Can we talk back to God (Romans 9:19-29)?

Can we talk back to God (Romans 8:19-29)?

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, July 25, 2021

When I was training for my second marathon there were some days when I would get up at 4 am and go out to try to run long distance. I was trying to run close to twenty miles before 7 am. There were times that I was running away from the city and I would look up in the sky and notice the stars. Do you ever look at the stars? Do you ever notice how many stars are up there?

The vastness of our universe allows us a glimpse of the might and majesty of our Creator. Philip Yancey gives the following description to help us appreciate the scale of that universe:

If the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup. Even now, two Voyager spacecraft are hurtling toward the edge of the solar system at a rate of 100,000 miles per hour. For almost three decades they have been speeding away from Earth, approaching a distance of 9 billion miles. When engineers beam a command to the spacecraft at the speed of light, it takes 13 hours to arrive. Yet this vast neighborhood of our sun—in truth, the size of a coffee cup—fits along with several hundred billion other stars and their minions in the Milky Way, one of perhaps 100 billion such galaxies in the universe. To send a light-speed message to the edge of that universe would take 15 billion years.[1]

Isn’t that amazing? When I think of how big the universe is, it makes me realize how small I am, and yet I question God. I think we all do at some time or another, but we really must realize who we are versus who God is. We really must realize our place.

It would be easy to be discouraged thinking we are small and that leads to more depression, but I want to encourage you that God does care about you. So, realize 2 things: Firstly, God is God and we are not. Secondly, God does care about you. God does love you. God does want a relationship with you (2 Peter 3:8-9).

That is my theme today. We are going to continue our trek through Romans and I want you to notice:

Firstly, God is God and we are not. Secondly, God does care about you. God does love you. God does want a relationship with you (2 Peter 3:8-9).

  1. As a potter creates vessels, God creates nations (19–22).
    1. How did we get to this place in Romans 9?
    2. Paul has been writing about God’s sovereignty over nations. Some think this chapter is about how God can predestine some individuals for salvation and others not for salvation, that may be an indirect conclusion, but I think the main theme is God’s sovereignty over nations.
    3. Paul has been writing why the Jewish people have had a hardness of heart for the Gospel.
    4. In verse 14 Paul began to defend God’s justice. Paul started with the example of Pharaoh in the Old Testament.
    5. Now, Paul will build on that example with more examples of God’s sovereignty.
    6. Verse 19: You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
    7. This verse is a rhetorical question.
    8. This verse is asking about how we can question God. Who can resist God’s will?
    9. In other words, how can God find fault with Pharoah if God was governing Pharoah.
    10. Paul is alluding to Jeremiah 18:1-12 and the example of a potter with clay.
    11. Look at Paul’s response in verse 20:
    12. But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
    13. This is a very basic analogy and a good analogy.
    14. God created us. God knit us together in the womb (Psalm 139).
    15. How can we question God the creator?
    16. John Piper shares these differences between God and man:
      1. God is the creator, and man is the created.
      2. God is infinite, and man is finite.
      3. God is utterly self-sufficient, and man is totally dependent on God for everything.
      4. God is all-knowing, and man is little-knowing.
      5. God is never erring, and man is often erring.
      6. Therefore, how can we, mere men, presume to object to that God and his will.[2]
    17. Look at verse 21:
    18. Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
    19. The potter can do what he wants with the clay, correct? Of course.
    20. Paul is comparing God’s work with us like a potter with clay.
    21. Bobby murphy’s message on this passage is helpful:
    22. Paul’s analogy of the potter and clay in verses 20-21 is the hermeneutical key. I said he’s alluding here to Jeremiah 18:1-12. In that context, God is speaking of nations not persons. He teaches in verse 6 that He can deal with Israel, and by implications all nations, however He pleases, just as a potter can deal with the clay however he pleases.
    23. God goes on in verses 7-10, to explain how He pleases to deal with nations. He might declare to destroy a nation but relents if that nation turns from evil. Or He might declare to build up a nation but will change His mind and not build it up if it turns to evil.
    24. The pattern is clear. God can do with nations whatever He wills. What He wills is to build those up that turn from evil and not build those up that turn to evil. He can justly do whatever He wills with nations and this, consistently with His nature, is what He wills.
    25. Paul does apply this to individuals as well, again from Bobby Murphy: God is sovereign. Individuals deserve nothing from Him and thus He can do with them whatever He wills. Well, the Bible, in verses like 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9, tells us what He wills. It’s that none should perish. Or to use Paul’s terminology in verses 22-23, it’s to have mercy on all individuals and prepare them for glory. It’s not to bring His wrath against them and prepare them for destruction.
    26. Look at verse 22:
    27. What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction
    28. “What if…” so this is an example.
    29. Does God have a right to create people, things, or nations to be used for destruction? He is God, right?
    30. Remember, in context he is talking about Pharoah and Egypt.
  2. As a potter controls those vessels, God controls nations (9:23–24).
    1. In light of this, is man responsible? Yes! (9:19–20): As the vessels have no right to criticize the potter, the nations have no right to criticize the Lord.[3]
    2. Now, these verses go along with the previous verse.
    3. Paul is comparing God to a potter and so what if a potter creates some vessels for wrath and destruction and then the purpose is here in verses 23-24:
    4. Look now at verses 23-24: in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
    5. In verse 24 Paul connects this with the people he is writing to. God called them, both Jewish people and gentiles. God called them to be saved in order to show His glory and His mercy.
  3. The example from Hosea (9:25–26):
    1. This Old Testament prophet predicted that God would not limit his grace to Israel but would save repenting Gentile peoples; Hosea called these Gentiles “children of the living God” (Hos. 2:23; 1:10).[4]
    2. Look at verses 25-26: As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
    3. Verse 25 comes from Hosea 2:23.
    4. One source shares: Drawing from Hosea’s marriage, Paul compares Gentile salvation to mercy bestowed on an undeserving adulterous wife (see the book of Hosea).[5]
    5. Verse 26 is from Hosea 1:10.
    6. This is an example of God having mercy on who He wants to have mercy.
  4. The example from Isaiah (9:27–29): Paul quotes from Isaiah to demonstrate God’s sovereignty concerning Israel.[6]
    1. Out of the millions of Israelites, only a small remnant will be saved (Isa. 10:22–23) (9:27–28).[7]
    2. Even the remnant would perish apart from the grace of God (Isa. 1:9) (9:29).[8]
    3. Let’s read verses 27-29:
    4. And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
    5. The first quote in verse 27 is from Isaiah 10:22. This is God saying that there are many Israelites. Israel is like the sand of the sea, BUT most won’t be saved. Only a remnant will be saved.
    6. Remember the context, from the beginning of Romans 9 Paul has been answering the question of why the Jewish people are not responding to the Gospel.
    7. In Romans 11:5 Paul will say that it is true in this time that only a remnant will be chosen by grace.
    8. Verse 28 is also a quote from Isaiah and in this case Isaiah 10:23. In that passage, in Isaiah, God was talking about judgment from the Assyrians which was judgment on Israel.
    9. Verse 29 comes from Isaiah 1:9 and the point is that if the Lord did not intervene to preserve a remnant there would have been no Israel. They would have been like Sodom and been destroyed.
    10. Some translations say: “Lord of Sabaoth” which means: Traditionally, “Lord of hosts”; Grk “Lord Sabaoth,” which means “Lord of the [heavenly] armies,” sometimes translated more generally as “Lord Almighty.”[9]
  5. So, what is the point of all of this.
    1. In verses 1-5 Paul began answering the question of Israel’s unbelief. Paul said that he would be accursed for the sake of his brethren, the Israelites being saved.
    2. Paul is building his case that God can have his way with nations.
    3. God hardened Pharoah’s heart in order to bring judgment on Egypt and glorify His name in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.
    4. God is like a potter working with clay. The nations are the clay.
    5. However, God preserved a remnant of Israelites and He still has a remnant.
  6. Applications:
    1. We must know our place (verses 20-21).
    2. God is the Lord, He is the creator and we are the creation (verses 20-21).
    3. We must submit to Him as God.
      1. This means that He sets the rules of right and wrong which are revealed in His word.
      2. This means that we must submit to His ways.
      3. We must submit to His plan of salvation (John 14:6), though we do not really have a choice.
      4. We must submit to His Ten Commandments (Ex 20).
    4. We must worship Him as God.
    5. We must understand that it is God’s right to do with His creation as He pleases (verse 21-22).
    6. We must understand that God is to be glorified and exalted (verse 23 and 1 Cor. 10:31).
    7. We must worship God for preserving a remnant and grafting the gentiles in (verses 24-29).

On September 5, 1977, the Voyager I space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. It has been speeding through space at an average speed of thirty-eight thousand miles per hour ever since, almost a million miles per day. Voyager I is the first spacecraft to travel beyond the he­liopause into interstellar space, and NASA continuously calculates its distance from Earth. As of this writing, Voyager I is 13,490,006,617 miles from Earth and counting.

That is pretty amazing, isn’t it? But not as amazing as you. The Voyager 1 will run out of gas, so to speak, around the year 2025. At that point, it will have traveled more than fifteen billion miles! But guess what? That is less than half the length of the DNA strand(s) in your body if (they) were stretched end to end. The cumulative length of DNA in all the cells in your body is about twice the diameter of the solar system (over 32 billion miles)! In the words of the psalmist, you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”[10]

So, don’t be discouraged. Be encouraged. In this amazingly big universe God cares about us. God cares about us so much that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again.


[1] Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Zondervan, 2006), p. 20


[3] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:14–20.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1796.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:29.


Excerpted from Double Blessing: Don’t Settle for Less Than You’re Called to Bless Copyright © 2019 by Mark Batterson, page 87. Used by permission of Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

God’s Providence: Israel’s Unbelief is Not Inconsistent with God’s Plan (Romans 9:14-18)

God is a just judge. Isn’t that nice?

Figure skating analysts have expressed concern about the possibility of judge favoritism tainting the proceedings in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

At the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, a scandal was generated after Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova won the gold medal in the short program, beating out highly favored and leading skater Yuna Kim, who’d previously won the gold in 2010. The optics of Sotnikova skating off the ice and into the arms of a Russian judge, who was married to the leader of the Russian skating federation, sparked an outcry of unfair bias.

“Our jaws dropped,” recalled U.S. skater Simon Shnapir, who was watching at the rink in Sochi with other competitors. “But at the same time, none of us are strangers to how skating works. … You either deal with that or you don’t.”

The subjective nature of the sport, combined with the unique system that allows judges to score athletes from their own countries, has created an environment rife with conflicts of interest, which is why figure skating has consistently been plagued by controversy.

NBC News found that approximately one fifth of the 164 judges eligible for the upcoming figure skating events are current or former leaders in their national skating federations, which gives them a natural incentive to inflate the scores of their countrymen.

“This, in my opinion, is a clear conflict of interest,” said Sonia Bianchetti of Italy, a skating judge at seven Olympics, “but the rules do not forbid it.”[1]

We deal with injustice in this world, don’t we? What we see in the Scripture is that God is just. God is not partial. God is not swayed by money, or influence or anything like that. The passage we will look at today shows that.

My theme today is:

Israel’s Unbelief is Not Inconsistent with God’s Plan (Romans 9:14-18)

