Romans 9:12


Sunday, 18 August 2013

…it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” Romans 9:12

This continues what was said in verse 11. Before the twins were born to Rebekah, they struggled in her womb. Children will fight as children do – apparently even in the womb, but this is an unusual occurrence because they actually beat each other up. The Hebrew word in Genesis is yithrosatsu and these two were really punching and bruising each other. Mom was worried about both their safety and hers as well.

Because of this, she went to inquire of the Lord. The account is found in Genesis 25:22, 23 –

But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her:

“Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”

At a time when the children were not yet born, nor had they done any good or evil, God made His divine election – The older shall serve the younger. The natural order of family life was once again reversed as had already happened several times in Genesis. The younger was placed ahead of the older. And thus we again see the doctrine of Divine Election introduced into redemptive history.

This doctrine will find its ultimate fulfillment in the work of Jesus and which is so clearly explained by Paul throughout the New Testament. Before they were even born, God elected the older to serve the younger. However this serving and subordination isn’t limited to the children. Rather, the verse in Genesis says “two nations are in your womb.” It is therefore speaking both of the immediate and the future. In this then is also a picture of the true people of God, the elect.

It is astonishing how much is in this verse concerning the doctrines of the Bible, the foreknowledge of God, and the confusion that results from what is being said. Seminaries have entire courses on concepts which arise from what is being discussed about what the Lord told Rebekah.

What is being stated has led to some of the most heated battles in church history. If you follow what Calvin taught, you can trace it here. If you follow what Wesley taught, you can come here. In the end, and of all of the countless arguments about theology, there is always one right answer. God is clear, but we misunderstand. In the analysis of Romans 8:29, it was discussed which view of election is correct and why.

Although these things may seem tedious or overwhelming, they are actually of the highest importance in the life of the believer. If a wrong view of God’s election is considered, then how we perceive our relationship with Christ can be affected in unhealthy ways. It won’t change our standing concerning salvation, but it can certainly affect our level of happiness in Christ. To help us solidify why this is such an important issue, we can turn to Malachi where he speaks of these two children at the time before the coming of the Lord in relation to the attitude of the people in Israel –

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.” Malachi 1:2, 3

According to His own wisdom, without regard to our merits, God bestows upon us life, time, and place. Some people have been created for noble purposes and some for ignoble purposes according to that placement. However, all who have the opportunity to hear the message are also given the opportunity to respond to it.

In substantiation of this, we can look at the future of these people – the Israelites and the Edomites. They have descended from Jacob and Esau who are named in both Malachi and Romans. After being subject to the Israelites, the Edomites were eventually assimilated into the Jewish society. This is noted by the Jewish historian Josephus. He says that about 129 BC John Hyrcanus –

“subdued all the Idumeans (Edomites); and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision, and of the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time therefore this befell them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews.”

After this, the same group was cut off from God’s favor when they rejected Jesus. That lasted for 2000 years, exactly as the Bible predicted would happen. However, the day has come and they are re-gathered and have been returned to their land. The Bible, in both Testaments says that someday Israel will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and that “all Israel shall be saved.” This includes the Edomite people that were assimilated into Israel before their dispersion.

And even more than that, there are Jews who have accepted Christ since the first century and who continue to do so today. They are provided the same salvation and the same promises as anyone else that comes from any line of the sons of Adam.

Were the verse in Genesis to have said, “Two babies are in your womb, and two children shall be separated from your body. One child will be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” then people might have some type of argument for an opposing view on what God’s election actually means.

But the verse doesn’t say that. Instead it says, “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”

Every word of God is pure and every word is intended to lead us to a right understanding of who He is and what He desires for His creatures.

Life application: Individual verses, especially those which are citing the Old Testament, cannot be ripped out of context in order to establish theology. If they are, then only confusion and an unhealthy relationship with God results. Keep things in context and verify everything you read and hear.

Lord, oftentimes I am presented with conflicting views on what Your word is saying to me. Where I seek for clarity, I find debate. I know that Your word has no contradictions in it and so I ask that you help me to properly receive and process what I am told. I wish, above all, to be a pleasing follower of Your intent for me and so I ask this that You be glorified through the proper application of Your word in my life. Amen. 

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