A Place of Struggle

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: Psalm 72-73; Romans 9:1-15

But it’s not as though God’s word has failed. Not all who are descended from Israel are part of Israel. Not all of Abraham’s children are called Abraham’s descendants, but instead your descendants will be named through Isaac. That means it isn’t the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children from the promise who are counted as descendants. The words in the promise were: A year from now I will return, and Sarah will have a son.

10 Not only that, but also Rebecca conceived children with one man, our ancestor Isaac. 11 When they hadn’t been born yet and when they hadn’t yet done anything good or bad, it was shown that God’s purpose would continue because it was based on his choice. 12 It wasn’t because of what was done but because of God’s call. This was said to her: The older child will be a slave to the younger one. 13 As it is written, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.

14 So what are we going to say? Isn’t this unfair on God’s part? Absolutely not! 15 He says to Moses, I’ll have mercy on whomever I choose to have mercy, and I’ll show compassion to whomever I choose to show compassion.

When I am honest with myself, I really struggle with today’s passage from Romans 9. As much as I love Romans 8, Romans 9 is that much of a struggle for me. We read, “Not all of Abraham’s children are called Abraham’s descendants, but instead your descendants will be named through Isaac.” Paul is clearly alluding to Ishmael. He also says that Isaac’s children are children of the promise.

I struggle here because in Genesis 17:20 we read, “As for Ishmael, I’ve heard your request. I will bless him and make him fertile and give him many, many descendants. He will be the ancestor of twelve tribal leaders, and I will make a great nation of him.” God is promising Abraham that God will make a great nation from the descendants of Ishmael and then destine them all for damnation? When we read in 1 John that God is love, I have a hard time reconciling these two passages is difficult for me to do.

I understand what Paul was saying here. Paul’s intent clearly is an to attempt to bring at least some of the Jews into the fold of Christianity. And, Paul is right, God, being omnipotent can bring anyone God wants into the Kingdom. God can show mercy when God chooses and the opposite is equally true.

For some of you, this may not be a struggle at all. I am truly glad you can. And, when I am face to face with God, perhaps then, I can get an explanation I can better understand. In the meantime, I have to satisfy myself with the knowledge that because of faith in Jesus Christ, I am a child of the promise. Might those children of Ishmael be part of that promise too? From what I can see, it doesn’t look too likely, but in the end, the really good news is, it isn’t my call and it isn’t your call. God alone will decide who is and who is not a child of the promise. Can we really ask any more than that?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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