  1. God IS just (verse 14).
    1. Let’s read verse 14: What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!
    2. There is a question.
    3. Is God unjust?
    4. Paul is emphatic in his response.
    5. “By no means!”
    6. How did we get to this place in Romans?
    7. Remember in Romans 9:1-6 Paul was writing about how desperately he wanted to see his people saved. Who were his people? The Israelites. Paul wanted to see the Israelites saved. But they had rejected the Messiah.
    8. In Romans 9:6-13, Paul wrote about how the Word of God has not failed. Paul wrote about how the promises of God have not failed. Paul explained that all of those descended from Israel were not true Israel. What Paul meant is that all of those descended from Abraham are not true Israelites. Abraham had two sons, but God said that through Isaac your descendants will be named (verse 7). The covenant and the promise were through Isaac and not Ishmael.
    9. Then, in verse 13 God says that the promise was through Jacob and not Esau. Verse 13 says that Jacob God has loved, but Esau God has hated. I shared that that could be translated “Jacob I have chosen, but Esau I have rejected.” God chose the promise to come through Jacob.
    10. This chapter is showing that God has a right to do what He wants with nations.
    11. God has a right to choose Israel.
    12. One reason He chose Israel is that the Messiah would come through Israel. The Messiah, Jesus, came through the descendants of Abraham and all throughout the Old Testament God is protecting that line for the Messiah. Through Jesus Jewish people and gentiles can be saved. That fulfills Gen 12 that God will bless the nations through Abraham and further that Abraham is the father of many nations. This is because the gentiles are grafted in as Abraham’s descendants.
    13. Back to verse 14, in Romans 3:5 Paul talked about this same question. God is not unrighteous.
    14. 2 Chron 19:7 reads: Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”
    15. Romans 2:11 says that God shows no partiality.
    16. God is just.
    17. What does it mean to be just? A dictionary definition reads “based on behavior according to what is morally right and fair.” To be just means to be impartial in judgment.
    18. Think of equity. God punishes wrongdoing. God will do what is right. His judgment is impartial. God is righteous. That is why Paul is bringing it up again in Romans. People could be charging God with being unjust in favoring the Jewish people over the gentiles, but Paul is responding to that argument.
    19. In the rest of this chapter, Paul is going to give examples to defend his argument.
    20. The first example is Pharoah, which Paul will write about until verse 24. As well as in verses 21-24 the example of a potter and the pottery.
    21. Then, in verses 25-26 we will see an example from Hosea. The Old Testament prophet Hosea predicted that God’s grace will not be limited to Israel (Hos. 2:23; 1:10).
    22.  Then, in verses 27-29 Paul will quote from Isaiah to show that even amongst Israel only a remnant will be saved (Isa. 1:9; 9:27-29; 10:22-23).
    23. The point is that God is being consistent with His Word.
    24. Paul will wrap up this chapter with two grand conclusions:
      1. Through faith the Gentiles have found righteousness without even seeking it (9:30).
      2. Through the law Israel has not found righteousness even after seeking it (9:31–33).
        1. The seeking (9:31–32): They tried to be saved by works.
        2. The stumbling (9:33): They have stumbled over Christ the rock, as predicted by Isaiah (Isa. 8:14; 28:16).[2]
    25. That summarizes the rest of this chapter, as I have stated I think Paul’s case is that God has a right to do with nations as He pleases. This passage is not about individual election, or individuals, but about God choosing Israel.
    26. Let’s now look at Paul’s first example, Pharoah.
  2. God determined to pardon sinful Israel with undeserved grace (9:15–16).[3]
    1. Verse 15 reads: For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
    2. In verse 15 Paul is quoting from Ex 33:19. In that passage Moses was interceding for the people. Moses wanted to see the Lord and the Lord says that His goodness will pass before him. God then says what I read.
    3. In verse 16 Paul makes a conclusion, it would be better translated “consequently, therefore”: Verse 16 reads: So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
    4. God is the creator, correct? As creator God has a right to do what He wants with His creation. Paul is showing that God is consistent with His promises.
    5. This means it is all about God.
    6. About these verses Bobby Murphy shared: “…man deserves nothing from God. Thus, if He withholds advantage from a person, He isn’t unjust because the person doesn’t deserve it. The fact He gives advantage to another person who doesn’t deserve it is irrelevant in that regard.” 
  3. God determined to punish sinful Pharaoh with deserved judgment (9:17–18).[4]
    1. Verses 17-18 read: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
    2. Paul uses a typical rabbinic formula here in which the OT scriptures are figuratively portrayed as speaking to Pharaoh. What he means is that the scripture he cites refers (or can be applied) to Pharaoh.[5]
    3. Paul is responding about Pharoah. That passage comes from Ex. 9:6. Paul does not explain the context, so we are supposed to know the context. Most of us know it. Moses was confronting Pharoah. God was doing miracles and curses on the Egyptians in order to show His glory and lead the people out of Egypt.
    4. God did show His glory through Pharoah.
    5. I am quoting from Bobby Murphy again: Notice the word “hardens” in verse 18. It alludes to the terminology in the narratives about Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; and 14:4, 17). Those verses teach God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His power through the 10 plagues.[6] 
    6. Verse 18 is another application.
    7. There is a double connective here that cannot be easily preserved in English: “consequently therefore,” emphasizing the conclusion of what he has been arguing.[7]
    8. God’s mercy is about God.
    9. There are many scriptures about the Lord hardening hearts: Ex 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 17; Deut 2:30; Josh 11:20; John 12:40; Rom 11:7, 25[8]
    10. Piper shares: At least in this case, God seems not to be actively inflicting a hardening, but instead withholding himself (which is itself the hardening) (Isaiah 64:7).[9]
    11. The Christian Standard Bible: Exodus points out that Pharaoh hardened his heart many times before God punished him by hardening him.[10]
    12. Seventeen times Exodus mentions Pharaoh’s hard heart, the first two being ascribed to God’s decision to harden him (Ex 4:21; 7:3). Only four times does the text say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 7:4; 8:15, 32; 9:34), and one of those verses (8:15) says that “he hardened his heart … as the Lord had said,” indicating that God was the impetus behind Pharaoh’s hardness.[11]
    13. MacArthur: This does not mean that God actively created unbelief or some other evil in Pharaoh’s heart (cf. Jas 1:13), but rather that He withdrew all the divine influences that ordinarily acted as a restraint to sin and allowed Pharaoh’s wicked heart to pursue its sin unabated (cf. 1:24, 26, 28).[12]
    14. One more source: He is sovereign in all that he does. Although the text says repeatedly, however, that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it also stresses that Pharaoh hardened himself (cf. Exod 7:13–14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34–35). Morris notes that “neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself.”24[13]
  4. Applications:
    1. We must be careful of accusing God of being unjust (verse 14).
    2. We must remember that God is the Lord and creator. He is the sovereign King of the world and all that is and was and ever shall be. God hold all things in existence (John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-20).
    3. We must remember that when we do have doubts or questions about God and His justice it is important to think them through (and pray them through) as Paul does right here (verse 14 and verses 14-18).
    4. We must remember when we do have doubts or questions about God and His justice we must have a reality check of who we are and who God is (verse 14).
    5. We must remember that it is God’s right to have mercy on who He wants to and have compassion on who He wants to have compassion on. God would have every right to have eliminated the human race when sin entered the world in Genesis 3 or when the Israelites made the golden calf in Exodus 32 (verse 15).
      1. We must worship God for His mercy on us.
      2. We must worship God for His mercy giving us the Gospel (John 3:16; 6:44).
      3. We must worship God for His mercy giving us the Holy Spirit (John 15; Romans 8:9).    
      4. We must worship God for His mercy in the place of our birth.
      5. We must worship God for His mercy in the time of our birth.
      6. We must worship God for His mercy in the family we were born to.
      7. We must worship God for His mercy that we do not suffer more.
      8. We must even worship God for His mercy that we do not suffer less. Maybe, even in suffering, it is God’s mercy drawing us closer to Him.
    6. Praise God, it is not about us, but God (verse 16).
      1. If it was about us we would never be saved (Eph 2:8-10).
      2. If it was about us we would fail. We cannot save ourselves.
      3. We were dead in our sin (Eph 2:1-5).
    7. We must recognize that God does put people in places for His glory as He did with Pharoah. God is sovereign (verse 17).
    8. Yet, we must recognize that God seems to harden people who are already hard-hearted. May we not be hard-hearted (Ezek 36:26).

