If you could know the future, would you want to? I mean, really; if you could know the exact moment of your death, would you want that information? Knowing the future has been a preoccupation for we humans forever! I remember riding in the backseat of a car with a friend and passing one of those little houses on the side of the road with the big sign out front: “Madam So and So: Know your future. Palm Reading!” When I asked about it, the man driving us dismissed that as a con artist trying to fool people out of their money.
But, if you did know your future and everybody else’s future around you, would that mean we weren’t really free? And would it be right for you to withhold that information from someone else? Would that be fair? OK, I’m starting to get a headache!
Look at our lesson today in Romans 9:6-19:
BRETHREN, it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants. For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, she was told, “The elder will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. For the scripture says to Pharoah, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
Don’t forget; St. Paul is writing our Roman brothers and sisters ahead of his arrival there to stand trial before Caesar. And Paul is using this “letter” to the Romans to lay out his teachings concerning the Christian faith. Paul doesn’t avoid any controversial topics. Not at all!
One of the most controversial topics is the charge that God isn’t “fair” or that He is “unjust” because He plays “favorites” with some people. Paul is specifically dealing with the charge that most of the Jews of Jesus’ day did not accept Him as the promised Messiah. They, in fact, colluded with the Roman occupying authorities to have this Jesus crucified! Some had suggested to Paul that if the majority of the Jews who had been expecting the Messiah all these centuries rejected Jesus as the Messiah then maybe we should reject Him too.
Paul deals with this in two ways: First, he anticipates their objection that God was being unfair by condemning those who rejected Jesus as the Messiah. And he does this by teaching that just because someone was born in a certain family doesn’t make them automatically a believer. He reminds the Romans that Abraham had two sons Isaac and Ishmael, but God chose to bless the lineage of Isaac with the fullness of the Faith.
Next, Paul reminds us that God does what He does based on His mercy and His wisdom. God doesn’t just know the future; He knows every possible future based on every possible choice everyone can make from day one! Far from that making us a slave to His foreknowledge; it manifests God’s great power in granting us such freedom to embrace or deny His wisdom at every possible crossroads of our lives!
Today, are you tempted to accuse God of being “unfair?” Do you sometimes give into the temptation to compare yourself to someone else and feel bad or angry or even cheated? Stop! God’s love for you and His respect for your freedom is so profound that He places before you every day the choice to be Orthodox on Purpose!