Romans 9 v 14-24 God’s glorious mercy

Read Romans 9 v 14 - 24

Last Lord’s day morning we looked a God’s choice of His people from both Jews and Non Jews. People who are Jews have been blessed with salvation; and people who are Gentiles, that is non Jews have also be saved by God’s grace. We have seen that it is not through any merit that such people have. They are not rewarded for any righteousness that they have. They have not been granted eternal life because there is something special in them.

We saw that it is only through God’s Superlative Wisdom that anyone is saved at all. For before the foundation of the world, before He had even spoken this world into existence, the Lord God determined who should be saved; who should believe on His Son the Lord Jesus Christ and have everlasting life.

Superlative Wisdom - wisdom that is not known by any human being that has ever lived - except Christ Jesus the Man Himself, who is also God incarnate.

Today our focus is on God’s Sovereign Will. God is under no obligation to explain His ways and His choices to men. He is sovereign and can do exactly as he pleases. Since He is God everything that he does is right and nothing that God does can be legitimately questioned by men who are His creatures. Men and women are creatures made in god’s image but who are limited in intelligence and knowledge. We all feel that don't we? We are limited also in our moral and spiritual capabilities - because these have been seriously impaired by sin. We have sinned and come short of the glory of God - that is the glorious standard that is required of us - perfection and holiness. We are made in God’s image but we do not behave like God. We have even been given a pattern, a standard with which to measure ourselves - the perfect man of God and Son of Man - the Man Jesus Christ who was perfect in all His ways - physically, morally and spiritually. No fault could be found with Him - even His enemies admitted that!

But wee come no where near His perfection do we. We are sinners, those who have broken his laws and in the process offended Him and incurred His wrath!

So Paul seeks to show us an aspect of God’s sovereignty - that of showing mercy on one hand, and on punishing rebellion on another.

1. He shows us His sovereignty in PARDONING ISRAEL. Over the centuries Israel had erred from God’s ways. Verses 14 - 15 shows how God showed mercy and pardon.

2. Secondly He shows us God’s sovereignty in PUNISHING PHARAOH. Pharaoh was the King of Egypt who enslaved the people of Israel and refused to let them go when God commanded that they should leave. Verses 16 - 18 demonstrates God’s punishment of this wicked man.

1. God’s sovereignty in pardoning Israel.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

This first illustration is drawn from Israel’s rebellion in the desert. It was only as matter of a few days after that the Law was given to Moses on tables of stone. As he came down from Mount Sinai he discovered that the people had turned from the Lord - we can use the word APOSTATISED - and they made a golden calf and were worshipping it with wild and immoral celebrations. It is recorded in Exodus 32. Moses smashed the tables of stone in anger and then took the golden calf, ground it into powdered gold, mixed it with water and forced the rebellious nation to drink it. Then the great challenge came from Moses’ lips - Who is on the Lord’s side? What a question. Perhaps I can ask you this morning. Are you on God’s side? Have you left the world of sin and selfishness and gone over to the side of holiness and righteousness? Have you trusted the Lord for forgiveness and pardon for your sin?

Sadly only the tribe of Levi responded to Moses and they had the task of executing the rebel ringleaders. Then Moses went to kneel before the Lord God in prayer - interceding for the rest of the people with an impassioned prayer. It was similar to Paul’s agony of soul for his people that we considered 2 weeks ago from the beginning of this 9th chapter. How fierce was the Lord’s anger against His people. He said that he would withdraw Himself from leading the people and instead send an angel. Once again Moses pleaded with God and the Lord answered with words that Paul now quotes to illustrate sovereignty - that God is ready to exercise His divine will by pardoning His people. InExodus 33 we find these words -

and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

This verse is quoted in verse 15. And to further explain it Paul says next -

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

What is he saying? That God showed mercy on Israel. The whole nation had by their rebellion forfeited all right to blessing - yet God showed them mercy. We need then to see that God’s Sovereignty does not exclude His mercy. That any one of us come anywhere near God’s mercy and pardon, is all of His sovereign will and that alone.

Has God shown mercy to you yet, my friend? Have you recognised His goodness? The truth is that you can know in your head about the mercy of God, but never come into the experience of receiving it! You can read God’s word and see it clearly written that God is merciful; you can read the Psalms, and the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles such as is in this verse in Romans - but it can mean nothing to you. Here it is in your open Bible this morning -

and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy

; it is in black and white - your eyes can read it - but have you received it? Do you desire God’s mercy? Come on - be honest - does having God’s mercy fill your heart with an anxious desire to have it? Or are these mere religious terms that have no relevance to you? Through His Son the Lord Jesus dying on the cross, the Sovereign Lord God has demonstrated how merciful He is. How? By punishing the sins of His people in the suffering and death of His dearly loved son Jesus Christ. He bore the sin and shame that sinners like us deserve. That is how God shows mercy. Do you believe it my friend?

Do you know I think I know why some here today do not know this blessed mercy. It is in the second illustration of Paul in this passage.

2. God’s sovereignty in punishing Pharaoh.

Seer what Paul says -

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18  Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

We are told about a hard heart next. And you need to listen to this illustration and ask yourself, What about my heart? If I have not received mercy is it because my heart is hardened to God’s Mercy? Is it possible to have a hard heart my friend? O yes it is! Some of your hearts are hard - or else you would have received the good news of the Gospel and it would have transformed your lives - and you would have no doubt that you are saved.

Who was this man Pharaoh who had a hard heart?

He was the King of Egypt. The historical account of God’s dealings with this man is in the first 14 chapters of the OT book of Exodus. In those chapters recording the way that Pharaoh resisted strongly the release of the Israelite people from Egypt and their slavery, we find a term coming up over and over again.