Justice, we all long for it, don’t we?

We want justice. In this world we lack justice. I have an example. It was 1994 and O.J. Simpson was the main suspect in the murder of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Supposedly that trial is something that changed cable news. Remember the white bronco chase? Many people were glued to the television to watch CNN to see if O.J. would be acquitted of the crime. The thought was that his money and influence would get him off. On October 3, 1995 he was acquitted of all criminal charges.[14]

In this world we have injustice. Take heart God is a just judge.

Christianity is the unreligion. It turns all our religious instincts on their heads ….

The ancient Greeks told us to be moderate by knowing our inclinations. The Romans told us to be strong by ordering our lives. Buddhism tells us to be disillusioned by annihilating our consciousness. Hinduism tells us to be absorbed by merging our souls. Islam tells us to be submissive by subjecting our wills. Agnosticism tells us to be at peace by ignoring our doubts. Moralism tells us to be good by discharging our obligations. Only the gospel tells us to be free by acknowledging our failure. Christianity is the unreligion because it is the one faith whose founder tells us to bring not our doing, but our need.[15]

[1] Mary Pilon, Andrew W. Lehren, Stephanie Gosk, Emily R. Siegel, and Kenzi Abou-Sabe, “Think Olympic figure skating judges are biased? The data says they might be.” NBS News (2-6-18)

[2] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:30–33.

[3] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:15–16.

[4] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:17–18.

[5] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:17.

[6] Bobby Murphy

[7] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:18.

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).


[10] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1796.

[11] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1760.

[12] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 9:18.

24 Morris, Romans, 361. Calvin speaks of “weak exegetes” who hold that when God is said to “harden,” it implies only permission and not the action of divine wrath (Romans, 207). See also Murray (Romans, 2:28–30). Fitzmyer says that “the ‘hardening of the heart’ by God is a protological way of expressing divine reaction to persistent human obstinacy against him” (Romans, 568).

[13] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 200.


[15] Dane Ortlund, Defiant Grace (EP Books, 2011), p. 38

God’s Providence: the Word of God Has NOT Failed (Romans 9:6-13)

God’s Providence: the Word of God Has NOT Failed (Romans 9:6-13)

God is faithful, we can trust Him. God is sovereign over nations.

The promise was through Isaac and through Jacob.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, July 11, 2021

There is a story told about a mother who came to Napoleon on behalf of her son, who was about to be executed. The mother asked the ruler to issue a pardon, but Napoleon pointed out that it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded death.

“I don’t ask for justice,” the woman replied. “I plead for mercy.”

The emperor objected, “But your son doesn’t deserve mercy.”

“Sir,” the mother replied, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.”

Her son was granted the pardon.[1]

God also gives us mercy. He gives us mercy through Jesus. Jesus took the wrath of God in our place. Jesus did this so that we can be saved. God gives us these promises in His Word, let’s continue to look at them.

My theme today is:

God’s Providence: the Word of God Has NOT Failed (Romans 9:6-13)

God is faithful, we can trust Him. God is sovereign over nations.

The promise was through Isaac and through Jacob.

The application:

Trust in God’s Word.

  1. First, we see the example of Ishmael and Isaac (Romans 9:6-10).
    1. How did we get to this section?
    2. In Romans 9:1-5 Paul shared his heart for Israel. He wanted to be cursed so that his people would be saved.
    3. This is why in verse 6 Paul anticipates the question, did the Word of God fail? In other words, did the promises of God fail? Did the promise of His special plan for Israel fail?
    4. Paul is going to begin with two examples to show that God’s promise is trustworthy. God’s word did not fail. But we do need to make sure we are understanding God’s word correctly. Before we say God is not faithful, we better check our understanding.
    5. MacArthur shares:


It is a simple Greek word, only six letters long. But for a generation of treasure seekers in the late 1840s, it became a life slogan. Meaning “I have found it!” in English, the term purportedly comes from Archimedes, the Greek mathematician who cried out “Eureka! Eureka!” when he determined how much gold was in King Hiero’s crown. Yet, for James Marshall (who discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848) and many of his contemporaries, the term took on new meaning. For them, “eureka” meant instant riches, early retirement, and a life of carefree ease. It’s no wonder California (the “Golden State”) includes this term on its official seal, along with the picture of a zealous gold miner.

News of Marshall’s discovery spread quickly throughout the nation. By 1850 over 75,000 hopefuls had traveled to California by land, and another 40,000 by sea. Whether by wagon or by boat, the journey was an arduous one, as adventurers left friends and family behind in search of vast fortunes. Even when they finally arrived in San Francisco, the closest goldfields were still 150 miles away. Undaunted nonetheless, many of the forty-niners set up mining camps and started to dig.

As they traveled out to their various destinations, prospectors quickly learned that not everything that looked like gold actually was. Riverbeds and rock quarries could be full of golden specks, and yet entirely worthless. This “fool’s gold” was iron pyrite, and miners had to be able to distinguish it from the real thing. Their very livelihood depended on it.

Experienced miners could usually distinguish pyrite from gold simply by looking at it. But in some cases the distinction was not quite so clear. So they developed tests to discern what was genuine from what wasn’t. One test involved biting the rock in question. Real gold is softer than the human tooth, while fool’s gold is harder. A broken tooth meant that a prospector needed to keep digging. A second test involved scraping the rock on a piece of white stone, such as ceramic. True gold leaves a yellow streak, while the residue left by fool’s gold is greenish-black. In either case, a miner relied on tests to authenticate his finds.

