Lesson 32

The Epistle to the Romans

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

9:14 What will we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 9:15 For he said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy. 9:17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I caused you to be raised up, that I might show in you my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth." 9:18 So then, he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires. 9:19 You will say then to me, "Why does he still find fault? For who withstands his will?" 9:20 But no, man, who are you who replies against God? Will the thing formed ask him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?" 9:21 Or hasnít the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel for honor, and another for dishonor?

 Today's Lesson 

Paul had used the example of Jacob and Esau and quoted the scripture, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." He used this passage to prove the idea that God makes sovereign choices in the lives of men. By grace, God chooses some sinners for redemption and does not choose others. Neither is deserving of God's grace and it is not based on merit. Some people are disturbed by the sovereignty of God. We would prefer to be free agents capable of being responsible for our own fate and for our own choices. So Paul asks, if God does make choices and elects some to salvation, "Is there unrighteousness with God?"


Because this discussion is primarily used in this Epistle to discuss why some Israelites have been chosen to follow Christ and some have not, Paul uses another example from the history of Israel. When Israel was at Mt. Sinai and the law was being given, Moses asked to see God so that he might know that God had truly chosen him. He requested a special revelation. God granted his request partially and told Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."


God chose Moses before birth but God did not actively begin to use him until he was almost 80 years old. Moses had had to flee Egypt when he had committed a murder. He was an exiled stranger in a foreign land when God appeared to him in the revelation of the burning bush. The choice of Moses was one of the choices of God that was not based on merit or talent. Even Moses did not think himself to be an appropriate choice to be the leader of the people and God had to persuade him that he would be assisted by his brother and by the power of God. Moses had been a prince in Egypt and God had not used him at that time. God waited until he was an old man, without personal power or authority and discredited in the land where he had been raised.


Paul contrasts Moses with Pharaoh, who opposed Moses and at first refused to release the people from the bondage of slavery. Pharaoh was the most powerful ruler in the world. God opposed the most powerful man in the world with an old man who had spent forty years in a backwater working principally as a shepherd for his father-in-law. God makes these choices in order to demonstrate His power and authority. The Jews had made Moses into a hero and a champion. God had chose him because he was powerless and discredited. It was a choice based on grace and mercy.


God is the creator of this world. He is like a potter who looks at one lump of clay and makes a common bowl for everyday use. The potter looks at the next lump of clay and chooses to make a beautiful vessel for a special purpose. The glory is not in the clay but in the artistry of the potter. It is not for us to question the purposes of God. We are the work of God's hands, created for his purpose and designed according to His plans.


We are responsible to God for our own lives and conduct. In whatever circumstance we have been placed in life God's desire is that we bring glory and honor to the Creator through our lives and our faith. God has formed your life. Moses waited in the desert of Midian for forty years. He had been a prince in Egypt with riches and power. Now he was an exiled murderer assigned the task to watch over a few sheep. He tended the sheep and grew older and for forty years God did not speak with him.


Sometimes the potter chooses the most unlikely lump of clay to make the most beautiful of vessels. Especially the best of potters. Is your life open to the touch of the potter? Do you believe in a God who can make something beautiful out of even your worst experiences?


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