HARDENING.

20 times in the space of several Chapters 3 different words for hardened are in the text.

Please turn to Exodus chapter 7 - and we will look at several texts in these early chapters of Exodus.

An example of each of the three are in these verses -

1. Exodus 7 v 3 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.

This Hebrew word means to make hard or insensible.

2. Exodus 10 v 1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:

This second Hebrew word means to make heavy and unimpressionable - you can’ get through.

3. Exodus 14 v 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.

The third Hebrew word means to make firm or stiff and so become immovable.

Even though these 3 texts speak of God hardening the heart of Pharaoh the 3 words also occur in texts that describe Pharaoh hardening his own heart. 10 texts speak of Pharaoh hardening his own heart.

Ten texts refer to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. One example is this

Exodus 8 v 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Let us see how this worked out.

Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh in his court and Aaron demonstrated his divine commission by his rod being turned into a serpent and back again. The Egyptian magicians did the same - but Aaron’s serpent swallowed up the magicians serpents and then turned back to a rod.

Was Pharaoh impressed?

Not a bit -

Exodus 7 v 14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

Pharaoh himself hardened his heart - it was hard, heavy and firm and resistive to the supernatural sign from the Lord God.

Similarly after each of the first 5 plagues the hardening of heart is expressly attributed to Pharaoh himself.

It was not until the 6th plague that we read that

“the Lord made firm (hardened) the heart of Pharaoh” Exodus 9 v 12.

Nevertheless all through this process the Lord God left Pharaoh room to repent of his hardness and agree to let Israel go. Until we get to

Exodus 9 v 34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

We should not fail to notice my friends that there was a progress of Pharaoh’s own hardening of his heart. In the end his sin of resisting the will of God became ripe for judgment. He resisted the demands of Moses - but also step by step God’s hand became more and more clear. Indeed after the 7th plague Pharaoh at last began to acknowledge his sin and wrong -

Exodus 9 v 27 And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.

He promised to let Israel go.

Verse 28 and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.

Yet once that plague of hail and thunder had ceased he once more hardened his heart -

v 35 - And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

Taking then into consideration Pharaoh’s deliberate hardening of his own heart, it is not surprising then that the Sovereign Lord showed His Divine judgement. And what was that judgment? That God himself hardened the Pharaoh’s heart - having had 10 opportunities to repent and obey - now - even if he wanted to soften his heart in repentance - he would not have able to!

That is shocking is it not?

But Pharaoh had shown such pride and disregard of Almighty God that he was now publicly hardened in his heart by God Himself.

This is Paul’s point in Romans - let us come back to the passage -

Romans 9 v 17  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Now my friends do you think that God is cruel, unkind and arbitrary in having mercy on some ands hardening others? Paul says that God is not! Look how Paul puts it here -

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

What is clear is this.

God does not create people in order to damn them.

However when people behave like Pharaoh, God deals with them in such a way that the inbred wickedness in their hearts reveals itself - and they become fit objects for His punishment.

And we turn from Pharaoh’s hard heart in order to think about YOUR hard heart. No, you are not the King of Egypt - but you have a heart like the King of Egypt. His heart was no different to yours as an unconverted person.

You may say, My heart is not hard. I believe in God. I have lived a good life. I have read the Bible many times. God cannot treat me as He treated Pharaoh.

But ask yourself my friend - are there not many times in your life when you have deliberately ignored God’s commands and gone your own way? Are there not aspects of your life today, which is under the observation of almighty God, that clearly shows that your heart is hard? You come to church - but there is very little that gets through to your heart or mind. You hear of Jesus Christ as the sinners Saviour - but you have convinced yourself that you are alright, at least no worse than any one else.

Is your repentance real and genuine? Pharaoh tried - but failed. He had become so hard that it was impossible for him to be brought back from destruction.

Are you in danger of this my friend? You perhaps have uttered a sinner’s prayer in the past - you have become exercised with your sin - and you have had remorse and regret for what you have done.

But that has not given you the deep sense of forgiveness that you have desired. And so you have continued in life - with a veneer of religion - and a form of godliness - but it is all on the outside.

But your heart is on the inside - and people around you, even your nearest and dearest cannot see how hard your heart has become.

Oh you have tried to talk to God about it - but you never seem able to get through. Have you gone too far? Has your hardening of heart with regard to the Gospel been so severe that the Lord has now decreed that He will harden that heart of yours?

I am fearful that this may be the case for you! Is the outlook bleak as it was for Pharaoh? Do you face an eternity of punishment because you have hardened your heart and God has completed the process?

If you are moved this morning by this serious message then take it as God’s word to your heart. Don't dismiss it. Don't think that you are alright when you are not.

And when you reach that point if honesty before God - then go to Him - and plead His mercy! On what basis can you do that? On the basis of God’s word - verse 18

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy,

O God - have mercy upon me a sinner! Oh God my heart is so hard - please do not make it any harder so that I cannot come to Thee! I come Lord Jesus - Thou dost know the state of my heart! But I come for mercy. I do not deserve it - but yet I come! I confess my hardness - please Lord soften my heart - let me see the truth of Thy Gospel - how Jesus shed His blood on the cross for sinners like me. I do not wish to resist Thee with this hard heart any longer - so I come to Thee.

This is how to come, my friend. Are you ready?

Or will you say I don't need this! Who is God? Who is Jehovah that I have to yield my heart?

That is what Pharaoh said - and he is in hell and his hard heart with him.

Take this message from God’s word very seriously my friend - let God speak deeply to your hard heart to call you to repentance. But beware of the alternative - he has the power to further harden your heart so that you may never come - and he will be entitled to judge you! May it not be so for any here today. Amen!


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