Romans 9:14-18 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For the scripture said unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore has he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardened.
‘What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?’ These questions are answered with another “God forbid.” There is no unrighteousness with God if He sees the dispositions of two boys and chooses on the basis of what He can foresee in each one. So with God’s present dealings with Israel and the Gentiles. If He sees that Jews will be continually rebelling against Him and the Gentiles will not, can He not act accordingly without unrighteousness? God is not responsible for the acts of Esau or Jacob; Jews or Gentiles. He had to make the choice of Jacob over Esau due to the dispositions and lives of the boys. So now, He has to set aside Israel, due to her ever-increasing rebellion of over 1,800 years. The only thing left for Him to do is to use the Gentiles if they will carry out His program (Matt. 21:33-45).
‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ Here we see that God is sovereign over His mercy. He has laid down His terms of mercy and compassion and will not dispense with either until people meet His terms. He will not save one soul without repentance and continued conformity to His will, nor will He damn one soul that will meet His terms.
‘Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth’ quoted from Exodus 9:16. Here we have an instance of a wicked king resisting God’s will to the point of destruction. At many points in God’s dealings with Pharaoh, the king could have submitted and escaped judgment. But he was too stubborn to do so and therefore God could not do otherwise than punish him for his sins and resistance.
‘Therefore has he mercy on whom he will have mercy’ this is the fourth time that we can conclude that God has been fair in His dealings. God was righteous in choosing: Isaac over Ishmael (9:7-8; Gen. 17:1-27); Jacob over Esau (9:9-13; Gen. 25:1-34); the righteous over the sinners in Israel (9:14-16; Ex. 32:32-33; 33:19); Israel over Pharaoh and the Egyptians (9:17-18; Ex. 7:1-14:31).
Paul next applies all these instances to God’s present dealings with Jews and Gentiles. He concludes that, since it was the only just and righteous thing to do in the above four cases, it is only just and righteous of God to cut off Israel and choose the Gentiles to carry on His program (9:19-11:36).
‘Hardened’ God hardens on the same grounds of showing mercy. If men will accept mercy He will give it to them. If they will not, thus hardening themselves He is only just and righteous in judging them. People are privileged to humble themselves and seek mercy or exalt themselves and refuse mercy. Mercy is the result of a right attitude, and hardening is the result of stubbornness or the wrong attitude toward God. It is like the clay and the wax in the sun. The same sunshine hardens one and softens the other. The responsibility is with the materials, not with the sun. People are more responsible than these materials, for they have wills to make proper choices. The only sense in which God hardened Pharaoh was in giving him the occasion to harden his own heart or obey. Such is the choice all people have to make daily (2Cor. 2:15-17; Ps. 81:11-16).