Romans 9 began a new section in the book of Romans—one which is the subject of much debate. The theme is God’s dealings with Israel.
In today’s verses, like the previous verses in chapter 9, Paul is dealing with the issue of God’s sovereignty. One of the ways that sovereignty is expressed is in His calling Israel as His chosen people. In God’s relationship to Israel, Paul has shown that salvation has its roots in God’s grace, not in race; that it is bestowed on the basis of God’s providence, not our performance; that it comes through God’s mercy, not human merit.
And, of course, if all that is true, the big issue becomes, “If it’s all up to God, then it doesn’t really matter what I do. If what it means for God to be God is that God calls the shots, then I don’t really have a choice. And if I don’t have a choice, how can God blame me for anything?”
As Eugene Petersen translates today’s opening verse in the message, Are you going to object, "So how can God blame us for anything since he's in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?" On first glance, Paul’s answer is less than helpful. “Who are you to question God?”
But let’s think a little bit more about that. The other day we gave our cat a bath to help her with a skin condition. We did it for her good. But, being a creature of limited understanding, she had no way of knowing that. She thought we were harming her, that what we were doing was not in her best interested. And so she fought back, scratching and even lightly biting.
Our cat was in no position to question what we were doing, to judge us. In much the same we, are in no position to question what God is doing, to judge him. The problem, of course, is located in my ignorance and finitude and not God’s character. The real question then becomes whether or not we will trust God even when we don’t understand, even when life doesn’t seem fair, even when we are in great pain and God seems distant or uncaring.
There will always be circumstances and events and painful events that will tempt us to distrust God, but in simple trust we choose to let them drive us deeper into the heart of God rather than driving us away from Him.