Romans 9:6-7- “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” NKJV
God is the great and merciful God! He loves humanity and has made great plans for humanity. However, Satan hates humanity and he has also made plans for humanity. The interesting thing about it all is that we have a free will to choose who will govern our lives and that plays a huge part in how plans work out for us.
In our key text, Paul throws a curveball at us. He tells us that everyone who is a part of Israel is not an Israelite, and that everyone who is born from Abraham are not children of Abraham.
In the game of baseball, a curveball is a pitch thrown with a strong downward spin, causing the ball to drop suddenly and veer to the side as it approaches home plate. In the game of life, a curveball is something that is unexpected, surprising, or disruptive. In this verse, Paul’s curveball is surprising and unexpected to the hearers, readers, and listeners. What do you mean Paul? All are Jews who are of the seed of Abraham, who are citizens of Israel!
God is pretty interesting to me. He always has been. I am fascinated by Him and spend a lot of time thinking about Him, or something He has said or done. And whenever I would read the story of Ishmael and Isaac, I would feel a little bad for Ishmael when he wasn’t counted as a son of Abraham. After all, Ishmael was born first. He was with Abraham for 13 years before Isaac came along. Abraham and Ishmael were circumcised together. And Abraham was really glad to have Ishmael as his son because he cried to God on Ishmael’s behalf. Later, when Abraham died, both sons were at his burial:
And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the HittiteGenesis 25:9 NKJV
So what is Paul referring to? Let’s read a little further in the chapter:
That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”Romans 9:8-9 NKJV
Paul makes the same distinction between Ishmael and Isaac that God made in Genesis. Ishmael was the son of the flesh and not of the plans of God for Abraham and Sarah. God wasn’t taken by surprise, but He also wasn’t changing His plan to fit Abraham’s.
When God spoke to Abraham on Mt. Moriah, He mentioned Isaac as Abraham’s only son:
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”Genesis 22:12 NKJV
So in agreement with God, Paul wrote that not every person born of the seed of Abraham was a part of God’s chosen people. Yes, Ishmael was the oldest natural son of Abraham, but it was through Isaac that Abraham’s seed would be called and blessed.
Paul continues with his curveball by stating:
And not only that, but this too: Rebecca conceived [two sons under exactly the same circumstances] by our forefather Isaac, and the children were yet unborn and had so far done nothing either good or evil. Even so, in order further to carry out God’s purpose of selection (election, choice), which depends not on works or what men can do, but on Him Who calls [them], it was said to her that the elder [son] should serve the younger [son]. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (held in relative disregard in comparison with My feeling for Jacob).Romans 9:10-13 AMP
I chose another version, to try and help us navigate what Paul was saying about God. First, Paul reminds us of the fact that God chose Jacob over Esau. As ministers, we point out all of Esau’s flaws and say that is why God chose Jacob over Esau. We even go so far as to say that Jacob and Rebecca stole the birthright from Esau. But God had already told Rebecca that Esau would serve Jacob. Could this have influenced the parents love for each son? Possibly. But God made the selection!
Many of us go through life thinking that God isn’t fair. Let’s just keep it real! We look at a singer like Cece Winans and we may think that we can sing just as good as she can, so why aren’t we traveling, singing, being invited to engagements? Or we may think, like I have (just keeping it real) that I can definitely preach and teach the word better than certain individuals, but I am not preaching anywhere but on my blog! Or we may think a whole lot of things about the people we see around us and how they are doing what we thought we would be doing, or should be doing. Why is God using him and not me, or opening doors for her, but not for me? Well, here’s a curveball that might shock you:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV
You see, it really is hard to believe that God has, what seems to be, a greater plan for Bobby than He does for Betty. Or a greater plan for Billy than He does for Patty. After all, if we are all saved, and obedient to His plans, and doing what He has placed in our hearts, shouldn’t it take us all in the same direction? Yes! But it doesn’t look the same way for each us!
The plan that God has for us, is for us! Only Paul could have been Paul, for he was chosen from his mother’s womb to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Only Moses could have been Moses, for God had already determined he would be a deliverer. Only Jesus could have been Jesus, and the Savior of the world. And only you can be you!
Whatever God has planned for us needs to be enough! Paul speaks of this later on in Romans and again in 1 Corinthians when he speaks of the body of Christ and us all having a part to play. The finger has its job and does it well, just as the head has its job to perform. We can’t all be world travelers, famous, heads of mega churches, with millions of followers on Facebook! But we can all be the very best “me” that God called us to be. And we can all be obedient to that call!
This isn’t my original plan for this blog! Not by a long shot. But as I was going in my direction, I felt a tugging in this direction. As I have desired more in Christ for my life, and continue to desire, I remind myself that I need to remain diligent in my walk and service to Him, obeying all that I know to do. As I do this, He will continue to lead me to all that He has for me. I will short circuit His plan if I produce an Ishmael, but if I remain faithful to Him, nothing will stop His plan for me. Just as it didn’t stop His plan for Abraham.
Did God really hate Ishmael or Esau? I like the way that the Amplified Bible states it:
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (held in relative disregard in comparison with My feeling for Jacob).Romans 9:13 AMP
It may have looked like it and felt like it to Esau because God chose Jacob. Sometimes, it may feel like He hates you and love your friend, or brother, or neighbor, but we have to get to the place where we are willing to trust God and His plans for us!
Ishmael was no pauper. He had 12 sons of his own and started a great nation of people. Esau was no pauper. He was very wealthy and had a large family. They, however, were not in the plan that God had in place for Abraham, and it was what it was!
We don’t have the same problem as Christians. We all have equal access and value to God! But we don’t all have the same assignments, the same sphere of influences, or the same calling. And that’s ok! Wonderful Jesus!