  1. God’s Word has NOT failed. God’s Word is the gold standard. Paul is about to show that.[2]
    • That is what Paul is about to address. The first example is Ishmael and Isaac.
    • God chose Isaac (Abraham’s son through Sarah) over Ishmael (Abraham’s son through Hagar).[3]
    • Let’s read verses 6-7, Romans 9:6-7: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.
    • What does verse 6 mean? I love the language. God’s Word never fails! God’s promises do not fail. Numbers 23:19, God cannot lie or change His mind.
    • Israel could mean Jacob, as in all of those descended through Jacob. Remember that Jacob was renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28).
    • Or, Israel could go back to the first promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.
    • Based on context I believe this is the latter. Israel is about the original promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Romans 9:7 makes that clear. This is about what became the nation of Israel.  
    • Not all of those born into the nation of Israel are truly members of Israel (verse 6).
    • Being descended through Abraham does not do it. They had to be descended through Isaac, the child of promise (verse 7).
    • Verse 7: your offspring shall be traced through Isaac.
    • Verse 7 is a quote from Genesis 21:12.
    • Romans 2:28-29 is important: For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
    • Paul is connecting this with the promise made to Abraham through Isaac, but also about the heart.
    • Now look at verse 8: This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
    • Only the children of promise, that is, the children through Isaac.
    • We see the contrast of the “flesh” versus the “promise.”
    • In verse 9 Paul quotes Genesis 18:10. Look at verse 9: For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”
    • That was the promise given to Abraham and Sarah. The following year she would have a son at 90 years old for her, and 100 for Abraham.
    • In verse 10, Paul begins to introduce the next example: And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac
    • So, Isaac is the son of promise, we have established that. Now, through Isaac will come twins.
    • However, God is still providentially directing which of these children he is choosing. But I continue to want to show you this is about God choosing a nation. This is all about the nation of Israel which God chooses over other nations.
    • But Isaac and Ishmael had different mothers. Perhaps God discriminated between the two on that basis. Jacob and Esau, however, had the same mother and were conceived at the same time (vv. 10–11).[4]
  2. Next we see the example of Esau and Jacob (Romans 9:11-13).
    1. Let’s read verses 11-13: though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
    2. If you notice in verse 11 Paul is emphasizing that God choosing to follow the Israelite line through Jacob and not Esau is God’s free act. This is not about anything they had done good or bad. Paul says they were not yet born, they had not done anything good or bad.
    3. Again, I believe this is about God having His way with nations. God chose Israel over other nations.
    4. But nations are determined by individuals. Nations also effect individuals.
    5. So, why did God choose Jacob to be part of the promise and not Esau? We cannot totally answer that.
    6. Genesis 25:23 is quoted about God choosing Jacob. This was when they were still in the womb.
    7. However, in Hebrews 12:16-17 the writer talks about how Esau sold his birthright. This is described as something immoral and godless. We also know from Genesis 26:34-35 and Genesis 28:6-9 that Esau married women from families that his family would not approve of, and did not approve of. Yet still God pronounced that Jacob was chosen long before that. God pronounced that Jacob was chosen before they were born.
    8. Is that because God knew what Esau would be like? I do not think so.
    9. Remember that Jacob was not a moral man either. In Genesis 27 Jacob is deceitful. Then, from Genesis 28-32 he has a polygamous marriage and still is deceitful. Was he the best of the worst? Maybe, but my thought is that this is about God’s providence.
    10. So, did God choose Jacob’s descendants to be the Israelite line and Esau’s descendants to be excluded without any of their freewill? God has that right, but I am going to refer back to Molinism. I talked about that on June 6. It is also called “Middle-Knowledge.” That is that God knows all possibilities. God not only knew what Jacob and Esau would do in the future, but also what they could do. God could know how things would work out if He chose Esau instead of Jacob. God knew what Jacob and Esau would be like in any possible world. So, God did know.
    11. God knows the middle knowledge and God orchestrates it so that we are predestined and yet free because the predestination is based on our free choice which He knows because of His omniscience.
    12. Foreknowledge says God knows what will happen. Middle knowledge means God knows what “could” happen. God knows the subjunctives. God knows what a person will do in their free will in any possible world and God orchestrates that. They do it of their free will but God predetermined it but based on their free will.
    13. God took those into account, and He chose that the line of Israel would pass through Jacob.
    14. Although God chose the line of Israel for the Messiah to pass through Jacob and not Esau, the line of Esau can be saved. This is not about individual predestination. No, this is about how God chose the nation of Israel to come through Jacob and not Esau. Non-Israelites could be saved.
    15. God has a right to do what He wants through nations.
    16. What did God do (9:12b-13): He chose Jacob (the second-born twin son of Isaac) over Esau (the firstborn twin).
    17. Again, in verse 12, Genesis 25:23 the older will serve the younger.
    18. In verse 13, Malachi 1:2 is quoted. This is harsh. Jacob, I loved, but Esau I hated. This could be translated, “Jacob I have chosen, but Esau I have rejected.” In other words, God chose the covenant to pass through Jacob and not Esau.
    19. “As to ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,’ a woman once said to Mr. Spurgeon, ‘I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.’ ‘That,’ Spurgeon replied, ‘is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob!”[5]
    20. One source shares: Both nations were punished for their sins, but only one received grace. I have loved Jacob means God chose or elected his descendants (the nation of Israel), whereas I have hated Esau means that God rejected the nation that stemmed from him (Edom).[6]
  3. Applications:
    1. We can trust in the promises of God (verse 6).
    2. God’s promises are true, and clear, and sure, and will still be fulfilled.
    3. We can STILL trust in the promises of God.
    4. We can trust God’s Word.
    5. We can trust in salvation (John 1:12; 3:16; 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21).
    6. We can trust in the Holy Spirit’s presence with us (John 14:16; Romans 8:9)
    7. We can have God’s peace (John 14:27).
    8. We can trust Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    9. We can trust the Holy Spirit is interceding for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:27).
    10. We can trust God causes all things to work together for good… (Romans 8:28).
    11. We can trust God’s logical plan of salvation (Romans 8:29-30).
    12. We can trust that if God is for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31).
    13. We can trust that if God did not spare His own Son what else will He not do for us (Romans 8:32)?
    14. We can trust that no one can bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:33), God justifies us.
    15. We can trust God’s Word that nothing, and no one, can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).
    16. We can trust in the promise of the Millennial Reign and the New Heaven and the New Earth (Isa 60; 66:22ff; Rev 21 and 22).
    17. God is faithful.
    18. We must trust in God for salvation.
    19. We must trust in God for our life now and make Him Lord of our life. We must not think we get a free pass into heaven because of ethnicity.
    20. This whole passage is about God choosing Israel to bring the Messiah into the world. We must worship Him for salvation.

