Tag Archives: moses

Romans 9:14-18 – God Is Arbitrary and Unjust?

lady-liberty-scales-of-justice-h-1000

 

Introduction:

Last week we saw that Paul began to address a serious question.

  • Why had God’s chosen people rejected their Messiah?
  • An issue he was in deep lament over (vss. 1-5).

 

One answer he gave to this question was simple enough.

  • it is not as though the word of God has failed” (vs. 6)

 

His second answer, however, was a more complicated answer.

  • in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (vs. 11)
  • We paraphrased this – “God’s plan of choosing” – to help us out a bit.

 

We saw that Paul didn’t actually tell us what he meant by this…not yet.

  • Though he did give us a clue with an allusion to Malachi’s Esau text.
  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’

 

What he did do is begin to build the foundation for fleshing out this answer.

  • And what was the foundation Paul laid?

 

God is a God who chooses to suit his purposes.

  • His choices are not arbitrary.
  • God chose to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not the God of Abraham, Ishmael and Esau.

 

And the results of His choices are corporate in scope:

  • There are children of the flesh.
  • And within them are children of the promise.

 

 

Another Controversy:

This foundation leads to another set of problems.

  • All of which Paul wants to address before he gets back to his main point.
  • So Paul takes a rabbit trail to address them.

 

However, we will see that Paul’s rabbit trail does curve back into verse 11.

  • “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue”

 

The perceived problem raised by God’s seemingly arbitrary choices is this:

  • A God who chooses the “children of promise” based on His own plan and purpose…
  • And not based on their ethnic status as God’s chosen…
  • Or their supposedly righteous spiritual status…
  • Must be an unfair and unjust God.

 

Remember, Paul was sure to tell us last week…

  • though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad” (vs. 11)…
  • God chose and loved Isaac, but He rejected and disfavored Esau.
  • Even though both were ethnic Jews…
  • And neither had any spiritual standing at all in terms of obedience and disobedience.

 

This is why he exclaims in verse 14:

  • What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!

 

So now we need to chase after Paul and see where he is going.

  • We need to find out why there is no “injustice on God’s part”.
  • We need to find out why the foundation Paul laid in vss. 6-13 is secure.
  • As with last week – Paul takes us back to the OT to make his point.

 

 

Moses and Exodus 33:

The first place Paul goes in verse 15 of Romans 9 is Exodus 33.

  • For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

 

To get an idea of what is going on here, we need to look at a bigger chunk of Paul’s citation from Exodus.

  • Exodus 33:12–19 (ESV) — 15 And he [Moses] said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

 

This text takes place after Israel’s rebellion at Sinai.

  • They had built the Golden Calf and God set a plague upon them.
  • The text Paul alludes to deals with Moses’ intercession on behalf of a rebellious Israel.
  • God had declared to Moses – “I will not go up among you” (33:3).

 

Moses pleads with God.

  • You have to go with us.
  • How else will “it be known” that the Israelites have “found favor in your sight”? (vs. 16)

 

He presses the point.

  • Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (vs. 16)

 

In other words…

  • The nations will know that Israel is God’s inheritance, His people…
  • Because of His presence and action on their behalf.

 

God apparently relents.

  • This very thing that you have spoken I will do” (vs. 17)

 

God then went on to tell Moses:

  • I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. (vs. 19)

 

This statement is made in response to Moses’ intercession for a rebellious Israel.

  • God makes clear that because He is “The LORD”…
  • It is entirely His prerogative to extend grace and mercy as it suits Him.

 

Israel – God’s chosen – have failed in their believing loyalty to Yahweh.

  • They deserve nothing.

 

God can justly handle them how he chooses.

  • He can abandon them for their disobedience.

 

Or He can show mercy out of deference to the covenant with Abraham.

