14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 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.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For 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.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
Has God's plan gone wrong because Christ was rejected by the very people who were prepared for Him, meaning the Jews? Our passage has revealed that as always some open their hearts to God's revelation while others hardened their hearts. Yet if God elects and selects as He did with Isaac and Jacob, isn't He unfair? In these verses, we encounter another preliminary stage in the developing argument for God sovereignty, particularly as it deals with Israel.
When some receive the light and others do not, God's grace can be seen. But if God does not reveal the principles on which He makes His choices [or decisions], that is no reason to call His justice into question. “Is God Unjust?” He is the Merciful and Compassionate One.
God's right to choose is seen not only in Abraham's descendants, it is also seen elsewhere. In our text we see it operating in God's dealings with the King of Egypt who stubbornly refused to heed God's Word and warnings. Here we learn that the rebellion of man can never thwart the purposes of God.
We should not think of God as being unfair. God's mercy is far wider and higher that anyone dare hope, but no one is entitled to it and no one can demand it from God. God's mercy and grace may impose conditions, but they cannot be made subject to man's conditions. Bless God though, for He delights to show mercy and has lavished it upon mankind.
Gods choices are not random…not by chance, or luck. In verse 14 a question is introduced asking if God ever makes unjust choices? “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!”
Was God unjust in choosing Isaac over Ishmael, and Jacob over Esau? The response is, "Not at all!" A lot of people have a real problem with this statement. They see God as being unfair in acting outside or before mankind's freedom of choice and his responsibility to act. Many want to know how could a sovereign God choose to love Jacob, and hate Esau before they were even born? Before they could have done anything good or evil.
The answer is simple. It is because God is sovereign.
Sovereign: a: one possessing or held to possess supreme power or sovereignty.
b: one that exercises supreme authority.
c: an acknowledged leader.
The mystery to me is not that God hated Esau. The mystery to me is that God loved Jacob, and an even greater wonder is that He loves you and I. Did God choose correctly? Read your Bible and you'll see that Esau wasn't at all interested in spiritual things, he was more attracted to carnal things. Yes, God chose correctly—He always does.
Gods choices are merciful as we can see in…
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.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
Two arguments are made to prove there is no injustice in God. The first is derived from the Scriptures and the second is derived from the unchanging character of God who cannot be unrighteous. Verse 15 reminds us that God has claimed in His divine right… "For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'"
It is not unjust for God to exercise a sovereign's right to make decisions according to His justice. An example of God implementing His right to choose is found in His word to Moses…
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Which Paul quotes from our opening verse. As the sovereign God, He has the right to show mercy to whomever He chooses. In fact, He is not under obligation to extend mercy to anyone.
When did God say this? After the people of Israel had sinned by dancing around the golden calf in a sin-feast at Sinai.
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ 9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
There the people sinned against God. If God had acted simply in justice, He could have blotted out His people. Moses prayed for them, pleaded for them. Instead of judgment, God proclaimed to His servant Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy"
Here…there you go, these are Gods words here. God was angry, they sinned against Him. They made a great, holy, powerful God, into a shape of a calf. How can you reduce a Great God, into something so small? God was furious, but still, He showed them mercy. That mercy was seen in sparing a sinful nation… Why did God pardon them? Because God is merciful.
Now God is not like a mad dictator saying He can do whatever He pleases. For He is revealing that His actions toward humanity will be true to His character of love, justice and mercy. The integrity of God's character governs His actions.
Therefore, experiencing His mercy does not . . . depend on man's desire or effort. No one deserves or can earn God's mercy. God's mercy does not depend on man's worthiness to receive it. Man does not need to earn or deserve God's mercy. Mercy, like grace, stands above human worth and effort. It is free, because God is not bound to show mercy to anyone. It is not the exercise of man's will or man's striving that compels God to withhold His judgment, it’s all by His mercy.
Human effort is a necessary response of gratitude and commitment to God for His grace in Jesus Christ, but it doesn't merit grace. With regards to election God remains totally free to express mercy on anyone He chooses.
