Scripture For Today: ROMANS 9:13-33

Romans 9:13-33

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.


3 responses to “Scripture For Today: ROMANS 9:13-33

  1. The Forgotten Beatitude

    By Vance Havner

          “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over me” (MATTHEW 11:6).

    We are familiar with the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. We are also acquainted with other beatitudes of our Lord, such as “Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he comes shall find so doing”; “Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.”

    But here is a little beatitude, short and sandwiched between longer verses, so that we are in danger of passing it up altogether: “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over me.”

    John the Baptist was in prison. That rugged, ascetic Elijah of the New Testament, prophet of the outdoors, was certainly out of place in a damp, dark dungeon. No wonder he had the blues. One day his feelings hit a record low and he sent a delegation to Jesus to ask, “Art thou he that should come or do we look for another?” Now, that was a serious doubt for John the Baptist. The very thing he had preached like a living exclamation point had become a question mark to the preacher himself. It was not the first or last time that a preacher’s affirmation has become, in a dungeon, a preacher’s interrogation. It reminds us of another prophet of the dungeon, Jeremiah, who cried to God from the depths, “Wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar and as waters that fail?”

    But our Lord did not reprimand John the Baptist. It is noteworthy that two of the strongest characters in the Bible had something akin to a nervous breakdown. Elijah, in the Old Testament, collapsed under the juniper, and God had to feed and rest him. More than one Christian, exhausted, with nerves on edge, has imagined that he is the last survivor of the saints. And usually he needs not reproof but rest. Then here is John the Baptist of the camel’s hair vestments and victuals of locusts and wild honey, who could reprove kings and call religious people sons of snakes; here is John the Baptist down in the dumps even as you and I! It is one thing to stand on Jordan and give it, another thing to stay in jail and take it!

    But what did Jesus do? Did he bitterly reprove the troubled prophet? Did He say, “I’m ashamed of you, disappointed in you. What will people think?” He did nothing of the sort. He did not even send John a tract on “How To Be Happy In Jail!” On the contrary, on the day that John the Baptist made his poorest remark about Jesus, Jesus said the best thing about John the Baptist: “Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” For Jesus knew his frame and remembered that he was dust.

    John had preached a victorious Messiah with fan in hand, purging His floor, gathering His wheat into the garner but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. And here was Jesus, not carrying on that way at all but meek and lowly, going about doing good. And John couldn’t figure it out. The devil got in his doubts as in Eden. John began wondering and then worrying, for one begets the other.

    Our Lord’s answer to John’s question is simple. The blind are seeing, the deaf are hearing, the lame are walking, the lepers are being cleansed and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. In other words, “I am running on schedule and carrying out my program as planned. It may not be as you expected but do not be upset by it.”

    This is a day of dungeons, and many saints are in the clutches of Giant Despair. There is comfort here for us. If a husky Lion Heart like John the Baptist could faint, “brethren, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” Your temptation is common unto man and there is a way of escape.

    John’s trouble, like most trouble, did not come singly, it was twofold. There was depression and there was doubt. Dungeons bring depression and depression brings doubt. Are you in a dungeon? Not behind visible lock and key perhaps, but while “stone walls do not a prison make nor iron bars a cage,” it is also true that other things than prison walls do a prison make and other than iron bars may form a cage. Is your trouble financial? Maybe your blood pressure is up and your bank account down. Maybe you are physically ill but you keep going and everyone thinks because you are walking you are well! Maybe you have lost a loved one and a shroud of melancholy hangs heavy on your soul. Perhaps you dread to see night fall and search for rest as men seek for hidden treasure. Dungeons bring depression and from depression it is easy to move into doubt, even doubt about Jesus. Then we are upset and offended and we need to learn the Forgotten Beatitude.

