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,” PreachingToday.com

[2] https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180530

[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

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