God is God. When God gives instructions, we may not always understand why, but rather than talk back, rather than question, the best we can do is run around the right side, just like we are told, keep your arm stiff, even if it makes no sense, and God has a plan, a reason. If I could write the story, I can think of many people that would have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by now.
Humanly, the plan of salvation would have been more poetic if the Jews had embraced Christ and then shared the gospel message of the cross and the forgiveness of sins to the world. But that is not the way it happened. Paul establishes the truth that God is God and God can do anything God wants in any way he chooses. In our verses today, Paul continues, READ Rom. 9:19. i.e. if there are those who reject Christ it is God’s fault for not choosing them, so how can they be to blame? This may seem like a logical human question, but Paul responds: “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God” (Rom. 9:20). Who are you to criticize God? Who are you to question the one who calls the play in the huddle, “I don’t want to run with a stiff arm?” What if each member of the team debated which play to call? Trust God, run with a stiff arm even if it makes no sense to you, and BOOM, it will someday all make sense.”
This is a problem of presumption. A problem of arrogance. Do you really dare to question God? Yet we do. We resist God.
Some of you grew up in homes where the worst thing you could do was talk back to your parents, the disrespect it showed. Don Hammingh used to drive the school bus, the same era as my father. Roughly the years 1970 to 90. Over those decades something changed. In the early years, if a kid messed up the bus driver could scold the kid or take appropriate action. As the years went on, bus driving became less fun, too often the kid would complain about how harsh the bus driver treated them and the parents would take the side of the kids. Somehow, the respect for authority ebbed. Yet to grow in our faith, to find the peace of Christ, we must come to the place where we accept God knows what he is doing. On earth, obviously some authorities need to be questioned because they may be leading us in wrong paths, but God IS God, and to put him on the throne of your life brings peace.
Rom. 9:21. God can do whatever God wants. God IS God. Every Sunday I carefully choose my tie, shirt and slacks. I figure I am not master of much, but I feel I have a small measure of control with my ties and shirts. I have this dopy little goal of never wearing the exact same combination on Sundays. Sometimes I even think weeks in advance, for example, I found an orange tie and since it is close to Halloween next week I think I’ll wear the orange tie with the black shirt, very Fall looking...but I might change my mind, after all, I am the master of the tie rack! how much more God…He is the potter, I am the clay, he has molded me his way, the same lump of clay might be a coffee mug or a Ming vase. How does he decide? He IS God. He is the potter. Who are you to question… “Run around the right side and no matter what happens keep running and keep your arm stiff.” Don’t talk back to God. God can take our questioning. That’s not really the problem. It is for our benefit, our Christian growth, that we must learn simply to trust God, the master potter, who is still at work… it does something for us. The child who accepts authority is a child that matures…
As a general criticism of the Christian church, I see the church over the decades talk big, spread the message of salvation, the message of God’s love for all people, the message of forgiveness, but then we give up on people too soon. It’s too hard. Too messy. Too many sacrifices. What was it Paul said? Rom. 9:2-3.
