Psalm 74-76 Romans 9:16-33
“So what does all this mean? Those who are not Jews were not trying to make themselves right with God, but they were made right with God because of their faith. The people of Israel tried to follow a law to make themselves right with God. But they did not succeed, because they tried to make themselves right by the things they did instead of trusting in God to make them right.” (Romans 9:30-32a NCV)
As Paul discussed the sovereignty of God, he dealt with His mercy. How is it that God gives mercy to people? The end result is that human rationality and human effort play no part in how God gives mercy. We can’t figure out a formula that will ensure that we gain mercy. We can’t work hard enough to gain God’s mercy. When it comes to hard work in religious exercises and beliefs, the Pharisees would be among the hardest working. They sought to determine and obey God’s laws in all areas of their lives, and yet, as we saw with their interactions with Jesus, they spurned God’s mercy in favor of taking pride in their hard work. Meanwhile, Gentiles, who may not even have cared about religion, heard the gospel message, believed in Jesus and trusted in God, received mercy.
The problem with the Pharisees is that they trusted themselves and their work more than they trusted God to show mercy. Let’s be honest here, the Pharisees were precursors to the American Dream. They believed that the harder they worked, the more likely God was to bless them. American aphorisms exhort us to work hard to gain wealth and friends. If you aren’t succeeding in life, work even harder. And so many of our religious beliefs borrow from society rather than depend on the Bible. We would accept the claim that we’re saved by grace, but then we talk about working hard to gain more favor from God. If you give more money, God will bless you. If you work in a ministry to help the poor, God will bless you. Like the Pharisees, we make our acts into transactions with God, and we expect Him to deliver. Giving to God’s work is a good thing, but do we give because we expect God to bless us, or do we give out of gratitude that God’s already blessed us? Do we help the poor to manipulate God into a position where we think He’s required to help us in return, or do we help the poor because we are grateful for how much God has helped us? If you want to get right with God, your hard work won’t help. The key to being right with God is having faith and showing trust. Our works should be done out of gratitude, not as a way to force God into doing something He wouldn’t do otherwise.
Lord, remind me how much You already love me. Remind that I could never do enough to repay You or get You obligated to bless me. Help me to live each day in faith, serving You out of gratitude for all You’ve done.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved