Suffering For the Sake of Mercy
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 Ro 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
What if? We might even put it more harshly and say like we did when we were kids, “What’s it to ya?” You and I, Pharaoh and Moses, the Egyptians and the Israelites are all God’s game pieces anyway!

If He wants to show His power and wrath through some pieces and His mercy and riches in glory through others, that’s His business! It’s His game! At first that may seem to be a fatalistic approach, especially if one considers the way you or I might treat game pieces if it were “our game.”

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I remember tipping many a game board over when I was young. Frustrated with the way things were going I would sweep all the pieces over, I quit! No wonder my kids were afraid to play Candyland with me.......just kidding. But God’s not like that. Oh one day, He will call for the end of the game, but not before he has given every game piece ample time to repent.

If you’ve ever played chess, you might get a glimpse of what we are really talking about here. I’m not a very good chess player, but I know that you never play the game with the intention of saving all your pieces.

But God doesn’t play that way. His intent is that all of His pieces be saved. He’ll do whatever it takes to save them. Merciful move upon merciful move He tries to keep them in the game.  2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (NKJV)

Try playing a game of chess like that some time, try to protect all your pieces,  and you will get just a little glimpse of the patience of God in dealing with us.

So God endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath, that, according to the Greek verbiage used here,  prepared themselves fit for destruction. Another way of saying this is due to their resistance of His mercy and grace...they were ripe for destruction. But God in His mercy, ignored their ripeness for as long as possible.

He was patient with the Egyptians and with Pharaoh, even at the expense of His chosen people who suffered greatly under them. Don’t ever forget how merciless the Pharaoh’s were toward the chosen people.  

Some may think that it was a cruel injustice to kill all of the Egyptians first born male children, but they forget the forced infanticide that Pharaoh imposed on the people when he feared their numbers were getting too large!

Or they forget that Pharaoh made the labor even more difficult for the Israelites when Moses asked that the people be let go. Remember? He said from now on, get your own straw for the bricks, and you better make the same number of bricks! “Let more work be laid on the men>” (Ex 5:9) Then when they didn’t make the quota their leaders were beaten. (Ex 5:14)

Now just think about the hard, forced, labor, the beatings, the forced infanticide. Think of what the people endured in order for God to keep giving Pharaoh opportunities to repent.  That stinks doesn’t it? Not really, for they were in....the Egyptians and Pharaoh were out!

Then think of His patience with the rebellious idolatrous chosen people in the wilderness and after they arrived in the Promised Land. Think of His patience with the Jews, who beheaded John the Baptist and put God’s only Son to death on the cross. Look how He allowed His Son to suffer for their sake and for the sake of the world.

He could’ve fried them all. With one flick of His little finger their game pieces could’ve been kicked off the board....but He waited, showing great mercy and patience. Think about how patient He has been with you, and indeed continues to be toward you and I as we so often set our minds on the things of this earth rather than the things above.
“As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, (I don’t like losing game pieces) but that the wicked turn from His way and live. (Ezek 18:23, 33:11)

Understand something here. You and I may have to endure hardship at the hands of wicked men, or even in the natural course of life. We may be called upon to suffer as God patiently waits for unbelievers to come to repentance.

How many of you have ever heard of Dave Roever? He was one of the speakers at the Promise Keepers event in St. Paul this weekend. A Vietnam veteran who had his face and other body parts blown off by a phosphorous grenade. 3rd degree burns everywhere, but he survived.

In a hospital stateside with other seriously maimed soldiers, he saw a woman come in and visit the man next to him. She took off her wedding ring and threw it on the hospital bed and walked out. She wanted nothing to do with him.

Dave Roever’s wife walked in and Dave thought that was going to be it for him too, but she walked over to him and kissed him and told her that she loved him. To make a long story short Dave went through a slow, painful recovery process, and has since ministered to many with the love of Jesus Christ. And let many to a personal relationship with Jesus.

Before Dave finished, he introduced another younger man, I believe one of the PK musicians and he began to tell his story. His story was not so much of physical pain, but of tremendous emotional pain.

His mother became pregnant at the age of 16 and she wanted to abort him, but halleluiah! The state in whgich she was living had a strong parental consent law. ( Don’t tell me that pro life laws don’t make a difference!) Her mother refused to sign the papers.

So this 16 year old, started to drink heavily hoping that would damage her child. She would beat her stomach with her fists, hoping that would kill him. After he was born, he was passed around to different relatives like a hot potato while his mother served time in prison.