    It is nothing new to be offended in Jesus. More people have been offended in Him than in any character in history. Away with this milk-and-water preaching about Jesus! He has caused more offense than any other person who ever lived. He is either a sanctuary or a stumbling stone (Isaiah 8:14). He was an offense to His own nation and still is (Romans 9:33). He offended the Pharisees (Matthew 15:12). He offended the people of His own home town (Matthew 13:54-58). He offended superficial disciples (John 6). His cross is an offense (1 Cor. 1:23). And even true disciples may be offended in Him (Matthew 26:31-35). Sound believers sometimes get into a dungeon and pout with the Lord and say, “It is vain to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinances and walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts.”

    Don’t you look pious, for we all have done it! We have murmured that we pray and do not receive. We gave our tithe and now we are in adversity. We were faithful to the Lord’s house and landed in a hospital. We prayed for our children and they became worldlings. We craved joy and peace but we are despondent. Across the street is an ungodly family that has suffered no loss, while our dearest was taken. “There is no use in praying. It reads very lovely in the devotional books but I seem unable to make it work.” We were in distress, and the Lord “abode where he was” and when He did appear we grumbled like Martha when she said, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”

    All such grumbling means that we have not learned the Forgotten Beatitude. Anybody can believe during fair weather. There is a deeper experience and a higher state which not many reach, a state in which, no matter what happens, we are never offended in the Lord, a state in which, whether it makes sense to us or not, we still believe Romans 8:28. Habakkuk started his book pouting and ended it praising. And blessed is the man who can say: “Though I don’t get what I want: though I may sow much and reap little; though others get the plums and I get the sack, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.”

    When Thomas asked for visible evidence of the risen Lord, he was asking for a smaller blessing than he already had, the privilege of believing without seeing, for “blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” God wants us to trust Him, no matter what He does. There is a heavenly carelessness that leaves it all with Jesus and doesn’t become upset when He does things contrary to what we expected. And there will be plenty of things that just don’t make sense. John the Baptist must have wondered, “If Jesus can raise the dead, why can’t He get me out of jail?” The little boy who couldn’t understand why God put so many vitamins in spinach and didn’t put them all in ice cream was already beginning to see that things just don’t work out as we’d like for them to. There is much that is baffling, but if we can’t understand it, by grace we can stand under it, we can see to it that we are not offended, and that is better than understanding it! Some things we are to know (Matthew 13:11) and some things we are not to know (Acts 1:7), and we would be happier if we spent the time we waste on trying to fathom the unknowable in learning the knowable.

    God did not explain suffering to Job. He gave him revelation, which was better than explanation. Better than having all our questions answered is to say, “The Lord knows what He is doing and I will not be offended.”

    In this dark hour of world distress not a few believers are in the dumps. Jesus seems not to be carrying on as expected. The world is not being converted. Has Christ failed? He isn’t transforming the social order. Is He the One or shall we look for another? Many have been mistaught and have misunderstood His mission, His motive, His message, His method. It is true that He is not converting the world. He didn’t say He would. But He has not failed, He is running on schedule. Blind eyes are opening to the Light of the world. Deaf ears are hearing His voice. Lame souls are taking up their beds and walking. Lepers, like Naaman of old, are dipping in Jordan and coming up with flesh like that of a little child. The dead in trespasses and sins are awaking to Christ, their Life and Light, and to the poor the Gospel is still begin preached. Christ is carrying on as intended. He has never missed an appointment. He may seem slow but He is never late. We need not be offended because He is not converting the world. He didn’t promise to, but He did promise to return in clouds of glory and reign until all enemies are put under His feet. Let us therefore take our stand on His Word and hide it in our hearts, for “great peace have they who love your law: and nothing can make them stumble (Psalm 119:165).




