Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 20, 2018
Let us begin this morning by reciting our May memory verse, Romans 9:15-16, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
This morning we will be unpacking our memory verse, which I hope will assist in internalizing these Words of God. The one thing we must guard against when it comes to memorizing Scripture is that it does not become robotic and therefore vanity. We want to know in a personal and intimate way, the truth and the substance about these verses. Just as Moses said to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 32:47, “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life.”
As I mentioned last week, Romans 9 is a difficult chapter in the Bible. In fact, it might be the most difficult. And the reason it is so difficult is two fold: 1) we are finite and God is infinite and 2) We are sinners. The things in Romans 9 are the deeps things of God and these deep things of God are at times difficult for us to wrap our puny little minds around. As God says in Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We have a tendency to reject what we don’t understand. And this is partially why so many people reject the explicit and obvious truths we find in Romans 9.
Second, as I said, we are sinners. The essence of sin is to fall short of God’s glory. We saw this in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” To be a sinner means to not obtain the glorious realities of God. We also saw this in Romans 1:22,” Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” This sin causes us to miss God’s glory. It causes us to turn away from God’s glory. It causes us to twist God’s glory.
And I would argue this morning that Romans 9 is the pinnacle of God’s glory, and because of sin that still clings to Christians, many of us ignore it, argue with it, or all out reject it. This morning, I hope that all of us would cast off that sin and embrace the marvelous truth found in the depths of Romans 9.
In fact, I want us to think about Romans 9 as if it is the Arkenstone. In JRR Tolkien’s book the Hobbit, there is a place called the Lonely Mountain, and this Mountain was the home of the Dwarf-Kingdom. And the dwarfs loved to mine the depths of this mountain. Day after day, week after week, year after year, the dwarfs would labor endless hours chipping away at the Mountain and then one day they discovered deep inside the Mountain the Arkenstone. The Arkenstone was a beautiful and glorious jewel with no equal. It was considered the very heart of the mountain and it was the dwarves greatest treasure.
Our Lonely Mountain today is Romans 9, and our Arkenstone is the glory of God found in this verses. So let us mine God’s Word this morning and behold God’s glory. Let us stand in honor of the reading of the perfect Word of God.
Now in Romans 9 the questions switches to, what about the Jews? Generally speaking, most of the Jews had rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Yes, some believed, but not a majority. Where they Jews no longer God’s chosen? Have the promises that were given to Israel now void? Has God pulled a bait and switch? Is the OT just a bunch of half-truths that cannot be trusted? Last week, we unpacked these questions in verses 6-13 and we saw the simple answer that not all of Israel are Israel. Meaning salvation is not based on biology, salvation is based on the purpose of God’s election. Therefore the promises to Israel found in the Old Testament were for spiritual Israel, not Physical Israel. God is the one who chooses who will receive his covenant blessings, not man. Salvation is ultimately based upon the will of God, not the will of man.
What Shall We Say?
This then leads us to verse 14, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” This is a natural response to what Paul has just taught. What injustice is Paul talking about? He is talking about what we commonly call fairness. It is something parents deal with all the time with your children. One child receives something, the other child wants it and when you say no, they respond with “That is not fair!” This is the accusation that is being made against God in verse 14. God's gift of election of one person over another person for salvation causes people to say, “That is not fair!”
To that question of God’s potential injustice, Paul responds emphatically with “By no means.” Other translations of that Greek phrase say, “Not at all”, “May it never be”, and “God forbid”. With this phrase, Paul is emphasizing that accusing God of being unfair, or unjust, is incomprehensible.
I Will Have Mercy on Whom I Have Mercy
However Paul does not just denounce such nonsense, he explains why it is nonsense. And here is when we start digging for the Arkenstone. Look at Verse 15, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Notice how verse 15 begin with the word “for”. This is the foundation, or the why, that holds up God’s justice in determining whom he saves and who he does not save.
As you can tell, verse 15 is a quote from the Old Testament, specifically Exodus 33:19. I want all of us to look at this passage together, so please turn with me to Exodus 33. As you are turning their, let me tell you the context of Exodus 33. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that Pharaoh let the Jews go out in the wilderness and worship God. Pharaoh refused and God brought ten distinct plagues on the people of Egypt. The last one was to kill the firstborn son of every family, except those who put the blood of a lamb on their door-frame. After that event, Pharaoh released the Jews and Israel for the first time became an independent nation State, with God as their King.
Now the problem is that Israel was as sinful as the Egyptians. They continuously rebelled against their God. We can actually see this in Exodus 33:3 when God tells Moses, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
Now to this statement, Israel and Moses were deeply concerned to the point that Moses said in Exodus 33:15, ““If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16For 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?” Moses position was that if you don’t come with us, then we will not go; for to be your people is to have you with us. If you are not with us, then we will be no different the rest of the world.
God accepted this argument from Moses and agreed to go with Israel. Now, we must realize that this was always the plan of God, but as he interacts with man, he must engage as if it is a give and take, for the purposes of revealing himself to His people, including us.
Show Me Your Glory
With that background, let us turn our attention to Exodus 33:18, “Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” Remember the presence of God is the issue at hand, and Moses, in response to this discussion says, I want to see you. I want to see your presence, I want to see your glory, the weight of who you are. Moses did not realize how dangerous of a request this is, for God says that you can’t see my face and live. Why? Because that is how Holy God is and how sinful man is, Moses included.
