

I suspect it is the two slave women and their children who are first in the procession. Jacob gladly gives these persons to his brother so as to appease him and show his gratitude for his forgiveness. We know Jacob does not give away Rachel or Leah or his children by them; but he gives Esau something of value, something Esau sees. “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?” (Genesis 33:8) Esau even attempts to leave some of his own people with Jacob, in a kind of tit-for-tat exchange, but Jacob protests, “Why do that? Please indulge me, my lord.” (Genesis 33:15)

So, they part reconciled; Esau going back to Seir and Jacob going to Succoth.

“As You Swore In Days Gone By” ( Micah 7: 18 – 20, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“Who is a god like You? You take away guilt, You pass over the sin of the remnant of Your own people, You do not let Your anger rage for ever but delight in love that will not change. Once more You will show us tender affection and wash out our guilt, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show good faith to Jacob, unchanging love to Abraham, as You did swear to our fathers in days gone by.”

“And Mary says: ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord, rejoice, rejoice, my spirit, in God my saviour… His Name is Holy; His mercy sure from generation to generation toward those who fear Him; the deeds His own right arm has done disclose His might: the arrogant of heart and mind He has put to rout, He has brought down monarchs from their thrones, but the humble have been lifted high. The hungry He has satisfied with good things, but the rich sent empty away. He has ranged Himself at the side of Israel His servant; firm in His promise to our forefathers, He has not forgotten to show mercy to Abraham and his children’s children, for ever.’ ” (Luke 1:46-47,49-55)

God does not forget. He remembers His promises. He takes away guilt; He casts all our sins into the sea. His love is unchanging; His mercy sure. He satisfies the hungry; and sends away the rich. He heals the sick; and questions the healthy, saying: “I guess you have no need of Me?” He routs the arrogant; and lifts the humble. He does not forget His promises to the remnant of His people — those He loves and calls according to His purpose.

“His Own Chosen Purpose” ( Philippians 2: 13, Daniel 5: 23; NEB ) by Carley Evans


“You have not given glory to God, in whose charge is your very breath and in whose hands are all your ways.”

 

“You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for His own chosen purpose.”

 

Paul assures “it is impossible that the Word of God should prove false.” (Romans 9: 6) God does not lie; He is not the author of evil. Yet, all our ways are in His hands, says Daniel. And, Paul writes that “it is God who works in you…for His own chosen purpose.” Paul explains God’s sovereignty in his letter to the Romans. He writes of Rebekah’s children, Jacob and Esau. Despite having the same father, “in order that God’s selective purpose might stand, based not upon men’s deeds but upon the call of God, [Rebekah] was told, even before they were born, when they had as yet done nothing, good or ill, ‘The elder shall be servant to the younger’; and that accords with the text of Scripture, ‘Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.’ ” (Romans 9: 11-13)

 

“Thus He not only shows mercy as He chooses, but also makes men stubborn as He chooses.” (Romans 9: 18) Paul refers us to Pharaoh — how God hardens this man’s heart repeatedly so that he does not let the Israelites leave Egypt.

 

Paul acknowledges that this does not, on the surface, appear fair. But he answers the objection: “But what if God, desiring to exhibit His retribution at work and to make His power known, tolerates very patiently those vessels which are objects of retribution due for destruction, and does so in order to make known the full wealth of His splendour upon vessels which are objects of mercy, and which from the first are prepared for this splendour?” (Romans 9:22-23)

 

“God’s choice stands.. for the gracious gifts of God and His calling are irrevocable.” (Romans 11: 28, 29)

“The Struggle Against Encumbrances” (Hebrews 12: 1, NEB) by Carley Evans


Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Abel, Enoch, Isaac, Jacob — “these witnesses in faith” “did not enter upon the promised inheritance, because, with us in mind, God had made a better plan, that only in company with us should they reach their perfection.” (Hebrews 12: 1; 11: 39 – 40)

We are surrounded by men and women of great faith in God yet these ancient “witnesses in faith” required the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ just as we do.

Since we have such colleagues, we must “run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom faith depends from start to finish.” (Hebrews 12: 2) We must “throw off every encumbrance, every sin to which we cling.” (Hebrews 12: 1)

Throwing off encumbrances is as important as resisting sin. Encumbrances are weights on our souls, keeping our focus off Christ and on ourselves. Encumbrances are essentially distractions. Martha working to set a table for her Lord Jesus is an encumbrance to the more important task — listening to Him.

Let’s be “too good for a world like this.” Let’s keep our focus on our ultimate goal — the prize who is Christ, our Lord.

“Rights Over Clay” (Jeremiah 48: 7, ESV) by Carley Evans


“For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken.” “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 — she was told, ‘The older shall serve the younger’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Romans 9: 10 – 14) Neither our heritage nor our works make us right with God. Having all the treasure in the world does not make us right in His sight. “So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its maker, ‘Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay?” (Romans 9: 18 – 21) Yes, we are clay — we are all alike. We come from the same father, Adam — just as Jacob and Esau come from the same father, Isaac. Yes, God is the potter. He made and owns the clay. Yes, He has all rights over us. He is allowed. “But to all who do receive Him, who believe in His Name, He gives the right to become children of God, who are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 12 – 13)