I remember, it was not long after we came to New Zealand, we went down south and stayed at Duntroon in the Waitaki valley. We went to the little church there one Sunday and were invited to dinner by some people who had a farm. This was the first time I had been to a farm. Look, I was a kid, so it is a while ago! No quad bikes in those days, they didn’t even have farm bikes – well, these people were VW nuts, and that is what they used. They had a VW Kombi van for carting stuff around [P], they had a beetle to go to town in [P] – nice and shiny to turn up to church in. Then they had another beetle they used like a quad bike, for getting around the farm [P] – dirty and a bit beat up. It is nearly fifty years ago, but I can still remember tearing around the paddocks chasing hare with one brother driving and the other leaning out the window with a 0.22. Now some people maintain that cars have personalities, but it is just as well that cars are not human! Otherwise the car relegated to farm work might resent the care lavished on the other one being polished up for the trip into town! The thing is, that there are two identical vehicles; one used for best, the other as a work-horse. Can’t they do that? Of course they can! There is no injustice in that, those people owned those VWs and could do with them as they chose to [P], for the purpose they had in mind. Choice is a key aspect of sovereignty – you have a will, a plan and a purpose; and in order to carry that out you make choices. Last time I concluded the introduction to a series looking at the sovereignty of God. Having prevaricated for a year, looking at God’s sovereignty over every aspect of His creation [P]; we started to look at the sovereignty of God over man [P]. I could go through every story in the Bible and show how God is in control – the Divine dramatist is ordering events, revealing Himself and His ways through His dealings with men. The people involved were just living their lives; they had no idea of the end God was working toward. So you can have a guy like Sampson getting smitten with a Philistine girl – now, surely that is all wrong! – but what does the Bible say?: [Judges 14:3-4 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a wife among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Take her for me because she pleases me.” (surely that is the flesh speaking; yet ….) His father and mother did not know that this was from יהוה; He was seeking for an occasion against the Philistines. ] It was from יהוה! – He was directing events. Last time I gave just two examples: Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, two men that יהוה chose to accomplish His purpose – we saw from the Bible’s point-of-view that these mighty kings were mere tools in the hand of יהוה. He had a plan and a purpose that centred around His people Israel, and He used these kings and their empires to accomplish His plans and purpose. There is יהוה, the Divine dramatist, directing history according to His will. Today, we think more of movies – well in those terms, יהוה is the producer, the screen-writer and the director – and He also does the casting – choosing who will play what part [P]. When we study the Bible people do their best to make things complicated and deep – so, instead of saying “choice” they use the fancy term “election” [P]. Instead of those that are “chosen” they say the “elect”. Now יהוה is sovereign; He can do as He wills, He makes plans, has His purpose and He chooses people to accomplish His purpose; and He doesn’t have to give an account to anybody to justify the choice that He made. Let’s have a look at this choice at work, please turn to the book of Romans chapter 9 [P]. Just a little bit of background: Paul has given a wonderful exposition of the Gospel that he preached: the righteousness of God Himself that comes to man by faith alone. This was God’s purpose; and His purposes centre around His chosen people: Israel. Now Paul came to a real conundrum: the thing is that those chosen people didn’t believe in Jesus! They were trying to do it themselves by their own efforts and so they missed out. It looked as if God’s purpose and promises had failed! So now he is addressing this problem: [Romans 9:6-13 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. (God’s intention had not failed) For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” (God had made His promise to Abraham and his offspring, but it was not to all of them, God made a selection of a subset, He chose those descended from Isaac) That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” (so the promises were only to Sarah’s offspring, not to Hagar or Keturah’s. Then יהוה narrowed the selection even further:) And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; (remember the descendants were to be through Isaac) for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”] [P] Now I have heard people say that יהוה knew Jacob’s heart; that he had a heart for God and so He chose him, knowing how he would turn out. Undoubtedly that is true, but they seem to think it was due to something intrinsic in Jacob or Esau; but Scripture goes out of its way, bends over backwards here, to stress the point that it had nothing to do with the man but solely with God – His choice. He is sovereign, He does as He wills. It has nothing to do with them. Look at verse 10, it says: [P] “They had one father”, one mother – the same origin, the same genetics. There was no difference between them. It says twice: [P] that they were “twins” – you couldn’t get closer. It is evident that