In the early days of aviation, planes were not yet equipped with gyroscopic turn indicators. When pilots flew through clouds or fog, they would often become disoriented, and because the inner ear does not accurately perceive a banked turn, they sometimes got caught in steep spiral dives called “graveyard spirals.”

Pilot and author William Langewiesche describes one such incident:

In December of 1925 a young Army pilot named Carl Crane got caught in the clouds at 8,000 feet directly over Detroit while trying to fly a congressman’s son to Washington, D.C., in a biplane. Crane later said, “In a short time I was losing altitude, completely out of control. I could not fly the airplane at all—it had gotten into a spiral dive. Halfway down I looked around at my boy in the back, and he was enjoying the flight to no end. He was shaking his hands and grinning, and I was slowly dying because I knew we were going to crash….”

Crane did not know which wing was down, let alone by how much. If he tried to level the wings, he was just as likely to roll upside down as right side up. If he tried to raise the nose, the effect would be exactly the opposite: the turn would quicken, steepening the descent.…

“Finally it got down to under a thousand feet, and I said, ‘Well, here we go. I’m going to look at my boy once more.’ And as I turned around to look at him, a sign went by my wing. It said ‘Statler Hotel.’ I had just missed the top of the Statler Hotel. In all the mist and rain, I could see the buildings and the streets. I flew down the street and got over the Detroit River, and flew about ten feet high all the way to Toledo, shaking all the way.”

In life as in flying, it is all-important that we have our bearings.[7]

We can trust God. We can trust His promises. This passage is the beginning of Paul showing that God was faithful to the promise made to Abraham. We must keep our focus on Jesus.


[1] Source: John Koessler, in the sermon “Blessed Are the Merciful,”


[3] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:6–10.

vv. verses

[4] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1760.

[5] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 9:13.

[6] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1796.

[7] Source: William Langewiesche, “The Turn,” Atlantic Monthly (December 1993), pp. 115-22

God’s providence in American history. Christians must care about our country (John 17:16-18; Romans 9:3; 1 Tim 2:1-8)

God’s providence in American history. Christians must care about our country (John 17:16-18; Romans 9:3; 1 Tim 2:1-8)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, July 4, 2021

Special NOTE: I know this manuscript looks long. I do not know that I will read every quote, so the sermon should be the normal length.

As most of you know President Jefferson wrote the declaration of independence. 

David McCullough, in his 2001 biography of Adams, says Jefferson offered the job to Adams, but Adams declined for several reasons. Jefferson was from Virginia, was younger and possessed, as Adams said, “a peculiar felicity of expression.”

And the Virginian wasted no time in submitting a draft to the Continental Congress.

Jefferson worked quickly, without access to his library, and produced a draft in about three weeks.

The committee presented its draft to Congress on June 28th. The Second Continental Congress actually passed the resolution for independence on July 2nd, 1776, but the wording for the declaration wasn’t officially approved until July 4th. And that, of course, is a date that would go down in American history.[1]

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams maintained a close friendship, but that friendship was eventually tested. Jefferson and Adams found themselves of differing opinions on political issues. Sound familiar? Their actual political philosophy differed. However, in their later years they began writing letters to each other and wrote to each other until their death. Do you realize they both died on the fiftieth anniversary of our country? They both died on July 4, 1826.

Michael Medved writes:

At a time when male life expectancy barely reached forty years, John Adams, the “Atlas of Independence” and the second president of the United States, had passed his ninetieth birthday with his faculties and health remarkably intact.[2]

Six hundred miles away, at the elegant hilltop plantation house he had designed for himself, Adams’s old friend (and sometime bitter rival) Thomas Jefferson also defied the actuarial tables. At eighty-three… He told his grandson that “I am like an old watch, with a pinion worn out here, and a wheel there, until I can go no longer.”[3]

Jefferson wanted to live until July 4th, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He made it to the 4th and then Medved writes:

He uttered no further comprehensible words, but he had unequivocally achieved his ardent desire: living through more than half of his cherished nation’s sacred day, finally expiring on Tuesday, the Fourth of July, at ten minutes before one o’clock in the afternoon. The celebratory bells had already begun ringing in the valley below, unaware of the loss of the local and international eminence.[4]

Also unaware, John Adams stubbornly clung to life at Peacefield. Early in the oppressively humid summer morning of Tuesday, July 4, as the first celebratory cannon began blasting in the distance, the former president arose and demanded assistance to place himself in his favorite armchair in the second-floor study, looking out the window toward the town. Reverend George Whitney arrived for a holiday visit but sadly concluded that “the old gentleman was drawing to his end. Dr. Holbrook was there and declared to us that he could not live more than through the day.” Adams’s youngest son, Thomas, dispatched an urgent letter to Washington to alert the president, his brother, that their father neared the end of his course. By midday, the weather darkened with an impending storm, and relatives and friends returned Adams to his bedchamber, watching the great man’s labored breathing. As they shifted his position to improve his comfort, the former president awoke and blinked at the familiar surroundings. Reminded it was the Fourth of July, he lifted his head from the pillow and declared in a strong, clear voice: “It is a great day. It is a good day.”

With more cannon barking out their salutes in the nearby village, afternoon thunder and lightning offered “the artillery of heaven,” as subsequent observers described the dramatic scene. Adams lay back on his bedding, silently watching and listening, with his mind clear, according to those who waited with him. Toward evening, with a gentle rain falling, he breathed his astonishing last words in an effortful gasp that was still clear enough to be understood. “Thomas Jefferson survives,” he managed. The breathing stopped shortly after six o’clock, with a resounding clap of thunder at the very moment of the great man’s passing. Witnesses insisted that at the same instant, a sudden burst of light from the declining sun pushed through the looming clouds and spilled into the upstairs room like a benediction.[5]

Today, I intend to answer the question, should we, as Christians, be proud to be an American? Should we as Christians be patriotic? Further, I wish to talk about God’s providence on American history.

What is providence?

I think of God’s sovereignty meaning that He is in control of all things. I think of providence meaning that He is using His sovereignty to orchestrate the details of life.