    By Watchman Nee

          When we begin to look at Jacob the man, we discover how strikingly his history is like our own. Before God has begun to deal with us we are inclined to take a rather superior attitude to Jacob, and judge him as self-willed and irresponsible. But when we begin to recognize the flesh in ourselves and our own weakness and sinfulness and self-will, then it is that we see Jacob in ourselves. And when we come to the last seventeen years of his life, and watch his words and his whole demeanour, we must praise God’s grace in the man. It is hard to find any in the Old Testament with an end like his. It can move us to tears to see how wondrously God has worked in him and how grace has led him to a place of usefulness. A seemingly hopeless man has been made into a most useful vessel for God’s purpose.

          Yet the whole of this fruitfulness in Jacob was the result of God’s discipline of him. God touched his natural strength, and as a result he became in due course a vessel unto honour. It is as the Spirit disciplines us that He works Christ into us; they are not two separate works. The life of Christ is wrought into the character of the disciple, and fruit is born naturally, spontaneously. So we have much to learn from Jacob.

          We can recognize four stages in Jacob’s life. First, the man Jacob as he was (Genesis 25-27). Secondly, his testing and discipline through circumstances (28-31). Thirdly, the dislocation of his natural life (32-36). Fourthly, the ‘peaceable fruit’ (37-50).

          We begin by looking at the character of Jacob the man. By natural instinct Jacob was a fighter from birth (Genesis 25.22-26).How different he was from Isaac! Isaac did nothing; he accepted and received everything. Jacob from beginning to end is a schemer, clever, wily, confident that he can do anything. How is God going to bring such a man to the place of being a vessel for His purpose?

          It was not just that what he did was wrong; he himself, from before his birth, was a man unsuitable to God by nature. Oh yes, He desired the will of God. He wanted Esau to hold back and allow him, Jacob, to be the eldest; and when that did not happen he would use every device, every stratagem to make good the disadvantage. That was Jacob! Of what use to God was such a man?

          We cannot give a rational answer to that question. Only the grace of God can account for His choice of this one. ‘For the children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto (Rebekah), The elder shall serve the younger. Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ (Romans 9. 11 -13). The election of God is the only explanation; there is no other. God wanted to choose a man. We must believe in the choice of God. If He has begun a good work in us He will not leave it half done. He is the First and the Last. The work He has started to do in us He will finish. If we trust to the election of God, we can rest in Him.

          If you are inclined to say, ‘I am so difficult for God to deal with,’ then put your trust in Jacob’s God. Jacob did not choose God first; God chose Jacob. Before his birth He chose him, and the same is true of us. Recognize God’s elective grace, and we shall be freed from anxiety.

          It was the will of God that Jacob should rule. Jacob had discovered that. He learned of God’s plan and recognized its true importance, and that it involved him and not his brother. He saw God’s election and God’s purpose, but he wanted to make sure of it for himself. So in their youth, when Esau returned one day from hunting, Jacob bargained with him for his birthright. ‘Let me be the elder, and you shall be the younger,’ he declared (Genesis 25. 29-34). His motive was right, but he used his own wits to get what God fully intended to give him.

    Then in chapter 27 Jacob cheated his father in order to secure his father’s blessing. We can, of course, see Jacob’s problem. Isaac had sent Esau to hunt, with a view to giving him his blessing. If that happened, and Esau received the blessing of the first-born, then what about God’s promise? Jacob had seen the design behind that promise, and so he saw the danger too. He must somehow contrive that God’s will should be done. From his point of view he was quite right, but his was the reasoning of the natural man. Each thing Jacob did, we find, was designed to accomplish God’s will. He showed, however, that he could not wait for God’s time and look to God to do it but must himself devise measures to bring about what it appeared as though God could not do.

          Our natural man uses human strength and ingenuity to compass the will of God. If God’s throne seems in danger of falling, out goes our hand to steady it. ‘Something must be done!’ we exclaim. That is Jacob, the able, scheming, clever, natural man. But the result of his efforts was only that Esau felt himself cheated and determined to kill him, and Jacob had to leave home.

