Day 47: Who Gets Punished?

Read: Romans 9:19-24

In high school, I was a part of the leadership team for the children’s ministry at my church. Every Wednesday night as the adults gathered to pray, I would be with the rambunctious children trying to help them have fun in a safe environment. We didn’t want to waste any opportunity we could find to teach the children about the Bible, so we’d find ways to squeeze in a Bible lesson that would engage their interest after a long day of school. This led to all sorts of creative ideas like skits and puppet shows.

The kids especially loved it when we would have a puppet show because we would ask one of them to control a puppet as we told the Bible story for the week. As you can imagine, the children often took creative liberties as they acted out these stories. One Wednesday a particularly inappropriate word slipped from the lips of one of the puppets. At that moment, the leaders had a difficult decision to make, do we discipline the puppet or the child?

Of course, this is a silly example, but that’s the point. No one in their right mind would punish the puppet for the action since the child was the one controlling it. In Romans 9:19-24, we find a similar kind of reasoning. We have seen in the previous sections Paul’s discussion about God’s sovereign choice, and here he predicts the questions that his audience would raise. “Why does God blame us if He’s the one who chooses who to show mercy to and who to harden?” To some people, it seems as if Paul’s teaching makes us into puppets who have no choice in their own actions.

The point that Paul makes in response is that the Lord is sovereign, and His position as God means that we can trust that His decisions are right. It is not as though we are puppets, because God truly expects His people to make choices that are honoring to Him, so we can believe that He does not simply control us and then hold us accountable for His own actions.

In reality, every person is deserving of judgment because of the sin that we’re born with. The miraculous truth is that many of us have been chosen by God to be saved from eternal punishment. It is clear that not even we should experience this relationship we have with God, but Paul teaches us that this should cause us to be thankful to the sovereign Lord that He has saved us since not everyone enjoys this relationship with Him.

In the end, the realities of God’s sovereign choice and our responsibility as humans are both taught in Scripture, and so we should live in the reality of both and trust that God’s choice is good. As the creator, God has a much bigger plan in mind than we can see, so we should rejoice in the inseparable love He mercifully showers on us.

It is not a sin to ask questions. What emotions do you have as you read Romans 9? Write down your questions and emotions and then share them with God in prayer. Ask Him for faith to know Him more through His word. Thank Him for the mercy He has shown you.

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