August 14 lesson: Living under God’s mercy
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Living under God’s mercy
Summer Quarter: Toward a New Creation
Unit 3: Life on God’s Terms
Sunday school lesson for the week of August 14, 2016
By Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr.
Lesson Scripture: Romans 9:6-18
Background Scripture: Romans 9:6-29
Introduction: Some adults reflect on childhood games played during recess in elementary school. The painful process of choosing team members one at a time was the sole responsibility of elected leaders. To be chosen last for a team, or not to be chosen at all, left a residue of low self-worth and personal scars of poor self-esteem. Dealing with episodes of being overlooked and ignored in life can be addressed by the amazing grace of God. When humans understand they are made in the image of God, they comprehend that through Christ, God wishes to make everybody somebody. In the process of becoming daughters and sons of God, humans are chosen to have a place in God’s family, love, and plans. Feelings of inadequacy are diminished, and the future is unhindered. It is a rewarding, joyful experience to live under God’s rule.
Read aloud Romans 9:6-29
Paul, a Jew converted to being a Christ follower, was concerned about the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. The author of the Letter to the Romans maintained that Israel remained the chosen people of God. In the final analysis, Gentiles would be the instrument by which all the Jews would be saved. This means of using Gentiles to win Jews is not inconsistent with God’s nature. God, who is absolute sovereign, has the right and power to do what he chooses to do. At the conclusion of God’s plan, power, and actions, Jews and Gentiles will be saved.
Paul goes to the Old Testament and lifted the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6) to begin his analysis of the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Paul maintained that God’s word to these patriarchs has neither failed nor been withdrawn. As an example, only some of the descendents of Abraham were involved in the covenant. Ishmael, son of Abraham, was rejected in favor of Isaac (Genesis 21:10-14).
Paul made a distinction between “children of the flesh” and “children of the promise.” Ishmael and Esau were not included in the covenant (Genesis 25:32, Malachi 1:2, and Malachi 3). Throughout Jewish history, there had been a process of election. God has the power and the privilege to choose and to reject. Only Isaac’s and Jacob’s offspring were children of God’s promise.
Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. While in their mother’s womb, God selected Jacob as the one who would receive the promises of the covenant (Genesis 25:21-26). This choosing was an act of grace and not based upon worthiness. Persons are not invited by God into a covenant relationship based on good works and merit but by God’s choice to grant grace. God in his mercy deals with humans on his own terms.
God, said the apostle, chooses to be gracious to whomever he selects (Exodus 33:17-19). Selection of nations, people, and individuals depends upon God’s terms and not human demands. God can neither do anything that violates his own nature nor break his own laws, but he can, as he wills, bestow mercy on his own terms.
An omnipotent God has the power of selectivity and providing mercy according to his will. God also has the right to harden the attitudes of anyone chosen. Pharaoh was given a position of authority to serve as an illustration of what happens to those who oppose the will of God (Exodus 10:1-2). Hard hearts can be used to provide release from slavery and injustice. The abuse of human rights by Jim Crow Laws caused their repeal. Individuals were given freedom of access to buses, colleges, restaurants, public schools, and the right to vote because of the hard hearts of segregationists.
God’s choices, to the observer, may appear to be arbitrary, but they are never unjust. His decisions come packaged with mercy. Humans are totally dependent upon God. God’s will cannot be altered, changed, or rejected, but only accepted. Paul used the pottery imagery from the Old Testament to affirm there is a planned design in all that God undertakes (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-11). The potter has the right to make different items from the same lump of clay. A lump of clay cannot comprehend the purposes of the potter. God is the potter. Humans are the clay.
God, to make known his fury and power, has delayed and worked with those who deserve his destruction. This has been done because God’s overall plan will be accomplished. Ultimately, God’s glory will be revealed. Jews and Gentiles will be the recipients of this glory.
Again, Paul referred to the Old Testament. Hosea, the prophet, looked for the day when the Jews would say to God, “Thou art my God,” and God would say to the Jew, “You are my people” (Hosea 2:23). He also quoted from Isaiah (10:22-23; 10:27-28). There will be judgment for the Jews, but a remnant of the descendants of Abraham will receive the mercy of God.
Reflections for discussion of Romans 9:6-29
- What are your feelings about Paul’s theology that God chooses some and not others?
- The hymn tells us “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” How do humans know they are living under God’s mercy?