Romans 9:17-29

Romans 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

Why would God harden someone’s heart? Ultimately it is for His glory. It is hard to fathom from a “God is loving & good perspective” (and He is indeed, by the way) that God would use some for dishonor and others for honor. I guess the perspective that makes this hard is that in which we believe that we actually deserve His mercy and favor. As the pastor put it, the situation is not that we are going toward God and He is only allowing certain ones access, but rather that we are running from God and He is saving us in spite of ourselves. When we consider that we start out as lumps of clay (gooey, nasty dirt), who are we to question Him who molds us.

Isaiah 55:For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

Still, even with the perspective of being clay, it is hard to understand how God works and that is okay. When I consider being the clay, I am reminded of the song “Bring the Rain” which speaks to how sometimes God uses trials in even his vessels of honor for his glory. And from that I am reminded again of Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain (Mercy Me, Bring the Rain)

Verse links:

Romans 9:11-13

11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

As I (and many at church) contemplate and struggle with the concept of election by God, there are several facets to this. As the pastor pointed out, a lot of our consternation with this and God’s sovereignty is perspective. He pointed out that we often feel like we choose God, and from a certain perspective (ours) this is true. Also, we feel like we deserve the salvation He has to offer. We don’t, and in so many ways, we run from God. It is Him who grabs us up and saves us from our running from Him, from His point of view. So, we balance God’s sovereignty with our free will, and now my mind gets boggled.

Personally, I resolve this boggling of the mind, whether theologically correct or not, I don’t know, through my thinking that God is indeed powerful and affects change as He wills, but He also chooses to let us make up our own mind and let thinks happen as we will. Ultimately, he is in control in His choosing to yield because He is omniscient and already knows the end of the matter, but we just because he knows the end doesn’t mean He has us by the strings each moment, but rather that He wants us to love Him and worship Him freely and by His merit.

Another thought on these verses is that Jacob and Esau were chosen before they had merit. God can use us in spite of ourselves and our merits. He doesn’t ask for the brightest and best, but rather he asks for obedience. And many times he uses us in spite of our disobedience.

Wow! What deep concepts we have when we think about the complexity of our relationship with God and His relationship with all of creation.