Introduction: The title of this week’s notes from Genesis 25 and Romans 9 is: ‘God’s Electing Grace: not by works, but by Him who calls.’ May God keep us humble as we study God’s sovereignty in choosing sinners and may we treasure all the more the grace by which we are saved when we realize it came to us by God’s free good pleasure.
Monday: read Genesis 25:22-23 and Romans 3:22-23; 6:23 and 9:21. It is God’s prerogative to choose for salvation sinners like Jacob out of the mass of sinful, undeserving human clay. As Paul says about God the Potter in Romans 9:21: “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” Because all of us are by nature and choice sinners who have fallen short (Romans 3:23) and who deserve the just wage of death (Romans 6:23), God has the right to reject us all. But in amazing mercy He sends His Son to die for many, but not all, humanity. Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Know then that it was not because of your works that God in mercy chose to claim you for the noble purpose of salvation. As we will see from the life of Jacob, God’s saving purpose (by which he promises to exalt Jacob over his older brother Esau in Gen. 25:23) is completely separate from human effort or action: “not by our works, but by Him who calls,” (Rom. 9:12).
Meditate and Pray: In company with Jacob, let these thankful words sum up your life: ‘Tis not that I did choose thee, for, Lord, that could not be; this heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me, Thou from the sin that stained me has cleansed and set me free; of old thou hast ordained me, that I should live to thee.’ (Josiah Conder, 1836; no. 471 Trinity Hymnal)
Tuesday: read Genesis 25:22-33; Romans 9:10-16 and Psalm 51:5. The words of the hymn from yesterday describe for us the sinful roots of the conflict between Rebekah’s twins in Genesis 25: ‘This heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me.’ In other words, both Esau and Jacob as rebels fought in the womb; competed for their parents’ favoritism (Esau for Isaac’s and Jacob for Rebekah’s in Gen. 25:27-28); then selfishly bartered for the inheritance (Gen. 25:31-33), because they were both, as David says, “conceived in sin,” and utterly unworthy either one of being chosen for salvation. Both Jacob and Esau deserved being cut off from God forever. God’s call to save Jacob from sin and not Esau was not because of any potential or good qualities which God foresaw in Jacob. He sinned and fought right alongside his brother. He was by nature a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) like the rest of us.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God afresh for the unconditional nature of God’s electing grace in your life. God “will have mercy on whom He will have mercy,” (Romans 9:15-16). What a treasure then for us to experience that mercy when there was absolutely nothing constraining God to show it to us! Another hymn expresses beautifully the thankful awe with which we should live each day in the face of such unconditional grace: “Why was I made to hear your voice, and enter while there’s room, when thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?” (Isaac Watts, 1707; no. 469 Trinity Hymnal, verse 3).
Wednesday: read Genesis 25:34; Romans 9:17-20 and Hebrews 12:16-17. Both Esau and Jacob show themselves to be conceived in sin. Even the faith which God gives to Jacob and not to Esau, as we shall see tomorrow, is a gift which neither brother deserves nor has the power within himself to exercise. But this does not mean that there is no blame placed on Esau because of his unbelief. He could not excuse himself from God’s judgment by saying along with those in Romans 9:19: “Why does God blame me?” We see in Genesis 25:34 that Esau freely and voluntarily chose to despise God’s inheritance. This is why in Hebrews 12:16-17 Esau is held up as a ‘godless’ man who loses God’s blessing because of the contempt which he showed for his spiritual birthright as a grandson of Abraham.
Meditate and Pray: Let us bow with reverent silence before the bar of God’s justice today, confessing with Abraham in Gen. 18:25 that God ‘the Judge of all the earth does right.’ God is not mocked. Hell is populated by people whose rejection of God was decisive and deserving of eternal punishment because of their own sinful hardness of heart. Just as Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15) and eventually came under God’s sentence of hardening (Rom. 9:17-18), so Esau and all who choose to reject God’s grace end up being unable to repent though they seek God’s blessing with tears of remorse (Hebrews 12:17). Thank God for changing your tears from tears of remorse at being caught in sin’s consequences to tears of repentance by which you came to see your need of Christ.
Thursday: read Hebrews 12:16 and 1 Timothy 1:5-11. We must never blame God’s electing grace for the unbelieving blindness of lost sinners like Esau. There is a reason that Esau is called in Heb. 12:16 a “godless man.” It is because he lacked real faith and was a man who lacked the “pure heart and good conscience which comes from sincere faith,” as 1 Timothy 1:5 describes it. Esau falls into 1 Timothy 1:9’s category of lawbreakers and rebels (same word used of ‘godless’ Esau), because of his refusal to believe in God’s promised inheritance. In this way we see that Esau rejected God’s grace and inheritance by failing to meet the condition of faith for salvation. Because he refused to believe, God rejected him forever. In this way we understand that, while faith is not a condition which makes God choose us, it is a command which when refused, condemns men to everlasting punishment.
Meditate and Pray: Be thankful today for the free offer of the Gospel and the Promise that “whoever believes in God’s Son will not perish but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16). Be thankful that, because God in unconditional grace chose you, you were quickened with irresistible grace and so enabled to meet the only condition of salvation: believing in Jesus Christ freely offered to you in the Gospel. Thank Him that by His grace, you came to obey the Gospel command to believe when thousands like Esau stubbornly refuse to bow the knee.
Friday: read Romans 9:17 and Joshua 2:10-13. God’s electing Grace lies at the root of salvation but not at the root of man’s sin. God is not the author or approver of sin. Man freely chooses sin (instead of being coerced by God into it) because his will, which he still freely exercises, has now become evil by the Fall. Human beings have lost any inward, natural desire to seek or please God as Genesis 6:5 makes clear: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Does that therefore mean that evangelism has no hope of succeeding? Since the days of the early church, some have wrongly accused those of us who believe in man’s total depravity and who teach God’s sovereign election as the only foundation for salvation as rendering the taking of the Gospel to the lost as a waste of time. Not so. Why after all did God raise up Pharaoh and harden his heart in Romans 9:17? Not only to show His Divine Power over Pharaoh; He also purposed that “His Name would be proclaimed through all the earth.” All along, God’s predestinating Grace has salvation as its goal. Men chose damnation in the Garden of Eden. God chose to use men’s evil choice and Fall for the salvation of sinners throughout the world. Isn’t it wonderful to see Rahab the prostitute’s fear of God and saving faith prompted by God’s mighty judgment and hardening of Pharaoh and Egypt in Joshua 2:10? God raised Pharaoh up so that many would see his judgment as a warning and flee from the wrath to come as Rahab and her family did. Oh the wisdom of God to use even judgment and condemnation in some for the salvation of many others!
Meditate and Pray: As we rejoice this Christmas season in the birth of Christ, let us treasure the blessing of having been given open eyes of faith to see and appreciate what God has done to save us, and let us even be thankful for the judgments we see all around us as they drive us all the more into the arms of Jesus. Remember the words of Hymn # 545 in our Trinity hymnals, verse 2:
“When I hear the wicked call on the rocks and hills to fall, when I see them start and shrink on the fiery deluge brink, then, Lord, shall I fully know, not till then how much I owe.” Robert Murray McCheyne, 1837.