Having said that, God is still willing to entertain Moses’s request to see God’s glory, so what does God do? Verse 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.”
So God in responding to Moses request to see his glory, says I will have all my goodness pass before you. Therefore God’s glory is God’s goodness. Having said this, while his goodness is passing, Moses is not allowed to see it, so instead of seeing it, God is going to speak it. First he is going to proclaim His name and second he proclaims “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” So God’s glory is wrapped up in his name, and having mercy upon whom he chooses.
I Am Who I Am
So let’s start with his name. What is God’s name? Here it is translated to “the Lord” In the ESV it is all caps, which means that it is the word Yah-weh. This name of the Lord Yah-Weh originates in Exodus 3 when God speaks to Moses at the Burning bush. Exodus 3:13 says, “Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
This name of God, this summary of God, ““I AM WHO I AM” is a statement of God’s Sovereignty. It is a statement that describes God as ultimately free. There is no power or force or being or purpose that is higher than God. He is self-determining. In fact, God is the only being that exists that is self-determining. All other creation is who it is because of an external power.
And when God is going to display his glory to Moses, he is going to declare his Sovereign name as he passes by Moses. Therefore, God's sovereignty is one fundamental component to seeing God's glory.
Mercy Upon Whom I Have Mercy
But that is not all that God is going to proclaim. In addition to his name, he is going to declare, “And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” What does God mean by this statement?
This statement is in the context of God's decision of not consuming, or destroying the people of Israel. God is declaring that if he wants to show mercy upon Israel he will do so. On what basis? On no basis other than his Sovereign will. God's grace and God's mercy towards the stiff necked people of Israel is not dependent upon Israel in any way shape or form. His grace is sovereign grace. It is given freely to whomever God chooses to give it. And this is what God is declaring as he passes by Moses. This is God's answer to Moses' request to see God's glory.
Which means that the glory of God, is best displayed and seen in a Sovereign God freely giving sovereign grace towards towards wretched sinners whom he chooses solely based upon His independent Sovereign will. This is the core of God's glory, the pinnacle of God's glory is his ultimately free decision to save sinners from his righteous wrath. Romans 9:16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. “
This reality, this truth, that God's glory is best displayed by his sovereign grace is like a key that unlocks the answers to the deepest questions. Remember that God created for one purpose and one purpose only, to display his glory. How is his glory best displayed? By applying his sovereign grace to sinners. So why did God allow the fall of man? Why did he allow sin to come into the world and make a mess out of everything? So that he could display his glorious grace through the salvation of his elect through his Son. Without sin, there is no wrath. Without wrath there is no need for mercy. Without mercy we cannot behold God's glory.
The ultimate purpose of your salvation is not to bring you eternal happiness. The ultimate purpose of your salvation is to display the glory of God through the abundance of mercy that was freely given to you by a Sovereign God. So is this decision of God to create a Universe whereby his Glory can best be displayed an injustice? IS it unfair? God forbid! Without the truth in Roman's 9 we would never gaze upon the Arkenstone of God. We would never see His glory. And I do not want to live in a Universe void of God's glory.
God Hardens Who He Wills
However that is not the only way God displays glory. There is another necessary side of God's sovereignty. Verse 18 says, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” Therefore, not only does God choose whom will receive his mercy, he also chooses whom he will harden. What does this mean to harden a person?
In our text Paul gives us an example of Pharaoh. The story involving Pharaoh is also found in the book of Exodus. In the Exodus story of Moses going to Pharaoh to demand that he lets God's people go, three times God declares that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 14:4); Six times God actually hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1; 10:20; 10:27; 11:10; 14:8); Seven times the hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God is implied. (Ex. 7:13; 7:14; 7:22; 8:19; 9:7; 9:35; 14:5).
Why would God do this? Why would God harden Pharaoh's heart? What is God's purpose? God's purpose is always the same, for his glory. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart for his glory. Look at Verse 17 in Romans 9, “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.” The hardening was to show, or display, God's power.
We know how the story of Pharaoh ends. His kingdom, Egypt, was utterly decimated, destroyed in almost every way possible: Water into blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, the death of every firstborn, the plundering of their wealth, and the army of Egypt completely annihilated by the rushing of the Red Sea. Pharaoh himself being one of the thousands who was crushed by the weight of the water.
God's glory was displayed through his powerful acts of judgment directed at Pharaoh and at Egypt. This glory was so great that 40 years later when Israel finally crossed the Jordan River to invade Jericho, the prostitute Rahab said in Joshua 2:9, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt,” It was the glory of God on display through his wrath that swept across the world.
Therefore the glory of God is displayed through his powerful judgment upon sinners and his sovereign grace. If you want to behold the glory of God you must gaze upon his sovereign wrath and his sovereign mercy. If you refuse to accept these doctrines than you are turning from seeing the one true God in all his splendor. IN fact, if you refuse to accept these fundamental attributes of God you have created a false God, and idol, and you should repent and worship the one true God is all of his glory.
It is not an accident that Satan attempts to undermine these doctrines within the Church. It si not an accident that Romans 9 has become the Church's Lonely Mountain. The great Dragon of Satan is guarding the treasure that can be found inside. Satan hates God's glory. He wants anyone but God to receive the praise that is due his name. This is why the Church is full of people who refuse to accept a God who hardens for the purpose of destroying and refuse to accept that it is God who elects who shall receive his grace. Verse 16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. “ Praise be to God!