IT’S A MYSTERY
“What, then, shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 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.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” Romans 9:14-18.
Now we get to the difficult part. We view God through our human eyes and think that He has no right to do with people whatever He chooses.
Does that mean that God deliberately creates some people to show off His glory by making them wicked and then sending them to hell? The Bible never insinuates that He ever does anything like that. This is the kind of thing a man-made god, capricious and unpredictable like its creator, would do!
We have to see the picture from God’s perspective. Since our forefather Adam decided to disregard God’s instruction and make his own rules, the entire human race has been in a state of rebellion against God, leaving Him no option but to allow the consequences of our rebellion take their course. To be true to His justice, He has to punish sin. His punishment comes in the form of death because death is the result of anything imperfect and corrupt.
God could have left it at that and allowed the entire human race to perish at its own hand. Instead, because of His mercy, He intervened by sending His Son to take the rap for us. Having removed the reason for our punishment, He invites whoever wants to, to receive His mercy and His gift of forgiveness, and get back on track to being restored to His image. With sin and punishment out of the way, those who entrust themselves to Him are in the process of being made holy; that is, being set free from sin to obey God for His purposes and for His glory.
So, where do our rights come into it? As guilty sinners, the only right we ever have is to God’s justice – and that means eternal separation from Him. He put His law into our hearts at conception. Everyone instinctively knows what is right and wrong; and that makes us doubly guilty before God – guilty because we know what is right and guilty because we because we refuse to submit to His authority and choose to do wrong.
How can we question God if He chooses to show mercy to those who respond to His invitation to return to Him, and to reject those who reject Him? Take the case of Pharaoh to which Paul refers. The Biblical record indicates that God gave Pharaoh ten opportunities to listen to His instruction, and release His people, but five times Pharaoh refused.
Every time he refused to obey God, his heart became harder towards Him. It was not God’s fault that Pharaoh would not acknowledge His authority. Pharaoh made his choice and God simply confirmed it by making it impossible to for him change his mind. So, whose fault was it that Egypt was destroyed? God’s fault? No! Pharaoh chose to ignore God’s warnings and take the consequences. And, in so doing, he inadvertently shone the light on God’s power and glory.
Does that mean that our destiny is in our own hands? Yes, in a sense it does, and yet, at the same time, in a way which is beyond our understanding, God miraculously intervenes and rescues us from our own stubborn rejection. Take Paul, for example. He would never have become the apostle he was, had Jesus not confronted him on the Damascus road. He needed that kind of shock treatment to wake him up to the truth.
That is the mercy of God! If left to our own devices, would we ever turn to Him? I don’t think so. Self-will is too deeply entrenched for us to let go easily. The miracle is that some people actually respond to God’s mercy, turn away from their sin and follow the way back to Him. They are the ones who fulfil His will, enjoy His goodness and will experience the fullness of eternal life.
It truly is a mystery – this sovereignty of God!
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