they were not identical twins but they were exactly the same age, environment, upbringing. The point is that there was no difference, just two individuals, yet vastly different places in God’s economy. It says: [P] that they were “not even born” – the decision had been made even before they had taken a breath. You can’t say Esau muffed it, that Jacob did well. In fact it goes on to say: [P] that they “hadn’t done anything” – to hammer the point home that it had nothing to do with them, it says that they hadn’t done anything; yet the choice had been made. Do you see how Paul belabours the point, it says: [P] that it didn’t depend on being “good or bad” – it had nothing to do with what they did, them being good or bad. Well if it had nothing to do with the men, what did it depend upon? It says: [P] that the choice was according to: “God’s purpose” – the sole basis of the choice was יהוה’s purpose; that it would stand, that His will be accomplished. He is the Divine playwright who has designed characters to carry out the plot that He has scripted so that His purposes might be carried out. יהוה has a will, a purpose that He carries out. He ensures that His will is done, His purpose is accomplished and He uses people to do that. His great purpose is to reveal Himself, make Himself known. His purpose is to bring glory to Himself as God. It says: [P] that “God chose” – it is God who chose, not them that chose God. God willing we will look at this further in God’s sovereignty in salvation but Jesus Himself said: [John 15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.] Then again it says: [P] that it was “not because of works” – if I am repeating myself, it is because Scripture does! Paul is hammering the point home – it did not depend on works, on anything that they had done. It depends upon God, His choice, His purpose; not on man. He is sovereign. He makes His choice. It says: [P] that it was because of “His call”. יהוה initiated, He made it happen. He called one but not the other. Furthermore it says: [P] that it was contrary to natural order – the prophetic word to Rebekkah was: “the older will serve the younger” – that was the opposite way to the way it should be. If it was just left to man and the natural way things happen, who would have received the blessing, the birthright, the inheritance? Now you can analyze the machinations of Isaac and Rebekah but God was in control, even through all that, in order that His pre-stated purpose came to pass: the older served the younger. God is in sovereign control, exercising His choice and ensuring that it comes about. יהוה stated it beforehand – it says: [P] “It stands written!” What God says comes about. In fact if you examine it for a moment, prophecy only works if God actually happens. God deliberately went out of His way to make it so that there was nothing intrinsic in the people themselves. What was the reason then? What was the basis? It is: [P] God’s purpose – His will that He most assuredly will carry out and none can thwart Him. It is based on: [P] יהוה’s choice. How does He carry out His purpose – He selects, chooses, certain men to be the instrument to carry out that will. He has scripted the plot and cast the characters to play each part. Having chosen them יהוה calls [P] them – it is based on His call – not man’s abilities, desires, aspiration, character or accomplishments. God has written the whole history – it is based on His Word [P] – “it is written” – according to promise, יהוה God’s Word. יהוה had spoken! It is solely based on יהוה’s will. It is all יהוה from beginning to end! He is sovereign, in control. He has a will and a purpose and He carries it out – based on His choice, His call, according to His word. And what was written? What was the prophetic word? What was it that יהוה said?: [P] “Jacob I have loved but Esau I hated!” You can’t get around it – it is written! But men try – you should see how the commentaries immediately go to town to try and explain that is not what it means! They don’t try to explain away that “God hates sin” but “Esau I hated”, it can’t mean that! Why not? It offends our sensibilities. God is love, He loves everyone, He doesn’t hate anyone. We are imposing our humanistic morality on God – saying that He has to measure up with our notion of justice and fairness. But love is, by its very nature, discriminatory. Love involves choice. I love Rhoda, I chose her out of all the women in the world to be my wife. Now according to the humanist, if I am going to be fair and just I ought to love every other woman just the same! Can you imagine how Rhoda would respond to that?!! She would not feel loved at all. If it is not discriminatory it is not love. The one who is loved is treated preferably to the rest; that is how it is known that they are loved. Love makes a choice, it discriminates. Our humanistic thinking is rather fuzzy and illogical – it says that everyone should be treated the same, that we should not discriminate. So when you want to employ someone you are not allowed to discriminate: not on religion, gender, ethnicity etc. Who do we think we are fooling?! It is ridiculous – the whole point of the job interview is that you choose one applicant over the other! The whole purpose is to discriminate! If God treated everyone identically how would we know what love is? That would just be the way things are – some amorphous bland uniformity. So God showed His love by choosing Israel, by dealing with them in a special way that He did for no other nation. Love chooses and discriminates. And God’s love is not