I will have mercy on whom *I* will have mercy


It's a beautiful Sunday morning in October. My window in the study is open and I can feel a very cool 45 deg. breeze coming through. Coffee is brewing. Daughter is asleep. It's a nice relaxing way to start the day.

Over the course of talking to several people about the verses I posted the other day, I have found a lot of emotion attached to the discussion. I have usually felt like the lone one on the side that God meant what he said here - that He chooses whom to have mercy on - whom to love - simply because he chose them - not because of any deed they did. The fact that people have reacted to my ideas so negatively makes me wonder if their view of who God is needs some stretching. I thought it might be good to find some folks in the I-net who hold different views of what this means. Here are the verses:
Romans 9:11-21

11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, . . .
16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. . .
18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. . .

20On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Like John Piper, I believe that one's view of these verses shapes his entire belief system on the
sovereignty of God. He writes about his view when he was younger : "The sovereignty of God meant that he can do anything with me that I give him permission to do." I think that pretty well sums up what many folks believe: God is looking for people who will submit to Him - and when someone agrees to follow Him - he begins working in their lives. However, that doesn't jive with what He says here. God brings about the willing and the doing in the lives of his children. Where does that leave room for my effort?

I am not going to try a deep discussion of these verses. It would take much research and a smarter brain than mine. :) There are many applications to be made - most of which hinge on other chapters in Romans. For the purposes of this blog, I am simply looking at our needing to realize that God is absolutely sovereign - we are not here for our own fulfillment.

My question is - if someone is Esau - someone God chose to hate before they were even born - can that person accept that - accept God's absolute power over the universe and realize he has a role to play in it?

I believe much of the problem people have with these concepts are due partly to a jump in conclusions. For instance, Judas carried out his plan against Jesus after "Satan entered his heart" - doesn't sound to me like Judas had much of a choice - just as Pharoah didn't with the Israelites.

One poster writes:
I have a bit of a problem with this - look at Romans 9 verses 15 to 21. In other words, God hardens people's hearts, but still blames them for doing wrong. When they question the fairness of this, the only defense given is "Who are you, O man, to talk back to God"?

We are created beings. There is no getting around that. As created beings, God created us all for a purpose. Some were created for destruction, others were created for mercy. It is in God’s hands that our fate is decided. Not ours.

The third teaching I have in mind is that God is sovereign; His plan provides for everything, and His purposes cannot be defeated by our sin. You may say, "That's my point." Yes, but you assume that God's sovereignty cannot be reconciled with His love or with man's responsibility. Have you tried reconciling them? I am not saying that the problem is easy, but in fact, theologians over the centuries have suggested a number of different ways in which they might be reconciled. For example, where Paul speaks of God "hardening" a certain person's heart, he may mean that God plans for that person to do what he knows the person would have done in any case. Or he may be using figurative language to say that God leaves some people to their own self-chosen exile. Other solutions have also been proposed. Which solution is best is not the point; the crucial thing is that God's plan somehow provides ahead of time for our response to His grace. If this is difficult to understand, remember, planning means something radically different for God than it does for us. Our planning looks toward a future not yet present, but for Him all moments of time are present at once.

rather long but more scholarly:

“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” This is a common expression in the Bible called by some scholars the idem per idem(SP?). Another example is Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM.” This particular expression does only one thing: preserve the freedom and sovereign rights of the one doing the action in doing the action. The person who “is” is free from any outside determining factors.

So notice what God says about the exercise of his mercy and grace. First, God says, “I will be gracious…and will show mercy.” God will do it and it won’t be thwarted. God will show mercy and grace. Secondly, God says, “…to whom I will be gracious…on whom I will show mercy.” God will decide to give mercy to whoever he chooses. It is up to him. He is not bound by any outside forces that say, “You must show me mercy because I have done…” God does not work that way. God says, “I will have mercy on you because I have so determined to do so.” The same thing with grace. God gives grace to who he does because he has chosen to do so.

So then, for God to give mercy because they have done anything would be out of character, no contrary to his character. God would not be God if he did not sovereignly give mercy and give mercy to those he has determined to receive it. This exercise of mercy is the expression of God’s glorifying his name. But this also incorporates his punitive justice as well. For that is the character of God. God must give his justice and wrath to those whom he wills because that is his name, his glory.

Tying this back to Romans 9. God would indeed be unjust in Paul’s mind to not give mercy on the basis of God’s free will, not man’s. Hence Romans 9:16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” It depends not upon human thelo or wishing, desiring. It depends upon God who has mercy. It depends not upon human trecho, effort or running, but upon God, who has mercy. It is interesting that the term trecho that Paul uses here is used in the LXX reading of Ps. 119:32, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” Paul would have known of this verse and had it in mind when chosing this term for exertion. Paul in this chapter has gone completely counter to his Pharisaical upbrining in favor of a more Essene theology. So it isn’t how religious you are either! What matters is God having mercy, unconditionally, apart from any human effort or thinking/believing/wishing/desiring!

Thus I conclude with Paul in Romans 9:14-16 that God would be unjust if God did not give mercy unconditionally to those whom he has chosen to give mercy. God would dishonor his name by acting out of character. God’s glory would be diminished and that is something God cannot do nor will Paul have us think God would do that. God must act according to his name, other wise he is not Yahweh, the only true God.

Well, I still find folks who are using these verses to explain how much God gives mercy - not dependent upon whether we deserve it or have 'earned' it - which of course we can't. But not much discussion on the other side of the coin - which is just as real. I will choose NOT to have mercy according to my will. Is that just too far outside our warm, cuddly, secure world? Can we step aside for living a ME centered life and put God there - where he belongs?

Alice 10.2007