When he was 6 she was released and he was treated to daily shows of how to do drugs as his mother was hopelessly addicted to heroin. She would sell her body in plain view of him as she sought to support her habit. She even taught her son how to do drugs at an early age.

Sent back to prison, Phil, was then sent off to be with his father, who was now out of prison. His father beat him senseless 7 times, one time he kicked him down the hall like a soccer ball and broke several of his ribs. One time his father pinned this 11 year old child down on the floor and started to beat his face without mercy until his stepmother intervened.

Phil was arrested at the age of 13 and in the police car on the way to juvenile attention. The police dispatcher had contacted Phil’s father and his father told the dispatcher, who then radioed the arresting officer. She said I have contacted the boys father and he says he doesn’t want anything to do with him.

At this point Dave Roever came on stage and told us the rest of the story. They never told us how, but somehow, Phil came to faith in Jesus Christ, and he is now married to one of Dave’s daughters and they have a beautiful family.

And he is on stage, leading men in worship at PK events, and on Friday night, Phil and Dave, through the personal physical and emotional suffering that they had experienced in their lives, led over 500 men to Jesus.

500 men whom God had been patiently waiting for, while Dave and Phil endured suffering, so that these men would one day come to know Jesus and be saved! Dave and Phil, suffering for the sake of mercy!

There is talk of some churches in the Valley banding together to make a concentrated effort to help the victims of hurricane Katrina. Perhaps there would be a certain town or city that we could come alongside and help rebuild.  

If this comes to pass, would you be willing to suffer the inconvenience of going down to help rebuild? Would you be willing to actually allow a homeless family to live with you until their homes are rebuilt?

That’s what we are talking about here. Suffering, putting our agenda aside for the sake of mercy.  God suffered the death of His only Son for our sake, and if we are God’s children, shouldn’t we be willing to a little suffering for the sake of mercy ourselves?  

Who knows where such a kind act may lead. It may lead some to repentance. If it doesn’t, it’s out of our hands, and you can be sure that God will eventually show His wrath and power to the unrepentant, as He allows them to be captured by the evil one, because they have chosen to resist God’s Word and finally hardened their heart.

25 As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved."
 26 "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."

Paul now turns to Hosea to make his case for the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s calling or election. And the situation of the Jews and the Gentiles from Paul’s day until today is nothing more than the fulfilling of this OT prophecy.

The thing to remember about Hosea’s prophecy is that it was initially given to the ten northern tribes of Israel. They had turned to idolatry setting up their own worship center instead of the bother of having to go to Jerusalem. God kept sending them prophets, urging them to repent, but they didn’t.

SO God allowed them to be conquered and not just carried off, but they were swallowed up by the countries to which they were deported and they ceased being a people.

But Paul points out that with the rejection of Christ, the Jews of his day and today are in essence doing the same thing. It was this rejection that opened the door for the Gentiles to hear the gospel

The biblical commentator, author, and teacher,  Warren Wiersbe says, “Think back to the time of the exodus. At that time God rejected the Gentile Egyptians and chose the Jews, so that through the Jews, He might save the Gentiles. Now the tables have been reversed. Through the Gentiles, He seeks to save the Jews.

Did you know that the Israelites were not the only ones who left Egypt. The Bible speaks of a “mixed multitude” who left. This may or may not have included some Egyptians, but the point is others were free to join the Israelites and follow their God. God in His mercy allows all who will just come to Him through Jesus.

There was a window of opportunity for the Israelites, and the “mixed multitude” to leave Egypt and they took it, they grabbed it. It was a narrow window, with water on both sides, and today there is a window of opportunity for the Gentiles to also follow the God of Abraham. There is opportunity for you here today, don’t let the window slam shut. Step into the waters and be saved!

There is no need to argue the fine points of election...just go through the window! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved! You are being given the opportunity to be the fulfillment of this prophecy from Hosea. You can  be called God’s people, you can be the beloved of God, you can be sons of the living God!

27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.

Now Paul appeals to the prophet Isaiah to state another prophetic fact. Although there will be many physical Jews, only a remnant, or small percentage will be saved. God knew in advance the dull ears that belong to the majority of the children of Israel. And how they would resist and reject His grace.

Does this mean that we don’t bother evangelizing the Jews.....certainly not. It is God’s will that all men be saved, and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, and so we bring the Good News to Jew and Gentile alike.

And again we see the mercy of God as He birthed His NT church with Jews. When Judah (the southern kingdom) was judged, they were allowed to remain a people, they came back to Jerusalem. Why? To bring forth the seed of salvation Jesus Christ!

