“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion…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?’” - Romans 9:14-15, 20
After explaining the work of God’s sovereign hand in both the cases of Jacob’s selection over Esau and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart leading up to the Exodus, the Apostle Paul exhibits his astute ability to anticipate and answer objections with the above retorts. If you are a human being living underneath the effects of the Fall (that should cover most everyone reading this), these objections from Romans 9 likely feel familiar and, if we’re honest, pretty close to home. If we’re really honest, we might even be able to admit that, at times, these objections have worked their way into our own minds and out of our own mouths. Perhaps we, like Rebekah in Genesis 25:22, are even now going through something about which we’ve asked, “why is this happening to me?”
I remember several years back to a season of severe depression and anxiety in my life. There were some genuinely heavy difficulties at the time between a number of major personal disappointments and an immensely painful tragedy that my sister and brother-in-law were having to endure. It felt as though there was an ever-present blanket of thick fog actively working to press me in from all sides. Since exiting that season and looking back to biblically analyze the state of my heart and mind during that time, I noticed something very revealing—I had been almost constantly angry at, and utterly distrusting of, God’s sovereign purposes. A lax trust in the sovereign purposes of God had cost me the transcendent Philippians 4:7 peace promised to those who will bring their requests to our sovereign God in prayer (Phil. 4:6) and fuel their minds and actions with God’s truth (Phil. 4:8-9). In direct relation to Pastor Danny’s warning in this week’s sermon through Genesis 25, I had let the “why” questions escalate to, “is this fair?” and in so doing made Job’s mistake of bringing the sovereign Creator down to the scrutiny of the very un-sovereign created.
As we flip our attention back to Romans 9, you’ll notice that Paul’s responses do not include a twelve-step process to understanding God’s sovereign secrets or a referral to a good diviner who can teach you how to “read” the hidden “message” in your tea leaves for the right price. Paul simply allows the perfection of God’s character to sufficiently rebut each objection. God, as the Creator and Lord of all, is the very fountainhead of justice and has every right to exert His sovereign will over His creation for His good purposes. How will we respond to this truth— especially when the means that God uses results in our suffering and/or confusion? Will we respond in distrust and attempt to become the anxiety-ridden sovereign of our own lives or will we say with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” (Rom. 11:33).