We seem to be a little let down by Paul’s letter to the Romans in our great run of significant “Three Sixteen” verses. I have thought long and hard about what to write. I can’t really see this verse appearing on a pretty motivational poster, or embroidered on a wall hanging in your toilet! But the verse is significant none the less.
In context this verse is speaking about the fact that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are born sinners. We are under the power of sin, slaves to sin. The Jews are no better off. All humans are born into sin. We don’t understand, we are not righteous and we don’t seek God. In this section Paul has tied together several Old Testament verses (from Psalms and Isaiah 59) to make his case. In verse 15 Paul is speaking of the unrighteous who are swift to shed others’ blood; they rush into murder. And what follows this? Destruction and misery! They have no peace and no fear of the Lord.
What a wretched position to be in, and what a contrast to those of us who now do know the Lord and are resting in His righteousness. This grace is open to all in Christ, Jew or Greek, slave or free.
Psalm 23 paints a picture of the goodness and mercy that always follow and protect His sheep – we are not hounded destruction and misery. So if we know Christ, and know that we are IN Christ, this “miserable” 3:16 verse must give rise to celebration and thankfulness. It reminds us that this is what we have been rescued from, from being followed by destruction and misery. What terrible companions. What horrific pursuers! For me this evokes the mental image of a nightmare where you are relentlessly pursued by some unknown yet horrible creature. (I can vividly remember the first one of those I had about age five.)
Anyway, back to Romans. The destruction and misery that pursues unsaved sinners is exactly what Christ delivers us from. And this is not down to us. It is not by our desire or effort that we know the Lord. It is only by His immense grace. Praise be to Him for sending his goodness and mercy after us.
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) NLT