I ask for the grace to be brought back to the way of praying and meditating faithfully, to trust the word and promise of God, to let go of ego and to embrace the true self, made in the image and likeness of Christ. May we know and follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.
6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.’ 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ 13As it is written,
‘I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.’
14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses,
‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’
16So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ 18So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.
1) "...the children of the promise are counted as descendants;" "...by his call;" "...By no means;" "...I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion;" "...it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God;" "...he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses;"
2) Here is where it helps, to stop thinking of God as a willing agent. As if God is sitting above all things picking and choosing who will suffer more, who will suffer less. Our circumstances are our circumstances. They are not punishment or reward, temptation or test; they just are. It is what it is. God gives us what we need to navigate our circumstances. Perhaps the real mistake is in comparing our circumstances to others, considering some circumstances as "mercies" or "blessings" and others as "curses" or "burdens." Our circumstances are our circumstances and we either accept the grace of managing/navigating those circumstances with grace, or we do not. We do not "earn" our circumstances, but, like Job, we can chose a faithful way through them. I hate to think of God as hardening Pharaoh's heart. Is it God who hardens the hearts of the recalcitrant individuals in our community? Really? Do they have no choice but to be stiff-necked, murmurers in the wilderness? But maybe I'm conflagrating the stories and I should stick with Paul's used of Pharaoh who needs to remain an unsympathetic villain? Or maybe, when I witness another's heart being hardened, I am being offered the opportunity to develop more empathy and compassion for the hardening of their hearts, rather than letting the hardening of their heart motivate the hardening of mine? Can I find empathy for those with hardened hearts?
3) What is the invitation in all this? To stop comparing or judging "blessings" and "curses" and "mercies" and "burdens;" to let what is, be; and to accept God's presence and guidance to manage hardship. In the hardening of another's heart, can I witness and be grateful for the opportunity for my heart to be liberated for compassion and empathy?
"Holy One, help us to rejoice when your blessing is apparent on whomsoever you have chosen; help us to rejoice when you have hardened the heart of whomsoever you have chosen."
Breathprayer: "On whomsoever... on whomsoever."