Tuesday, October 10, 2006

[twbowes-devotions] Devotion: Funnels and Stuff I Don't Understand

Funnels and Stuff I Don't Understand

Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." -- Romans 9:13; King James Version

I don't claim to be the smartest guy that ever lived. I want that said from the outset.

I'm going to handle something today that is one of the most controversial things ANY Bible teacher could undertake to do. I am willing to handle feedback of any sort. My prayer is that this will be humbly received as I insure you it is humbly offered.

Have you ever used a funnel? I have. They are very useful tools. I used funnels made of metal, plastic, glass, and paper. I have used "store-bought" and "home-made" funnels of every description. I've used funnels to put gas, oil, water and other fluids into every kind of machine, from a locomotive all the way down to a weed eater. I've even used funnels while helping my mom "can" vegetables from our garden.

Have you ever thought about the purpose of a funnel? It takes volume and channels it into a small opening. It allows the user to pour a lot of whatever into whatever they are pouring it into without making a mess. What it basically boils down to is that a funnel can be used to direct something to a certain point where it is supposed to go.

Have you ever noticed that a funnel isn't used where it doesn't matter if you make a mess? Have you ever noticed that a funnel is usually not needed when it doesn't make a difference what is going into wherever it's going into?

Today's verse has baffled a lot of people over the years. It has generated debates and opinions for centuries. Read commentaries for yourself. I have. This verse has more big words tied to it than an overachieving Scrabble player. I want to bring some understanding to this today, but I'm NOT going to tap into all the technical jargon. I'm NOT going to get into debates about predestination, double-predestination, supralapsarianism, infralapsarianism, election or reprobation. I am willing to talk about those things. Invite me to your church and break out the check book (that's a joke...don't be so uptight!). Have me over to your house; cook burgers (that's not a joke!). Those subjects are too broad and deep for this forum. I'm not avoiding them. I am, however, using a funnel of sorts.

Instead of arguing over all of this stuff; instead of getting very confused; instead of reading that verse and thinking of God as some kind of "cosmic meanie"; instead of any of that, I want to proffer a LITTLE suggestion that I think will be helpful in our understanding it and growing from it.

Read the whole chapter (or the whole book of Romans). It is impossible to say that this passage isn't dealing with election; that doctrine of God choosing people for His purposes. Still, election is not my point. Think about the whole chapter and the whole book. IT IS MY OPINION that Paul wanted to use the church in Rome as a jumping off point to carry the gospel into Spain and the regions beyond. IT IS MY OPINION that Paul wanted the Christians in Rome, of JEWISH HERITAGE, to understand that (1) being a Jew by ancestry did not make you a Christian and (2) that Gentiles could come to faith in God too. Overall, I THINK Paul wanted those in Rome to buy into (1) the gospel in the right way and (2) to TRULY understand that God was calling Gentiles into salvation and into the spiritual nation of the covenant people. That being said, they had to get on the same page so that they COULD work together in Paul's mission to proclaim the gospel.

I think today's verse plays into this by showing that God CHOSE Israel (Jacob) to be part of the people of promise (the covenant nation of Israel). Abraham bore Ishmael and Isaac; Isaac was the funnel. Isaac bore Esau and Jacob; Jacob was the funnel. The twelve tribes were formed from Jacob's sons. The Messiah came, not from Ishmael's or Esau's line, but from Abraham's through Jacob. Sound confusing? All I am trying to say is that God funneled His plan down through Jacob.

That was God's choice. He chose to funnel the Messiah's family line down through Jacob. There's a LOT of stuff here in Romans 9, but that's what I want to key on today.

At the end of the day, I don't care whether a person's lineage came through Abraham or Jacob or Einstein or Billy Graham...what matters is "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH JESUS?"

I could explain the Greek word "hate" (transliterated "miseho") as "love less". I could do that, but I'm not. The point is that God chose to do what He did through Jacob. The point is that God shows mercy to whoever He wants to show mercy to...Jews, Edomites, Gentiles...but all of that mercy centers around one's response to God's work of salvation through His Son, THE Messiah of the world.

I, for one, am not going to get caught up in things I don't understand when I have a difficult enough time LIVING OUT the things I do understand! I'm not going to lose my focus on my WONDERFULLY LOVING heavenly Father because I don't understand everything. After all, we are trying to take the utterly divine, unlimited thoughts of a holy God and restrain them the confines of our limited understanding and language.

My mama cooked a supper for my brother's birthday. I got to eat it too, even though it wasn't for ME. I am not mad that it wasn't for me. I am glad I got to eat. I didn't even analyze it. Honestly, I didn't care if my brother showed up or not...I was going to get my grub on! That's my mama! That woman can cook!

Did God forget about Esau? Did God send Esau to hell before Esau was born? First, who are we to question God? Second, Esau could have eaten from Jacob's plate. The promise of the Messiah was to ALL, to WHOSOEVER, to any who will CONFESS and BELIEVE that Christ is the answer for man's sin.

Did God HATE Esau? Read Romans for yourself and you tell me. Did Esau, in his life, have opportunity to sup from the Lord's table? You tell me. Did God funnel His plan through Jacob's family? Yep. Is Jacob your daddy? I bet not. Have you made Christ yours? I hope so.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus the Son,
Tim Bowes
Romans 12:1-2

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