John Piper, defines “providence” as “purposeful sovereignty.” He writes: The word providence is built from the word provide , which has two parts: pro (Latin “forward,” “on behalf of”) and vide (Latin “to see”). So you might think that the word provide would mean “to see forward” or “to foresee.” But it doesn’t. It means “to supply what is needed”; “to give sustenance or support.” So in reference to God, the noun providence has come to mean “the act of purposefully providing for, or sustaining and governing, the world.”[6]

Ground rules:

The United States of America is not God’s chosen people. The chosen people would be the Jewish people and Israel. God’s providence just means that He has exercised His Divine will in our history. He has exercised His sovereignty. We must not deify America or our founders and we must not idolize America.

I reject Christian nationalism. By my understanding, Christian nationalism combines the church and state. Christian nationalism would say as goes the country, so goes the church. They combine the church and state. The church and the state are NOT the same. I will make the case that we do see God’s providence in American history, further we should be patriotic, but still we are Christians first and Americans second. Christianity is good for the country. I believe Christianity is good for America. We see that in our history, but the church usually does well under persecution.

Again, my focus is God’s providence in America’s history. Also, should Christians be patriotic?

  1. Let’s turn to Scripture.
    1. What does Scripture say about being patriotic? I am glad you asked.
    2. In Romans 9:3 Paul shares: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
    3. In that passage the apostle Paul really cared that his people, the Jews would know Christ.
    4. In a direct way we can make the application that we must care that our nation knows Jesus. Indirectly, we can apply this to the idea of being patriotic.
    5. We should want the best for our country, right? Of course, we should.
    6. Romans 9 also shows that God can control nations the way He wants to. God has chosen Israel above other nations.
    7. In John 17:18 Jesus says: As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
    8. We are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:16).
    9. Let’s turn to one more passage. Let’s turn to 1 Timothy 2:1-2: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way…
    10. That passage is telling us to pray for our leaders. Whether we like them or not we should pray for our leaders.
    11. C.S. Lewis wrote a book, The Four Loves, and he distinguishes philia, friendship; erōs, sex; agapē, the love of God; and the one that I think is relevant right here: storgē.[7]
    12. This comes from Piper: Storgē is a kind of affection. We should as Christians have an affection for our country. That is the type of love we should have for our country. When you leave our country you are likely happy to come home. This is home, we love home. When we see our country losing certain good values, that disappoints you. Some of you may feel like you cannot recognize the country that you love. But this is not a love like you have for a spouse, or a child, or for God (agape), this is an affection. This is a storgē love.
    13. Yes, in that sense we should love our country. We should support our country. We should be patriotic. We should be proud to be an American. We should care that our people, the people of our nation are saved. We should want the best for our nation. Christians should be the best citizens.
    14. We could go to other passages. Romans 13 is about being submissive to the authorities. We also see that in 1 Peter 2:12-17.
    15. But what about God’s providence in America? This is the day America celebrates Independence Day. Remember God’s providence as purposeful sovereignty. Has God shown purposeful sovereignty over America? I am a student of history and I think He has.
  2. God’s Providence in our history.
    1. I think, as I study history, God had shown great providence in our history. Remember, providence is “purposeful sovereignty.”
    2. How did we beat England, twice? I know that during the War of 1812 England was also fighting Napolean, but they could have wrapped us up later on, and they did not.
    3. Medved writes:
    4. As contemporaries on both sides of the conflict suggested, the Continental Army benefited from a series of unusual natural phenomena and a pattern of illogical but consistent good luck that in the painful summer of 1776 rescued the troops from all but certain catastrophe.
    5. On July 3, 1775, the tall Virginian George Washington arrived from the capital, Philadelphia, to take command of these courageous but undisciplined New England forces who had come together under the grand title “Continental Army.” The new top general worried over their vulnerability to British attack and, in one of his periodic bouts of self-pity, told his military aide Joseph Reed that he never would have accepted his command had he known of the perilous position in which he found himself. His only hope, Washington confided, involved the necessary intervention of a higher power.[8]
    6. God did provide weather to help us win.
    7. Washington should not have survived. He had an incident when he was 23 years old that should have killed him and then Medved writes: Washington’s successful defiance of danger became a notable feature of his leadership during his eight years of service in the Revolutionary War. The general in chief frequently and fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire, rallying his troops on many occasions by his own incomparable example. At the Battle of Princeton in January 1777, he rode at the head of his troops on a huge white horse as they marched directly on a well-formed British line. When the Americans came within range, both sides fired, and smoke from their rifles temporarily obscured Washington, who rode forward halfway between them. His aide, Richard Fitzgerald, covered his face with his hat in order to avoid watching the inevitable death of his beloved commander. But as the air cleared and he lowered his hat, he saw men on both sides who were dead and dying while Washington, unscathed, rose in his stirrups and urged his men forward against the shattered British line. “It’s a fine fox chase, my boys!” he shouted. A year and half later, in June 1778, the Marquis de Lafayette, the aristocratic Frenchman who became an esteemed general in the Continental Army, recalled the great man at the Battle of Monmouth, where “General Washington seemed to arrest fortune with one glance….His presence stopped the retreat….His graceful bearing on horseback, his calm and deportment which still retained a trace of displeasure…were all calculated to inspire the highest degree of enthusiasm….I thought then as now that I had never beheld so superb a man.”
    8. On September 8, 1779, Washington was spared because a marksman would not shoot someone in the back.[9]
    9. I am sure you have heard the stories that Washington shook bullets out of his jacket. He had horses shot out from under him. Three years ago, I listened to an extensive 1000+ page biography of Washington and I think he was God’s man for the time. That is God’s purposeful sovereignty. That does not mean he had to be a Christian, I think he was, but God, in His purposeful sovereignty, can use whoever He wants.
    10. Chernow writes: In the end, he [Washington] had managed to foil the best professional generals that a chastened Great Britain could throw at him. As Benjamin Franklin told an English friend after the war, “An American planter was chosen by us to command our troops and continued during the whole war. This man sent home to you, one after another, five of your best generals, baffled, their heads bare of laurels, disgraced even in the opinion of their employers.”[10]
    11. Our founders were not all Christians, though most were, and all held to Judeo-Christian values. Even Jefferson, who was a deist, thought the Bible should be taught in schools.
    12. What about the second war with England? What about the war of 1812? Do we see God’s providence in that war? Years ago, I was watching a history channel documentary about our history. Do you know that after the British burned down Washington D.C. they were heading to Baltimore? Do you know what stopped them? A hurricane stopped them. How often does a hurricane hit Washington D.C.? 
    13. Some could say that these things are coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that God has been working through history.
    14. Recently I read that Churchill was visiting a friend in 1931. He was visiting a friend and he was ran over by a car. He should have died.[11] Of course there were many times when Churchill should have died, but God, in His providence, had him to help England and the United States, win the second world war.
    15. Why? Why would there be many things in which God acted to help America?
    16. We can’t really know, but I have some suggestions:
      1. We were founded on Biblical values and there is a common-grace blessing when we follow His values. Yes, we had sins in our past, but our values, by and large were Biblical.
      2. We see this in the impact of the puritans before our founding.
      3. We have many quotes from our founders. See me for the Truth Project lesson 10 which shares much about this. Our founders recognized that we needed to teach Christian values. John Adams: “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.”[12]
      4. Washington’s Farewell address, Sept. 17, 1796: “…And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion… reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”[13]
      5. Benjamin Rush: “The only foundation for… a republic is to be lain in religion.” “…Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts they will be wise and happy.” (Benjamin Rush, “A Defense of the Use of the Bible as a School Book,” 1796.[14]
      6. The problem is that today the State has replaced God. The State is supposed to surrender to God’s authority. Our founders recognized the importance of a Biblical Worldview.
      7. We were founded on Judeo-Christian values, but yet still freedom of religion. People in the United States did not have to be Catholic or protestant or one national religion.
      8. We have always supported the Jewish people and later Israel (Genesis 12). Not perfectly, but our pattern has been supporting the Jewish people and Israel.
      9. Could it be that God was providentially acting in our history so that we could be available to help Europe in World War I and World War II?
      10. What would have happened if we were not available to save Europe in World War II?
      11. Could God have providentially acted in our past in order that we could help Israel in 1948?
      12. Remember these are just thoughts: we aren’t like other superpowers, we annihilate a country and help them rebuild. We have seen this in Germany, Japan, Iraq, and other places. This is not to excuse the way we conquered the Native American land. In that way we were like other nations.
      13. Lastly, do you know that most of the mission money comes from the United States? I was looking for the total, but I think I once heard around 90%.
    17. This is NOT to say that God will continue to providentially guide the United States. I don’t see our name in Revelation and if we are there we are likely connected with Babylon. I am just saying that in history I see God working through the United States.
    18. Again, yes, we should be proud to be an American. Yes, we should be patriotic. Yes, we should want the best for our country.
  3. Warning: Don’t make the country your idol. Be a Christian first.
    1. Remember though, we are Christians first.
    2. America is not the promised land. We are not the new Israel.
    3. In Phil 3:8 Paul counted all of his Jewish status as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. Jesus must be number 1.
    4. Yes, we should be proud to be an American but we must not make an idol of our country.
  4. Some applications:
    1. We must understand that God is at work.
    2. We must understand that God is at work in His providence working through nations.
    3. We must be good citizens, really caring about our people group as Paul did in Romans 9:3.
    4. We must pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-8).
    5. We must not make our country an idol. We must be Christians first and then Americans.

