Paul wants his readers to understand the role that Israel has in God’s purpose and why the Israelites no longer have the same prominence in God’s Kingdom as they did previously. Inevitably exploring this subject brings us face to face with the sovereignty of God. Moreover, Paul’s explanation causes us to delve into the doctrine of election, a prospect that frightens some people. Yet if treated properly the doctrine of election will become a great strength to one’s faith.
Divine election means guaranteed divine promises. Paul mentions that God kept his promises to Israel at the commencement of their existence as a people (vv. 6-13). Paul deals with an obvious question about Israel’s condition when he was writing, which is the possibility that God’s Word had failed. The apostle dismisses such a possibility. Instead Paul goes back to the calling of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and points out that what happened to them proves the reality of divine election. As far as the children of Abraham and of Isaac were concerned, God did not promise to bless each of them equally. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac – Isaac was the one about whom the promises of Israel were made. Isaac and two sons, Jacob and Esau – Jacob was the one about whom the promises of Israel were made.
The promises were not given according to anything in the children themselves. Isaac did nothing that led him to being the object of those special promises and neither did Jacob as opposed to Esau. Instead they were the objects of divine promises because God had a plan that he intended to adhere to, and which nothing could change. So we can see that election is connected to the wisdom of God.
Moreover, the promises were given in situations of human weakness. Sarah gave birth to Isaac in a miraculous way and Rebekah gave birth at a time when it seemed impossible for her to have children. So election there was also about the display of divine power in ensuring that what God wished to happen took place.
What kind of God do we want? What kind of God do we have? Do we want a God who knows what he is doing, who is able to make definite promises, who possesses the wisdom to make the best decisions and the power to ensure they can happen, even at times when human nature would say it was impossible?