  • His decision – take them “to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’(33:3)

 

This is why Paul can argue that this passage answers his question…

  • “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means.” (vs. 14)

 

Because of Israel’s failure in the believing loyalty department – and thus their guilt…

  • God’s “purpose of election”, his “plan of choosing” will always be…
  • Dependent, “…not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (vs. 16)

 

In other words,

  • If God is just to choose Israel and bring them out of Egypt to begin with.
    • To make them His inheritance.
  • God is just to either to judge them for their disloyalty or show them mercy.
  • However God wants to work out His plan with Israel – His actions are just.

 

But just in case you are still not convinced of this.

  • Paul takes us to Exodus 9.

 

 

Pharaoh and Exodus 9:

The second place Paul takes us in verse 17 is Exodus 9.

  • For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

 

As before, we need to look at the whole passage.

  • Exodus 9:13–16 (ESV) — 13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

The context of this passage was the seventh plague of the nine that God had set upon Egypt.

  • Once again, God sent Moses to Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me”. (vs. 13)

 

But God added a new wrinkle for Moses to disclose.

  • The coming plagues will be upon Pharaoh himself, “on your yourself, and on your servants and your people”. (vs. 14)

 

God’s reason for this is that:

  • Pharaoh, “may know that there is none like me in all the earth” (vs. 14)
  • The plagues against the crops, rivers and animals apparently didn’t have the desired affect.
  • This is fodder for a theodicy!

 

In fact, God’s disclosure of this new twist prompts Him to let Pharaoh know something surprising.

  • God had thus far had mercy on Pharaoh – a hardened, Gentile persecutor of God’s own people.

 

This is made clear in verse 15.

  • For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.

 

So God didn’t strike Pharaoh down – not yet anyway.

  • Why?

 

It wasn’t an arbitrary, unjust decision.

  • In fact, God had a very good reason.
  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (vs. 16)

 

God had used Pharaoh’s hardness and position…

  • To demonstrate to all of Egypt His power over creation.

 

This declaration is hugely significant for Paul’s purposes.

  • God has the right show His mercy to anyone He chooses.
  • Even a hardened, Gentile persecutor of God’s very own people.
  • And He does so based on his purpose of election.

 

How can God act this way?

  • Because God’s people are such by God’s own choice, purpose and plan.
  • They are not as such because they are “better” people than the Gentiles.
  • They are not as such because they don’t have hardened hearts.

 

Paul says as much in his conclusion of this Exodus story in Romans 9:18:

  • So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” (vs. 18)

 

This is why Paul can allude to this passage as an answer to his question in vs. 14:

  • “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means.” (vs. 14)

 

Why?

  • Because, the thing that is driving God’s choices is not the worthiness or unworthiness of any peoples.
  • Jew or Egyptian.
  • It is God’s “purpose of election” or “plan of choosing”.

 

And in the Pharaoh example, we get a glimpse of exactly what this purpose or plan might be:

  • so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

 

Pharaoh was hardened and received mercy during this hardening…for a time.

  • This was so that God could accomplish His purposes.

 

It just so happens that God’s choosing to then withhold His mercy on Pharaoh…

  • Eventually benefited the Israelites.
  • But, it doesn’t always have to be this way.

 

 

Conclusion:

So God’s plan of choosing does not mean He is unjust.

  • It means He is God – He is creator.
  • It means God chooses based on his plan and purposes.
  • And these don’t always have to line up with Israel’s well being.

 

Again, Paul still hasn’t fleshed out exactly what God’s purpose of election or plan of choosing is.

  • Remember, he has taken a rabbit trail that trailed off of the foundation he laid last week.

 

But, like last week, we get another clue about this purpose and plan…

  • Remember – Paul is ultimately trying to explain why the Jews rejected their very own Messiah.
  • His answer is wrapped up in God’s purpose of election – His plan of choosing.

 

Last week we encountered this clue:

  • Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’” – Malachi 1:5.

 

This week we encountered this clue:

  • But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

It seems God desires to make Himself known.

  • It seems God desires to draw people to himself.

 

If this is a clue to what God’s purpose and plan might be…

  • It has an obvious Jesus connection…
  • Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV) — 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.