based upon anything intrinsic in the one He chooses – it says: [P] [Deuteronomy 7:7-8 יהוה did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, (it was not due to anything intrinsic them, some special quality they had; why then did He set His love on them?) but because יהוה loved you.] Why did יהוה love us? Because He loved us! He just decided to, chose to – He is sovereign and He does as He chooses and doesn’t have to give account to anyone. But “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated” – our immediate reaction is: “That’s not fair!” People were no different in Paul’s day – let us read on: [P] [Romans 9:14-18 What then shall we say? There is no injustice with God, is there? (people were saying that it wasn’t fair) May it never be! For to Moses he says, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I have compassion.” (Paul quotes Scripture: Exodus 33:19, to prove his point. יהוה is not unfair, He has mercy and compassion. He doesn’t have to – He would be perfectly just to not show any mercy. But that mercy and compassion is at His own discretion. He doesn’t have to, but He does show mercy and compassion on the ones He chooses. Mercy on whom He decides to have mercy, compassion on whom He decides to have compassion – He is SOVEREIGN!) Consequently therefore, it does not depend on the one who wills or on the one who runs, (it does not depend upon man) but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very reason I have raised you up, (who raised him up?) so that I may demonstrate My power in you (why did He raise him up? For His own purpose: to demonstrate His power), and so that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (יהוה’s purpose is to bring glory to His Name) Consequently therefore, He has mercy on whomever He wishes, and He hardens whomever He wishes.] It is based on יהוה’s will – He does as He wishes, He is sovereign. If you are inclined to criticize the justice of God; (which of course is placing your standard of justice above His!) be mindful that as far as justice goes, God is just in hating each of us! We have all gone our own way, disobeyed Him, robbed Him of glory, and rebelled. The fact that He loves any man is solely due to His mercy. He extends mercy on a particular one, like Jacob. Now mercy is not mercy if you are forced to do it – if you are, then it is an obligation or requirement, not mercy. Like love, mercy and compassion are completely at the discretion of the one extending them – you make a choice to do so. God is sovereign He has mercy on whoever He wishes and He hardens whoever He wishes. He can do so because He is sovereign. He is not obliged to square it with you or me first! Now I could spend a lot of time on the story of יהוה’s dealings with Pharaoh [P], but you all know the story. Suffice it to say that he probably stands out above every other contender as the most stubborn and obstinate in his determination to resist יהוה. Nobody had a harder heart than Pharaoh! Despite terrible plagues, that were patently due to the sovereign hand of God, still he resisted. His own people begged him to give way because the land was being destroyed, but still he refused to let יהוהpeople go. How could anybody be so stupidly stubborn, unyielding and hard? It says that יהוה hardened His heart – that He hardens who He wishes [P] – He is sovereign. Now some will be quick to point out that Pharaoh hardened his own יהוה before יהוה hardened it. But even before Moses ever went to see Pharaoh, יהוה said to Moses: [Exodus 3:19-20 But I myself know that the king of Egypt will not allow you to go unless compelled by a strong hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and I will strike Egypt with all of my wonders that I will do in its midst, and afterward he will release you. ] יהוה knew it all before hand how the plot would develop – it was all His sovereign plan. Why did יהוה write the plot this way? We read: “For this very reason I have raised you up, so that I may demonstrate My power in you, and so that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”] יהוה acted for His glory, to demonstrate His power [P]. Now, just suppose Pharaoh was just a bit more reasonable and he said to Moses: “Look Moses, you have been a son to me, grown up in my own home; sure, if you want to take these Israelites and go, why you just go ahead. Maybe I can help and provide some transport.” The result that Pharaoh would be honoured as a reasonable man, he would get the glory, not יהוה! What would we know of the power of יהוה?! No, it wouldn’t have worked. יהוה acted to reveal something of who He is: His power! Greater than the mightiest ruler in the world and his army. He wiped them out in a moment! What a demonstration of the greatness of our God! Hallelujah! יהוה directed the characters and the plot so that His power would be demonstrated. His people would see how mighty He was. יהוה’s purpose was: “that My Name might be proclaimed in all the earth!” [P] He acts for His own glory, that He might be honoured and glorified. He is sovereign controlling man, directing them in the drama He has scripted. He loved Jacob, yet He hardened Pharaoh. The natural response to this is: if God is sovereign and makes me how I am and directs me according to His purpose, how can He then blame me for what I do? Paul anticipates this response: [P] [Romans 9:19-23 Therefore you will say to me, “Why then does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will? (though natural, the response is still one of judging God, placing ourselves as superior to Him!) On the contrary, O man, who are you who answers back to God?!