By Ron Courter (Excerpt from Article Originally Printed May 31, 1985)
Let us begin by stepping a shade beyond our actual study, but it is worthy of our time. Why? Because this subject always seems to provoke words about God’s way. God has never left himself without attestation (Acts 14:15-17). God has always left testimony of himself for mankind. Recall Romans 1:20 speaking of nature revealing there is a God. Read Psalms 19:1-4. Paul reasoned the Gentiles had no body of revelation like Israel enjoyed. Paul declared they were without hope, but let us realize there was knowledge of God among them. Paul told the men of Athens that God was not far from them. A total view certainly reveals Edom’s position is no embarrassment to the justness of God. It is well to remember in studying the Bible many statements dealing with the progress of the redemptive scheme are highly comparative and deal with the development of God’s scheme of redemption. They are not always statements regarding eternal life or eternal condemnation. There are enough interactions of Gentiles in the redemptive scheme to illustrate the previous statement must be examined carefully in different passages. Comparative statements go back to the comparison of the privileges or the role of that group of people in bringing about God’s plan. This is the type of circumstance we face in Romans 9.
Let us never accept any interpretation that in reality places God on trial. God is not on trial in these discussions. Men question the love and justness of God through ignorance or pride. The court of history answers; Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Justice has been satisfied. The historical fact of the given Son answers all questions regarding God’s justness. (Romans 3:24-26).
When men attempt to determine if such and such case hypothetically or pragmatically permits imputation of the justness of God, they are beyond their sphere in creation. They are out of light and reasoning from darkness. Nothing is ever clear in darkness (Matthew 6:23). The historical documentation on God’s justness shall not change. (God’s people as they grow enjoy more and more God’s unchangeableness. The more that man changes the teachings of the Lord to make God more changeable, the more he removes himself from the way God truly meets our needs. This is so opposite to man’s wisdom of how to care for the needs of the human).
What about a change in God’s character? FORGET IT!!! James declares the nature of God is such that he is untemptable. He will not change. He is and shall be the same in character and purpose forever. What a thought!! Man has forgotten who he is or is not in comparison to God. It is the old problem of the pottery being so admired it forgets it is the result of the potter. God is more concerned and more aware of man’s behavior than man. Man will not make better judgments concerning right and wrong than God.
Men often introduce another error from extreme in this discussion. They say his sovereign removes any discussion of his justness. This sounds inviting, but God’s justness is not affirmed Biblically merely on the basis of his sovereignty. The predestination theorist cries the sovereignty of God when he becomes impaled by the dilemma of his own theory. (It is to be remembered that God’s sovereignty is never violated when God limits himself.) The Bible gives us so much more. The word reveals his judgments are based on the reality of his righteous nature and confirmed by his actions in time and his purpose in eternity. Man’s theory flies in the face of God’s revealed evidence. The righteous God is asking now for righteous actions through Christ. The justness of God is truly feared by us, but it is to be preferred over man’s justness. We can meet his justness, because his love and mercy made a way for us to respond by faith.
Our writing will cover one more discussion before returning to the main theme of this article. The Old Testament reveals the thrust of privileges and hope fell to Israel. The New Testament speaks of this in straightforward terms and footnotes no exceptions to the situation. When you keep in mind the first was preparatory and in reality all men have been saved the same way, there is no exception. But there is “the exceptional case” outside of Israel. People conclude from this reasoning we can expect the same outside of the new covenant today. Now, we are personally happy to leave all of this with God and Christ, but let us caution those who are hasty with such conclusions. Why? The old covenant and new covenant circumstances are not analogous. The old was bringing about the reality of the promises. The new is the reality of the promises. The old was given to a specific nation for the development of the redemptive scheme that was to be manifested fully in Jesus Christ. The new is viewed as the specific fulfillment of that scheme. The new is universal in its outreach. It is to whosoever will call on the name of the Lord, as revealed in the new. They who are quick to raise the possibility of exception outside of the new covenant, because of the old covenant situation need to realize the circumstances are not historically parallel. It is much like folks today attempting to prove God’s approval of war today on the basis of Old Testament wars. There is no parallel.
Let us not go any further from the subject at hand. God is indeed amazing, for while he gives privileges and prefers Israel he does not permit Israel to sin and escape it’s consequences. They, who still perceive literal Israel in a privileged position we think must bear the charge that they obviously permit more than God would permit or did permit. The parables of the Lord seem to quickly establish; use what you have been given and if not it shall be taken away. The parables of the Lord did not call for all to have the same, but they did call for one to use what they had been given.
Esau and Jacob both in due season did not use what was given. Esau quickly revealed his nature. “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Israel was punished for her failure to use the privileges given by the Lord. Daniel 9:12 reads, “And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.” Amos told them years before, “Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Jesus said, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21: 43).” He lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Luke 12:47,48 reads, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
The doom of Israel was due to her sins. The doom of Esau was due to her sins. There is no reason to say that Romans 9 teaches Esau’s condemnation was without consideration of his character. There is no reason to say a divine edict of condemnation set by an eternal decision of God without conditions was the cause of Esau’s punishment. But this is the predestination stance. The scriptures give reason for Esau’s plight for those who have ears to hear. Edom was laid waste long after Esau’s death, for she was an impenitent nation. Joel 3:19 reads, “Egypt shall be desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land.” She was brought to her knees because of pride. Obadiah 3 reads, “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?” Edom filled her cup of sin. Amos 1:11 reads, “Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever.” Read Psalms 137:7. The attitude of Edom is evident and unchanging in hatred and intensity. The words of Ezekiel 25:12-14 do not surprise the observer of Edom throughout the scriptures. (to be continued…)