The Mysterious, Yet Merciful Ways of God.

Romans 9:16-33

Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, "Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before." – Romans 9:25 NLT

Paul has been emphasizing the point that God shows mercy on whomever He so chooses. And he knows that this difficult-to-understand reality about God is going to cause some of his readers to cry, "Foul!" They're going to wrestle with the apparent fairness of a God who chooses some and not others. And in doing so, they will really be questioning the justice of God. But if God ever failed to be just, He would cease to be God. Yes, from our limited perspective, it would appear at times that God is acting in ways that are inconsistent with His character. But we can't always see the bigger picture. We don't have the ability to see what God is doing behind the scenes, orchestrating events and even sovereignly ordaining the affairs of men to accomplish His divine will. Paul uses the example of Pharaoh. Over and over again, God had spared Pharaoh, in spite of his open rebellion against God and his ongoing resistance to release the people of Israel from captivity. God would have been just in punishing Pharaoh for his stubborn opposition and open insolence, but God spared his life so that He might accomplish His will for the people of Israel. God always has a purpose behind His actions. What may appear to us as unfair and unjust can always be written up to the problem of our own limited perspective.

It is so easy for us to question God's motives and doubt His goodness based on what we see. As human beings, we over-value our own importance, and under-appreciate God's sovereign will. We look up from our restricted vantage point here on earth and shake our fist at God, demanding that He explain Himself. Which is why Paul uses the analogy of a potter working with clay. "When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory" (Romans 9:21-23 NLT). The potter has the right to do as he wishes with the clay. He need not ask for permission or take a vote. He fashions the clay, forming it into vessels of various kinds, to be used according to his own purposes and plans. The same is true when it comes to God's interactions with mankind. God has created us and He is fully just and right to do with us as He sees fit. Paul has clearly indicated that all men stand as guilty and condemned before God and worthy of death. All men and women have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard. And yet, God has chosen to redeem some. He has chosen to show mercy on some and not on others. The very fact that God shows mercy on any should blow us all away. That God would extend His grace and mercy to Gentiles, when it appeared all along that His chosen people had been the Israelites, should show us that God is anything but unfair. Remember that God's mercy and grace are always undeserved and unmerited. No one has the right to demand God's goodness or should expect to receive God's grace. Jew and Gentile alike, stand as guilty before God. "No one is righteous—not even one" (Romans 9:10 NLT). "No one does good, not a single one" (Romans 9:12 NLT). Even the nation of Israel, the chosen people of God, were undeserving of God's love and mercy. In spite of all that God had done for them, they continually and openly rebelled against Him. Yet, while He would have been justified in destroying them for their rebellion, God regularly preserved a remnant of them, so that His divine will could be fulfilled. God would have been fully just had He decided to destroy the entire nation, but He had made a promise to Abraham, and His divine character required that He keep that promise.

As Gentile believers, we stand before God as fully righteous and restored to a right relationship with Him, not because we deserved it or somehow earned it. We weren't trying to keep God's righteous standards, and yet we were shown mercy and received His grace. The Jews spent generations attempting to keep God's righteous law in order to make themselves right before, but failed time and time again. But God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem both Jews and Gentiles. Neither group deserved to be shown mercy. Neither group was worthy of God's grace. "But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)" (Ephesians 2:4-5 NLT). The very fact that God saves any of us should amaze and astound us. Somehow we have mistakenly assumed that God can be good only if He saves ALL. But we fail to remember that God would be fully just and right if He destroyed ALL. All men are deserving of death. All have sinned and fallen short of His glory. All are under a sentence of death. But God, in His mercy, has chosen to redeem some. He has graciously provided a way of escape for a remnant. And rather than rejoice in that amazing display of grace, we mistakenly and ungratefully question His goodness and fairness. And yet, the very fact that the Jews of Jesus' day rejected Him as their Messiah and refused to accept Him as their Savior and as the Son of God, opened up the door so that we as Gentiles might be recipients of the Good News and the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Unfair? Hardly. Difficult to understand? Most certainly. But amazing grace nonetheless. God's ways are not our ways. He is God and He does not need to report to us or explain Himself to us. Like a lump of clay, we are in no position to question the motives or mind of God. "Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?" (Romans 11:33-35 NLT).

Father, while I may not always understand Your ways, I am growing ever more comfortable with them. I still question how and why You do things at times, but I am learning to trust You because You know what You are doing. You are God and I am not. You have a perspective that I do not. What appears as unfair to me, is right, just and holy from Your vantage point. The day will come when I am finally able to see things the way You do. "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity" (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT). In the meantime, give me a growing trust in Your sovereign, divine and holy will. You know what is best and You can be trusted at all times. Amen.