Gods choices, will always overrule evil. It was C.S. Lewis who stated that….
There are only two possibilities in the universe. Either a man says to God, ‘Thy will be done,' or God says to man, ‘All right then. Your will be done.' If you choose to do your will in this life instead of God's will, then one day you will face God's justice. C.S. Lewis
The relations between God's mercy and His judgment is the issue of verses 17-18. Mercy and justice are not opposed to each other but work together.
17 For 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.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
The thought now moves from Moses to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt at the time of the Exodus. In verse 17 the Apostle Paul presented a historical illustration of the Sovereign Lord's purpose. “For 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.”
Notice that this quotation is introduced with the words, "For Scripture says," in place of "thus saith the Lord,". This Scripture quotation comes from Exodus 9:16. To the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Exodus God said through Moses, "I raised you up" or I brought you onto the scene of history. Scripture is speaking a vivid reminder that it is God who raised Pharaoh up.
"I raised you up" is not only a reference to Pharaoh's emergence in history, but to God's providence in sparing him. Pharaoh deserved death for his oppression and insolence, but his life would not be taken during the series of plagues, he had a role to play, before God pronounces judgment, so that the full extent of his hardness of heart might be evident, but also that the greatness of God in the deliverance of His people might be more clearly evident.
You are all familiar with this story. Over and over again, God hardened his heart to accomplish His purpose. God placed Pharaoh in his position, so that when his hard-heartedness came into conflict with God's purpose he would become an illustration of the outcome of one who is opposing the purposes of God. If Pharaoh had been born in a cabin and lived in seclusion, his sin would have been neither lesser nor greater. But God placed this arrogant man in a position where his refusal to consent to God's will would not only lead to his own downfall but also to a world- wide demonstration of Gods divine power. God's freedom to act, is the right of His sovereignty.
The Book of Exodus is clear that Pharaoh puts himself, not against Moses, but against God, and that God uses Pharaoh's hardness as a means to demonstrate His glory!
Verse 18 is the climatic conclusion of the argument. “Therefore, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden”.
In the Exodus account, Scripture records many times when Pharaoh's heart was hardened—ten times of which God hardened his heart and ten times of which Pharaoh hardened it himself. Understand, that when God hardened Pharaoh's heart, He was only confirming Pharaoh's own decision. So, don't feel too bad about Pharaoh, for even though he saw miracles happening and heard God's Word very powerfully presented, he hardened his own heart again and again.
He hardens whom He wants to harden (lit. "make stubborn") emphasizing the freedom of God's action. Because of God's proposal, Pharaoh hardened his heart. All this shows that God chooses and works sovereignly. Yet, Pharaoh was still and also responsible for his actions. And eventually faced Gods judgment.
Pharaoh, being stubborn…and heart hardened is an evidence of unbelief and rebellion. Sadly, these are still evident in the world that we live in now. There are still many believers, who’s hearts are still hardened because of sin. Many still love to sin, there are some who still carry a golden calf in their hearts, instead of the heart of Christ.
God does not act unjustly in His sovereign choices. He has claimed His right and freedom in His Word to act not only in justice, but also in mercy. Throughout history God has often temporarily, employed severe measures in order to serve His gracious ends, which is the salvation of man.
The wonder of it all, is not that some are saved and others are not, but is that… anybody is saved at all. For we all deserve nothing from God but judgment. But thankfully God is a God of mercy, for we… one and all must bow before Him.
Do not hardened your heart this evening against the revealed will of God. Cast yourself at His pierced hands and feet and ask Him to soften your heart to His will and way. Let go of your golden calf and cry out to God. Listen to His blood-stained gospel and surrender to the only One who can save you. Heed His Word and yield to His sovereign power and purpose.
Divine Sovereignty does not relieve men and women of the responsibility for their actions. If anyone is lost, the blame is theirs, but if anybody is saved, the credit is God's. God shows His mercy toward those who have trusted Jesus and demonstrates His patience toward those who have not. Our great hope is that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’
Pastor Richard Santos
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