The Christian world has divided over the centuries on the question of predestination. To what extent does God decide ahead of time who is saved and who is lost. You know what I get out of this scripture regarding predestination? God IS God. Who am I to question God and his decisions and how he determines what he determines. God is the potter. Rom. 9:22 in the NLT: “God has every right to exercise his power and his judgment [as he sees fit]” like the potter and the clay, like which tie and which shirt to put together… God can do whatever God wants. Who am I to even dare to presume the mind of God? Who are you to be so arrogant that you think you have it figured all out? Besides, even if I am convinced of predestination in its highest form, who are we as mere humans to think we can presume to know how to apply the principle. Even if we think we got God’s will all figured out in how he works, the Bible, right here, is saying “Surprise” the most unlikely people will be saved! I just love the second half of verse 22: the NLT: “[God] has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of his judgment and are only fit for judgment.” “Patient” means more opportunity to be changed…
Do you see what Paul is saying: God IS God, and he has the right to be patient with the most unlikely people. If God can be patient, isn’t that our calling? As I go around Sumas, the Foothills, God loves the most broken of people – the train of thought goes something like this… even if you think you can figure out who is saved and who isn’t, who’s in and whose out, even if you determine predestination in it’s most extreme forms is the absolute truth, what difference does it make from the human perspective, because you still have no idea who God has in mind to save. it’s up to God, and God is patient, not giving up on anyone…nor should we. Let’s not declare prematurely who God loves… He is patient. The word “patient” in verse 22 is a key word for Paul because within that word Paul is pleading for us to not question God, not get angry at God because he has written a different story than what we would right, because we do not know the end of the story. When the Bible declares God is the potter and I am the clay, I see God still actively shaping the clay. Esther, my daughter, is learning to love ceramics. It’s fascinating to watch a lump of clay take shape on a potters will, with one motion the tall skinny shape becomes a wide round bowl and smoothly back to a vase with a rim. God is an active potter. Do not give up on your family who have rejected Christ, just like that God may change the heart. Two beautiful words: “even us.” Paul says in Rom. 9:24. Even us. Paul does not take his own salvation for granted. If any thoughts of predestination are arrogant, like I’m in, or the reverse, any thoughts of despair because you think God has abandoned you, then we’ve missed the point. If some are automatically in and other out, I’m thinking I would certainly be on the “out” list, because I know my sin, I know my hidden evil nature, my pride. Even us. Paul is saying something like this: let God do his work, the work is not yet finished. God is an active Potter even today! Let’s not presume to think we know who is in or out or who is worthy or not worthy. Don’t talk back to God. God is patient, even with those who are living like they are destroyed, but don’t give up. Even you and I are loved by God. Isn’t that amazing. ///
Not only that ~ do you need more. Let God finish writing the story of salvation for all people. When you talk back to God you are criticizing the author before you get to the end. God is an amazing author. The promise is that God is going to fill the story with great reversals. This is why we are not to question God, because the way things look now in our world may not be how the story turns out. The person you give up on may in fact change. God promises a great reversal.
Here is a silly little story of a surprise reversal in roles: Although this married couple enjoyed their luxury fishing boat together, it was the husband who was always behind the wheel operating the boat. He was concerned about what might happen in an emergency. So one day out on the lake he said to his wife, "Please take the wheel, dear. Pretend that I am having a heart attack. You must get the boat safely to shore." So she drove the boat to shore. Later that evening, the wife walked into the living room where her husband was watching television. She sat down next to him, switched the TV channel, and said to him, "Please go into the kitchen, dear. Pretend I'm having a heart attack. You must set the table, cook the dinner, and wash the dishes."
We talk back to God without knowing the end of the story, the reversals… READ 9:25… those who were not my people I will now call my people… the great reversal… I will love whom I did not love… the great reversal. Talking back to God shows our ignorance, shows mistrust, if he tells you to run around the right side with a stiff arm then do it. Boom. At the end of the story it will make sense. God is patient. He loves reversing the story so that suddenly the most unlikely person is instantly changed. Even us. He says. Paul was greatly disappointed the Jews did not accept Christ, but there is no reason to question God, the Potter, who is still at the Potters wheel, molding his people.
Rom. 9:26 same thing… and it goes the other way, too… Rom. 9:27… the reversal from great fortune to a remnant, it goes both ways.
Never forget the end is still coming. God IS God, still on the throne: Rom. 9:28. One more reason to not criticize God: The final judgment is still coming, wait, let God finish his work as a Potter, let God finish the story.
When you talk back to God, you presume to know better than God. Keep a stiff arm. People who presume to know what is best for them are often mistaken. Like a young person that quits school may benefit for the moment by saving a lot of work, but in the long run seldom is it for the best. We don’t have to understand the reason for this or that, why some reject Christ and other accept. God has the right to do whatever He wants with us and our situations. Even when we are tempted to presume that we know better than God and grouse about the unfairness of life we should remember He is the Potter and we are the clay and he is still at work. We know the story will include great reversals, wonderful surprises. Don’t be discouraged with questions, but just keep your arm stiff, even if it makes no sense. BOOM.