by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1 January 28, 2017 Humble, Texas (Download Audio)
(025)Thesis: Does the primacy of divine choices automatically mean that The God is somehow "unrighteous"?
Introduction: Thus far in our study of Romans 9 we have seen a primary "Love" thesis followed by a defense of the principles of "promise/faith" over the principles of "demand/performance". The first thesis argues that the message of the Gospel does not inherently indicate a "hate" mentality. However, the second thesis deliberately inserts a "hate" mentality: Jacob I loved but/and Esau I hated. This deliberate contrast forces Paul's readers to ponder the question of how God can be both "loving" and "hateful" at the same time. And the outcome of such force is an easy resolution: in any one on one situation, "love" provides benefit to those who are beloved even if they are enemies; but, technically, there has never been a true "one on one situation". God has always been a "trinity" without the possibility of "one on one" and since the creation of the universe of both angels and men that possibility has totally been ruled out. No one, not even God, can take any attitude or action that is not complicated by the reality that more than "one" will be affected. Therefore, every attitude and action is rooted in a deliberate choice to prefer one over another so that it will always be the case that one is "loved" and all others are "hated". Thus, the second thesis of the primacy of "promise/faith" over the principles of "demand/performance" is simply an argument that God has revealed how His creation will be governed: God will make promises and those who believe them will be rewarded with their fulfillments and those who reject them will be condemned to endure their absences.
This raises an immediate reaction among men who reject the primacy of God's choices over their own: this means God is unrighteous. It is this reaction toward which we turn our attention in this next set of verses.
I. The Questions.
A. What shall we say to this fact of reality?
1. As we pointed out in our last study, Reality Is and it is fruitless to seek to subvert it.
2. This reality is the actual nature of "Love" and "Hate" in a multipersonal existence situation.
3. Our "saying" is the drawing of a most fundamental conclusion that will become a part of that foundation of our thinking that will govern future thinking and conclusions.
4. At issue in our "saying" are the two proposed theses that have immediately preceded this question: "love" is real, "hate" is real, and the only solution to the conundrum is to turn to the things the Immutable God has revealed for relational reasons.
B. Is there unrighteousness in the character and actions of The God?
1. The central issue in this question is the nature of "the righteousness of God".
2. The question has its answer in the words of The God that reveal the elements involved.
II. The Answers.
A. In the words of the Authorized Version, "God forbid".
1. This is the strongest expression of an absolute denial.
2. As an absolute denial, this is a defining element in Reality.
3. As a defining element, it means that it cannot even be conceived as a possibility that The God is, or ever has been, "unrighteous".
B. Then, in the words spoken (lego) to Moses, we have the second part of the answer.
1. First, we must ask how God's determination to have mercy and compassion according to His own deliberate choices is an "answer" to the question (God's determination to establish the primacy of His own decisions over those of humans or angels is what raised the question in the first place).
a. This "declaration" to Moses is "The Word of The God", an expression of divine revelation to ignorant human beings.
b. The primary question of the preceding paragraph is whether, or not, The Word of The God has "failed" (any of His words in any sense of failure).
c. Thus, "more words from The God" become possible solutions to the questions of Reality for those less than omniscient.
2. Second, we must consider the conundrum of "righteousness" and "displays of 'mercy' and 'compassion' ".
a. The setting of this conundrum is one in which the three issues co-exist: righteousness, mercy, and compassion.
b. This setting is "post-rebellion" by ignorant creatures with self-exaltation intentions (there is no need for mercy or compassion where there is no deterioration of righteousness).
3. Third, we must consider what the words of The God reveal about "righteousness".
a. In the larger context of the totality of divine revelation, "righteousness" is not typically seen in conflict with expressions of mercy and compassion; rather, they are encouraged.
1) Thus, we conclude that, in general terms, it is not "unrighteous" to treat someone better than they deserve aslongas that treatment does not mean that someone else is going to be treated worse than they deserve.
2) Consequently, we also conclude that "unrighteousness" boils down to whether, or not, a person has been treated in a way that is worse than he/she deserves withoutconcern for situations wherein a person might actually be treated better than he/she deserves.
3) Note well the parable by Jesus recorded in Matthew 20:1-16 wherein the issue of "what is right" is central to the actions of mercy/compassion.
b. In this present text/context, we have specific "words" from "The God" regarding whether, or not, He has the "right" to be merciful or compassionate according to His own choice.
1) The words to Moses declare this "divine right".
2) Afterwards, it is a matter of praise that The God is "full of compassion" and "plenteous in mercy" (Psalm 86:15; Psalm 145:8) and the The God exhorts His people to "execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother" (Zechariah7:9).
4. Fourth, we must apply these factors to our text/context.
a. God's choice to elevate Jacob over Esau did no wrong to Esau.
1) He had no "divine right" to the birthright (the examples of God subverting the human notion of the "right" of the firstborn are many).
2) He chose to trade that birthright for a bowl of food.
b. God's "hatred" for Esau was initially only a decision to devalue him as the bearer of the Seed and only developed into a settled attitude as Esau continually despised His plans.
c. It is not "unrighteous" to visit the decisions of people upon their own heads, nor is it "unrighteous" to give people better than their decisions deserve.