Medved shares:

To this day, Adams and Jefferson remain the only two presidents to have expired on the same day. And only one other president had the honor of dying on the Glorious Fourth: James Monroe, fifth president of the United States, wounded veteran of the Revolutionary War, and a close colleague of both Jefferson and Adams. He succumbed to heart failure at 3:15 in the afternoon of July 4, 1831, exactly five years after the Grand Jubilee. The stunned public could only marvel at the exceedingly odd fact that three of the first four presidents to die all perished on the same deeply significant calendar date, lending further support to perceptions of providential participation in the favored nation’s development.[15]

Mark Grant, whose Macronicity blog seeks obscure, mystical numerological significance in such perplexing occurrences, carefully calculates the odds of three presidents all dying on the same national holiday and suggests that the chances against such a pattern recurring stand at approximately fifty million to one. “It would be about 75 times easier to be dealt a Royal Flush in a poker game with five cards (which we should see once every 649,740 hands),” he writes. “Many readers can easily imagine how impressed poker players would be to see a hand like that dealt just once.”[16]

America, on the other hand, has drawn just such remarkable hands again and again—giving rise to widespread suspicions of a rigged game.

If a single player wins an ongoing contest with maddening consistency, his frustrated rivals will inevitably accuse him of cheating. Our new nation’s shockingly rapid rise to world dominance counts as so illogical, so utterly unforeseen, that many mystified observers have determined that the only rational explanation involves a shameful record of American greed, ruthlessness, and immorality. Given recent themes in our educational system, every schoolchild has heard about national guilt for cruel treatment of Native Americans, brutal exploitation of African slaves, and imperialist interference with less fortunate societies around the world. According to this logic, the United States’ rise to international eminence can be explained by the rapacity of our political, business, and military leadership.

The great weakness in this understanding of American success involves its lack of context. Nearly all competing powers in the last three hundred years compiled histories regarding indigenous populations, slavery, and imperialism that count as far more problematic, and never more honorable, than the imperfect record of the United States. Yet none of these other societies, however disturbing and vile their abuses of power, managed to replicate America’s triumphs for its own population or in global affairs. In fact, some of the worst offenders in terms of slavery, exploitation, and colonialism endured the opposite trajectory achieved by the United States: for Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands, bloody imperialist adventures corresponded with the loss of world power status, not its attainment.[17]

So, it is July 4th. I think as Christians we should celebrate our history. We should be patriotic. Certainly, don’t celebrate the bad in our history, own that. But there has been plenty of good in American history. As Christians we should be the best citizens. We must pray for our country (1 Timothy 2:1-8). We must recognize God’s hand in our history, but see God’s providence in everyday life. God is still at work.



[2] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (p. 2). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, pages 9-10.

[5] Ibid, pages 10-11.

[6] Piper, John. Providence (p. 32). Crossway. Kindle Edition.


[8] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (pp. 49-50). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[9] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (pp. 82- 83). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[10] Chernow, Ron. Washington (p. 460). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] Medved, Michael. God’s Hand on America (p. 203). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[12] Letter of June 2, 1776, quoted in the Wall Builder Report, Summer 1993. John Adams, “Letter to Zabdiel Adams, Philadelphia, 21 June 1776,” in The Works of John Adams—Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854), 9:401.Truth Project Lesson 10

[13] The Will of the People: Readings in American Democracy (Chicago: Great Books Foundation, 2001), 38.

[14] Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), 93.

[15] Medved, Michael. The American Miracle (p. 17). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[16] Ibid, 18.

[17] Ibid, 18.