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.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Romans 9
As follower of Jesus, we are called to wrestle with difficult topics. When difficult topics appear we may have different responses. We may ignore them. We may minimize them. We may magnify them. Lastly, we can wrestle with them. This is a difficult topic. My challenge for this Wednesday is to think through this difficult part of Chapter 9.
I believe that ultimately Paul is using this framework to comfort the Church in Rome as they look back on God’s relationship with Israel and wait to be the next nation cast aside. But it doesn’t make the sub-context any less difficult. People have used Chapters 8 and 9 to draw lines between denominations and even Christian and non-christian. Some say that this passage deals with God’s relationship with nations, some say this passage is about God’s workings in individual hearts. Take a look and see what you think.
Here are three difficult passages in Romans 9.
- It does not depend on human effort, but on God’s mercy.
- God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and hardens whom he hardens.
- The formed should not question the one who formed it.
As a parent, I have to make certain decisions that my child does not understand yet. But I ask him to trust me until he does. When he was a toddler he was not allowed to walk in a parking lot without holding my hand. I don’t mean that they can never walk in a parking lot without holding my hand. Just not until they understand the danger a moving vehicle poses. Now my boys can play in the backyard on their own, but they can not go in the front yard. Soon they will be aware of the dangers. Children do not always understand their parents decisions, but they have to decide whether or not their parents decisions are trustworthy or not.
How is Paul asking the Church in Rome to respond to God’s sovereign work?
Is our circumstance necessarily a reflection of our rightness with God?
What are you left with if you choose to believe that God does not have your best interest in mind?
What does Paul’s assumption in verse 23 tell us about his view of God’s goodness?
23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory Romans 9
I do not want to tell you my answers, because I want you to wrestle with these passages on your own. But I want to say that I believe God is working out all things in accordance with his goodness. And that he wants us to view Israel’s hardening as a way to bring the Gentiles softening. I believe that Paul wants the Church in Rome and us to know that God has started something and he is going to finish it, so that we might be empowered by his Spirit to move and be directed in new and challenging ways.
May God finish what he has started in me,