          Not only does man’s uncleanness render him unfit, and therefore powerless, to do God’s will; man’s very best is equally powerless. No matter how perfect the heart’s intentions may be, if it is man using his natural strength to do it, the result is failure. Jacob had not learned to know and quietly to wait for the God who says, ‘I will work, and who shall hinder it? (Isaiah 43. 13). He was God’s choice, God wanted him, but he knew neither God nor himself. The blessing he attained by cheating, he failed truly to realize. All he received was God’s discipline. Clever people get a lot of that!

          Through discipline God gave him the blessing he had cheated to obtain. Already at Bethel, before he had even left the land, his life of discipline began (Genesis 28. 10-22). God spoke to him in a dream. He could not speak to Jacob directly while he was trusting to his own plans.

          But now look what God says to Jacob! ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed’ (28. 13-14). It would not surprise us if God had said these words at the end of Jacob’s life, but here they are at the very outset! The whole blessing is presented to him, even while he is still his natural, contriving, crafty self. How is this possible? Surely only because God knew Himself. He had great confidence in what He Himself would do. He knew that this Jacob, so committed to Him, could not escape His hands, and sooner or later would become His vessel unto honour. ‘I will give it,’ God said. There was nothing for Jacob to do. How wonderful that God is a God of such confidence! He knows He can carry out His own plans.

          We might well think such a downright statement of intention rather risky when dealing with a man like Jacob. But the end was already certain; God’s plans always are. For God’s expectation is in Himself, never in us. Oh that we might learn the undefeatedness of God!

          Then we should notice also, at Bethel, that in spite of Jacob’s spiritual condition, God has not one word of rebuke for him. We should certainly have had! Yet God made no mention of what had happened. He knew all about Jacob and his deceit and his subtle contriving. Here was this man, determined to reach his goal, no matter what means he used to get there, and God knew he was like that. But for that very reason, God did not rebuke him. It would have been no use; he was like that, he could not change, and God did not tell him to. God knew that Jacob was in His hands; and what Jacob could not do, God Himself could.

          Twenty-one years later when Jacob came back to Bethel, he was a different man, and God knew this would be so. What is not accomplished in ten years, will be in twenty. At the end of that time God is still holy. He has not forgotten, and He never approved of Jacob’s action. Jacob was foolish, but God had His plans. Time would work them out.

          This promise to Jacob was greater and went further than that given to either Abraham or Isaac. ‘Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of (28. 15). Praise God for this extra promise given to Jacob! It was unconditional. There was no ‘if you . . . then I . . .’. Whatever Jacob was like by nature, God had a plan; He would have His way. He has a way to His goal for even the most hopeless of us. He cannot be defeated. There is no means of bringing God to a halt half-way there.

          From Bethel onward Jacob was in God’s hand, and twenty years of discipline wrought the change in him. But here, at the outset of his journey, he as yet did not know the meaning of the promise. This revelation to Jacob in a dream had not changed him one bit. To look at him only draws from us the exclamation: ‘Lord, your work is indeed so perfect, but how poor the material you have to work upon!’

          From verses 16 and 17 it seems that, on waking, Jacob had forgotten what God had said, and was only afraid because he had slept at the Gate of Heaven. The promise was secondary. He was afraid of God. And the house of God is indeed a terrifying place to those in whom the flesh has not been dealt with. The house of God has the power of God, God’s order, holiness, righteousness, revealed in it. It is justly to be feared if the flesh is still proud and active.

          Then Jacob spoke to God. ‘And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, if God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house’ (20-21). What a contrast this is to God’s unqualified words to him. Jacob says, ‘If . . . if . . . if . . . then.’ We see here what Jacob’s desires were, namely, food and clothing. He had lost sight of God’s purpose. But surely here we can already detect God’s discipline. For he was young, the beloved of his mother; and now he was alone, knowing nothing of his future. Even in this situation his chastening had begun. He wanted food and clothing, and to return to his home! ‘And of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee’ (28. 22). That is Jacob! If you give me all this, then I will give you a tenth! He wanted to do business, even with God. Everything for him was on a commercial basis.