(You know? That is a very good question! Who are we that we dare have the audacity to answer back to God?! That we do demonstrates that we do not appreciate the greatness, the power, the authority and the sovereignty of God! We think that He owes us an explanation! Who do we think we are?!) Will what is moulded say to the One who moulded it, “Why did you make me like this”? Or does the potter not have authority over the clay, to make from the same lump a vessel that is for honourable use and one that is for ordinary use? And what if God, wanting to demonstrate His wrath and to make known His power, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He could make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory,] We are a lump of clay – we are dirt! [P] It is not very flattering is it? But man was made of the dust of the ground, and dirt we would still be but for the fact that God took us and fashioned something out of us, His Spirit breathed life into us. He moulded us! We are what we are because the Potter made us the way we are. I used to have a potter board with me, he set up his workshop in the garage. So I observed the process of creating objects out of mud. Mark used to make various things but do you know not once did I hear the clay he was forming offer advice as to what he was making. Never did it question what it was being made into. We would still be dirt but for God forming us – now it says that He can make a vessel for ordinary use [P] – a crude sort of basic vessel, something you might put the potato peelings in. Or He could form a fine and exquisite object [P] that you would bring out when highly respected visitors came. But they are both just dirt! [P] The difference is due to the way they were crafted. The glory goes to the potter not the clay! The potter had a purpose in mind, He chose what to make and made it according to the purpose He had in mind. That is how it is with God – He has His purpose, He makes each individual according to the purpose He has in mind. He chooses what they are to be and what qualities and characteristics they have. He can do that! He is the Potter! The clay has no say in the matter! We don’t like that. We like to think that we are in control, that we control our destiny. Let me ask you the question that Paul does: does God have the authority over the clay? Can He make individual humans as He chooses? He has supreme authority! He is sovereign! He can make one for honourable use, and another dishonourable. He can make one an object of wrath and another an object of mercy. Is that unfair? We are all objects of wrath [P] – that is what is fair! [Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, and we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of them were.] Pharaoh was an object of wrath but so was I. Was יהוה harsh on Pharaoh, by hardening him? By preparing him for destruction in the Red Sea? No, He gave him ample chance to repent – He was extremely patient. Who ever had more convincing demonstration of who יהוה is?! יהוה was exceedingly patient with Pharaoh. He played a part in יהוה’s purpose: [P] [Proverbs 16:4 All יהוה has made is for His purpose, and even the wicked for the day of trouble.] יהוה had a purpose to demonstrate His wrath. יהוה gets angry! Wrath is part of His character. [P] We need to know that! If we did not appreciate His anger at sin, then we would have no appreciation of His grace in sparing us from that wrath. יהוה was using human characters in order to display His Divine nature. He used Pharaoh to demonstrate His wrath; and He used Jacob as an object to demonstrate His mercy. [P] Wrath is part of יהוה’s nature and so is mercy. Jacob also deserved wrath, but instead of receiving that, יהוה chose to love him – he didn’t deserve it, so it was mercy. In fact Paul builds up to this climax of God’s mercy at the end of chapter 11 – He shut all up in disobedience so that He could have mercy on all! Paul then explodes in a peon of praise. God’s mercy is wonderful! Hallelujah! I am so glad and thankful that יהוה has mercy. He had, and continues to have, great, overwhelming and abundant mercy upon me. Bless His Name! And that is what happens when you are an object of mercy – you know you deserve wrath but instead have found mercy – so you are overwhelmed with praise to יהוה for His mercy. You cannot but give glory and honour to Him for what He has so wonderfully done for you. If that doesn’t pour from your being, I must question whether you have indeed understood His mercy. יהוה’s mercy results in Him receiving GLORY! [P] Through showing mercy to those deserving wrath, choosing them out from those headed for destruction and lavishing love upon them יהוה displays the abundant and extravagant riches of His GLORY! Hallelujah! This is יהוה’s great purpose and motivation in all that He does: HIS GLORY! Why did He make us? [P] [Isaiah 43:7 everyone who is called by My name, and whom I created for My glory.] – FOR HIS GLORY! Why does He act? [P] [Isaiah 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake I do it; for why should it be defiled? And I will not give My glory to another.”] FOR HIS GLORY! We should not be arguing about election and predestination but giving thanks, praise and glory to יהוה that He has chosen us to be objects of mercy. It is not doctrine to be debated but reason to give God GLORY! [P] We should be glorifying Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light and showered His mercy upon us. Glory be to His Name forever and through all eternity!