Summary: Romans 9 gives an excellent and clear view of the excellence and Sovereignty of God in choosing some for salvation and honorable eternal service to His Glory.
“Hard Hearts and Providential Pots: More on God’s Sovereign Character”
Romans 9: 13-29
God does not “choose” people for salvation according to race, religion, ancestry, or ability, but according to His Will and Calling: He called one twin brother, Jacob, but left the other, Esau. That does not make God’s Word ineffective nor does it cancel the most important task of the Church, which is to spread the Gospel, since God USES the Gospel and its “CALL” to bring sinners to repentance, belief and trust in the Lord Jesus.
About God’s Mercy
Our last study finished with Romans 9:13: “Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." We pick up on verse 14. These things being true: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!” (It’s almost a natural human response to immediately say: “What a minute! If God passes over some and not others, wouldn’t that make God arbitrary and unfair?” But Paul immediately comes back with another scripture example from Ex. 33:19.)
15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (The point is that God is NOT inconsistent with His mercy and love. He is absolutely and perfectly Sovereign in all He does, including His election. God never violates His own Character or ANY of His attributes in His determining who will receive His mercy and who will not. We may not fully understand this or MANY OTHER works of God, but it is very important for us to remember and believe it. Many things about God and how He works will remain mysterious or secret to us because we don’t NEED to know. We DO know the mystery and the secret of HOW God shows His Mercy, that before had been hidden! We know that His Wisdom has been revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ becoming SIN FOR US. Jesus is God’s Mercy and Compassion FOR US.)
16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. (We DO KNOW THIS TOO: If it depended on Jacob’s effort or his OWN human will, Jacob’s DESIRE was to deceive; and so Jacob would have been lost, NOT loved. He wrestled with the Pre-incarnate Jesus, who touched him and made him dependent on Him instead of His own cunning, and called Him ISRAEL, “one who strives or prevails with God”, or “God “PREVAILS”, or “Prince of God”. God’s MERCY, His Salvation, is not initiated by human effort because human will is sinful! It is initiated by the perfect will of God.)
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." (Ex. 9:16) 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”
About Hard Hearts
Sometimes people will hear God’s will and harden their own hearts and turn from God, but we are told that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh. If you read the entire story about Pharaoh and the ten plagues against Egypt in Exodus 8-13, you have to shake your head in wonder: How could ANYONE CONTINUE to turn from God’s severe warnings time after time? What does it take for someone to turn from their wickedness and self-rule and submit to God’s authority? Don’t you have to wonder?
I think that is exactly the point! The human heart is sinful and hard in its natural fallen state, and WITHOUT God’s Mercy and Help to turn to Him, NO ONE would EVER turn to Him. It was NOT that God placed MORE EVIL in the heart of Pharaoh; it was that God REMOVED from him ANY HELP at all, so that EVEN WITH ALL THE EVIDENCE OF God’s Holy Wrath against him, Pharaoh was HELPLESS to turn to God in repentance, but God does not actively create unbelief. “Moses I loved; Pharaoh, I left out.”
The example in Romans 9:13 was: “Jacob I loved; Esau I left out.” In the Israel Exodus story, you have two people, Moses and Pharaoh. Both are sinners, even murderers. They were both equally worthy of God’s wrath and punishment, NOT OF God’s Grace. Moses received God’s calling and a heart to follow God, and Moses received mercy.
Actually, Pharaoh received 10 CALLINGS from God, but God did not work in His heart at all to bring him to repentance. God hardened his heart by withdrawing all of His Divine influence and Grace which ordinarily acts as a restraint toward sin. This allowed Pharaoh to follow his own unbelief without restraint. (It also says in Exodus 8:32 that Pharaoh hardened HIS OWN heart.) The result of a hardened heart and will WITHOUT God’s DIVINE intervention to draw one TO God, is that you CANNOT POSSIBLY turn toward God with a soft and humble heart but YOU WILL receive God’s wrath and punishment… Why?