          Yet this was also Bethel. Although Jacob could not rise to God’s promise, yet from that time, to Jacob He was the God of Bethel. A great impression was made on Jacob there.

          Now Jacob comes to Haran, and in Genesis 29. 9 – 11 we read how Rachel was the first one of his relations to meet him. Again we see God’s discipline at work, for the first thing he did was to weep. She awoke in him memories of his past, and of the way he had come. Before he left home he had been hard; there had been plenty of ways of keeping himself from tears. It is those who have no way out of their situation who weep. Jacob’s course had led him from riches to poverty. Again God had touched and chastened him.

          For one whole month Jacob was a guest in his relatives’ home (29. 14). After that Laban said to him, ‘Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? Tell me, what shall thy wages be? (verse 15). Yet verse 14 contains no suggestion that Jacob had been serving Laban! His host was announcing a change of status.

          The fact is, both Laban and Jacob had commercial minds. The natural man and the worldly man are one in this. On Jacob there were a lot of sharp corners to be rubbed off, and whereas Esau could not rub him, Laban certainly could. There is plenty of friction when two of the same kind meet and live together! First it had been, ‘my bone and my flesh’. Now it is, ‘You work and I will pay you.’ It was a polite way of saying, ‘You can’t live here for nothing!’

          In his own home Jacob had been the son; all was his. Now Jacob was a servant, a cattle-man, and his uncle was a harsh task master. Once more God’s chastening hand was at work.

          But there was still more to come. Jacob served Laban seven years for the hand of his daughter Rachel, his first love, and then Laban cheated him! He gave him Leah instead. It is always very bitter to have to take your own medicine! So Jacob served another seven years-fourteen years in all for Laban’s two daughters. He went out to keep the sheep, and Laban changed his wages ten times. Thus Jacob was put through the fires of discipline, tested and tried, but with the hand of God always upon him. For God had promised to bring Jacob back home.

          Laban could scheme and plan as well as Jacob; indeed, even Jacob had difficulty in getting the better of him. Yet somehow he managed it. He schemed long and carefully to increase his own flock and to enhance his wealth at the expense of his uncle, and in his scheming he makes it quite clear that he has not changed one bit!

          Yet Jacob acknowledged the hand of God. Though through all the years he had not mentioned God’s name, yet at last, with the birth of Joseph, he bethought himself of home and sought to return (30. 25). But now he could not get away! He was in fact compelled to stay on with such a man as Laban for twenty long years.

          What God’s hand does is right. Circumstances are His appointment for our good. They are calculated to undermine and weaken the specially strong points of our nature. It may not take Him as much as twenty years to do this, or it may take longer. Yet God knows what He is doing. We see this clearly at the end of Jacob’s life. Earlier he had inspired little affection in anyone, for everyone had to serve his ends; yet at the last he became gentle and lovable.

          ‘Now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes though it is proved by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1. 6-7). There is nothing accidental in the life of the believer. It is all measured out to us. We may not welcome the discipline, but it is designed in the end to make us partakers of His holiness.


  3. Distinguishing between Jacob and Esau

    By A.W. Tozer

          There are areas of Christian thought, and because of thought then also of life, where likenesses and differences are so difficult to distinguish that we are often hard put to it to escape complete deception. Throughout the whole world error and truth travel the same highways, work in the same fields and factories, attend the same churches, fly in the same planes and shop in the same stores. So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which Abel. We must never take for granted anything that touches our soul’s welfare. Isaac felt Jacob’s arms and thought they were the arms of Esau. Even the disciples failed to spot the traitor among them; the only one of them who knew who he was was Judas himself. That soft-spoken companion with whom we walk so comfortably and in whose company we take such delight may be an angel of Satan, whereas that rough, plain-spoken man whom we shun may be God’s very prophet sent to warn us against danger and eternal loss.

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