Have you ever wondered why things happen and where is God in all of it?
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. MSG Romans 8:29
Think about that for a second. Since the beginning of time, God had a plan. He knew what He is doing. Long before you got here, God’s plan was unfolding. The reality is, we know what scripture tells us about the big picture but we don’t know the details.
God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. MSG 2 Peter 3:9
Today I have a Monet painting on stage with me. It’s a print, the original is worth millions and is on display in Paris. I love this painting. It’s called ‘Sunrise’. We are told Monet painted in his home town and it was the beginning of the Impressionist movement. The other painting I have here was a gift to me from a little girl. This is an original. It is on display from my office door.
What God is up to, is like this Monet painting. It’s big. It’s beautiful. It takes a long time to finish. What we are up to, is like this painting that hangs from my office door. It’s cute but couldn’t begin to be like the Monet. Imagine, while Monet was painting this painting, you interrupted him to announce that you were going to finish his painting. How weird would that be? To interrupt Monet, you would have to be unbelievably arrogant. You would have to be so focused on yourself that you wouldn’t be able to understand, comprehend or appreciate what Monet was creating. You truly would have no clue what Monet was up to. That’s Romans 9. God is up to something big and we try to take over.
In Romans 9, Paul changes the letter of Romans to share something very personal with us. From Chapters 9 to 11, Paul talks about his family, the Jewish people, his friends and why the missed God’s grace
Romans 9:1-5, 30-33
You need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. 2 It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating – Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites. 3 If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family. 4 I grew up with them. They had everything going for them – family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, 5 to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!
30 How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. 31 And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. 32 How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. 33 Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together: Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way. MSG
Paul basically says, I love my family. I love my community. I grew up with these people, played baseball with them, had cookouts with them and it crushes my heart to know that the people I love, they missed it. They missed God’s grace.
They had all the advantages for a great head start in life. They are quite literally a part of Gods’ family. Glory. Covenants. Revelations of God’s law. Worship. Promises. They can trace their family heritage back to Jesus, the Savior of the world. Are you kidding? That is awesome. You would think that all of this would help them. It didn’t.
They become so proud of all those good things they couldn’t see their need of Jesus or His grace. They continued to be focused and absorbed in what they were doing. Scripture explains it like this,
How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them. MSG Romans 9
Do you see it? God is up to something big. They end up focusing on themselves and what they could do. God was painting a Monet. They showed up with their markers, interrupting God saying, “We’ll take it from here God.” How silly, how weird, how crazy is that?
Romans 9:6-7 6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promises to the Jews? No! [For these promises are only to those who are truly Jews.] And not everyone born into a Jewish family is truly a Jew! 7 Just the fact that they come from Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. TLB
God’s chosen people are the Jews, the Israelites. But even the Jewish people have to make a decision. Many of them chose to make themselves fit for God by what they do. They might physically be descendants of Abraham but they are not spiritually descendants of Abraham because they didn’t put their faith in God. That’s why Paul is broken hearted. His family, those he grew up with, have missed the grace of God.
Paul goes on to explain God’s bigger plan and more examples of grace being God’s initiative not ours.
Roman 9:10-16 10 And years later, when this son Isaac was grown up and married and Rebecca his wife was about to bear him twin children, God told her that Esau, the child born first, would be a servant to Jacob, his twin brother. In the words of the Scripture, “I chose to bless Jacob but not Esau.” And God said this before the children were even born, before they had done anything either good or bad. This proves that God was doing what he had decided from the beginning; it was not because of what the children did but because of what God wanted and chose. 14 Was God being unfair? Of course not. 15 For God had said to Moses, “If I want to be kind to someone, I will. And I will take pity on anyone I want to.” 16 And so God’s blessings are not given just because someone decides to have them or works hard to get them. They are given because God takes pity on those he wants to. TLB
Again, God is on the move. He knows what He is doing. He’s painting a Monet. He shows grace when He wants to show grace. When we hear that, we don’t like that do we? Somehow, God’s showing more grace to someone and less to another offends our sense of fairness. The fact that God shares any grace to us is amazing. Here is the deal, it’s not unjust for God to show grace to sinful people. We may not understand why Esau became a servant to Jacob, but that’s what needed to happen for God’s plan to unfold.
Paul goes on to explain God’s bigger plan and how it works in the world.
Romans 9:17-18 17 Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was an example of this fact. For God told him he had given him the kingdom of Egypt for the very purpose of displaying the awesome power of God against him, so that all the world would hear about God’s glorious name. 18 So you see, God is kind to some just because he wants to be, and he makes some refuse to listen. TLB
God has a plan, He knows what He is doing. He is painting a Monet. God even works through evil men like the Pharaoh of Egypt. Pharaoh, through his hard heart, showed the power and beauty of God.
Paul goes on to answer our biggest question. If God is going to do what God wants to do, should we just give up?
Romans 9:19-23 19 Well then, why does God blame them for not listening? Haven’t they done what he made them do? 20 No, don’t say that. Who are you to criticize God? Should the thing made say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 When a man makes a jar out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar beautiful, to be used for holding flowers, and another to throw garbage into? 22 Does not God have a perfect right to show his fury and power against those who are fit only for destruction, those he has been patient with for all this time? 23 And he has a right to take others such as ourselves, who have been made for pouring the riches of his glory into, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, and to be kind to us so that everyone can see how very great his glory is. TLB
Should we just give up? Will God just do what He wants and we have no say? No. We may not like it, we may not understand it, but God has a bigger story. A Monet. Sinful creatures have as much right to question the God of the universe as clay has to question the potter. It’s like hold markers talking to Monet and how he can improve. And what makes our story beautiful or a disaster, is our response to what God is doing.
Hear me today. God has a plan. It’s a Monet. For us to show up, interrupt Him from finishing His painting is embarrassing. Paul said that when his family did that, they refused to embrace God’s grace. They took over with their business, their God projects and were so self-absorbed.
They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. 33 Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together: Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.
Can I ask you a question? Are you allowing God to finish His painting, his plan? Or are you trying to interrupt Him? Are you trying to take over the God painting?
The way you know that you are interrupting God is when you are stressed, angry and miserable because life is not the way it should be. We tend to hold onto your past and be bitter and angry. We tend to have unmet expectations of today and act like victims who never end in our complaints. We tend to be so afraid of tomorrow, we can’t enjoy today. These are all signs that we are holding our markers and demanding that we finish the painting. Paul would call this being self absorbed.