They were the first ones to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus spent His time among the Jews not the Gentiles. The early church and the Apostle Paul always sought to bring their message to the Jew first and then the Gentile!

28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth."
 29 And as Isaiah said before: "Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah."
When we speak of Sodom and Gomorra, or the flood, or the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. we speak of annihilation.  Ooooh! Judgement! No one likes to talk about it, no one likes to hear about it, but what else can you say about these two verses?

One day. He will make short work upon the earth. One day, in His time, when all things have been fulfilled, He’s going to blow the whistle, sound the horn, shoot the gun.   Game over.

A foreshadowing of this Judgement was the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. From the time of the birth of Jesus until 70 A.D. a concentrated effort was made by God to reach His people. John the Baptist, calling to repentance. Jesus performing signs and wonders and inviting people to come to Him.  The Apostles bringing the Gospel to the Jew first!

With rare exceptions Jesus ministered solely among the Jews, the Apostles brought the gospel to the Jews first, then the Gentiles, but they rejected Him and that’s why Jesus, at the end of His public ministry looked upon Jerusalem and wept. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and ye would not.” Mt 23:37

God is long suffering. I think we have learned that in the past several weeks of our study in Romans, but there is a time when He has had enough. There is a time when the line is crossed and God acts. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah can tell you all about it. And again look at God’s mercy, Abraham bartered God all the way down to 10 people!

He would’ve spared the entire city if He could’ve found 10 righteous people! The people of Noah’s day can also tell you of God’s judgement. In His mercy. He gave them 120 years to repent, but they refused.   God’s judgement is swift, but never without warning, never without a display of mercy.
The people of Jerusalem could tell you too, as Jesus warned them of their impending doom.

Our warnings for our times are found right here in Scripture.  2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, (NKJV)

It can happen at any time, therefore what kind of persons ought we to be? Holy in conduct and godly. In other words, we ought to be in a hot relationship with Jesus Christ, nothing cold or lukewarm.

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith. (Is there any other kind? No!) 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
 33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."  (NKJV)

Paul concludes this chapter by saying, “Look, here’s where things stand now. The Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it by responding to the gospel and placing their faith in Jesus Christ.

But the Israelites choose to pursue the works of the Law over faith to obtain righteousness and therefore they have not obtained it....they lost it. But don’t be too hard on the Jew, for this salvation by faith apart from works is a hard pill to swallow. Some of you won’t admit it, but your choking on it, even as I speak.

We want to do SOMETHING for our salvation. We like to believe that there is some good in us! And this free offer becomes a stone that we trip over , instead of a rock to stand on.  So don’t be too hard on the Jew, rather learn from him. See what happens when we rely on our works instead of God’s grace. See what happens when we let pride stand in the way of grace.

Wiersbe puts it this way, “The Jews thought that the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved; (That’s works) when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved.  (That’s faith!)

Don’t ever fall for that trap! Don’t ever think that your unbelieving neighbors, co-workers, family members, and acquaintances must come up to your level to be saved. Instead, remember where you were when you received Christ. Who’s level were you on? You should’ve been on the level of a child.  Totally humbled and reliant upon God alone for your salvation.
Remember this daily, lest you get puffed up and prideful. Daily go to the cross and look around. Who do you see there? The cross is the level ground of all humanity. No one has anything over anyone else. It is at the cross that we see our need. It is at the cross that we can humbly throw ourselves on His mercy.

God resists the proud, He resists those who refuse to come to the cross, because that’s where grace is found. And if you have grace...... truly have grace, you won’t be requiring anyone to “come up to your level,” to be saved.

Rather you will realize anew that Jesus came down to our level. He suffered and became sin for us that we might taste of mercy. Should we not extend the same grace and mercy to others? Should we not be willing to suffer for the sake of mercy if that’s what God requires?

I will close with a quote from Oswald Chambers from his devotional classic, “My Utmost For His Highest.” Commenting on Phil 2:17, as the Apostle Paul said, “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith I am glad and rejoice with all of you.”  Oswald writes:

Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the work of another believer? To pour out your life sacrificially for the ministry and faith of others? Or do you say, “I am not willing to be poured out right now, and I don’t want God to tell me how to serve Him. I want to choose the place of my own sacrifice. And I want to have certain people watching me saying, “Well done.”
“It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a “doormat” under other people’s feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased....Are you ready to be sacrificed like that?

“Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted....not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister?” - Oswald Chambers

If need be, are you willing to suffer for the sake of mercy? Are you willing to allow God to use your inconvenience, your pain, your sorrow, to bring just one more game piece safely home?