Believers often struggle with the doctrine of election. It doesn’t seem fair for God to choose to show mercy to some and save them yet allow others to remain in their sin. At first glance, when we look at Pharaoh, it might seem God was unfair to harden him.
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.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. RO 9.17-18
God raised Pharaoh up – made him one of the most powerful men on earth – for his own purpose: to display his power through him that all the earth would hear about it. When Pharaoh repeatedly refused to let Israel go, God sent plague after plague on Egypt and brought Israel out with mighty acts of power which all the nations on earth heard about.
In doing this God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This doesn’t seem just.
When Romans 9:18 says God has mercy on whomever he wills and hardens whomever he wills it means that God is sovereign in his choice of whom to show mercy. BOTH Israel and Pharaoh deserved to be hardened because both had sinned and both had rejected God at times. Israel didn’t deserve mercy any more than Pharaoh did. But God chose to harden Pharaoh and show mercy to Israel. The point Paul is making is that God was not unjust to harden Pharaoh’s heart and show mercy to Israel. In fact, God would not have been unjust to if he had condemned the whole human race to hell, but he sovereignly chose to save multitudes.
Sometimes we tend to focus on God’s judgments and forget his incredible mercy. Yet look at what God says about his vast, vast mercy in Exodus 20:5-6:
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:5-6
The word “thousands” in this passage can be interpreted “to the thousandth generation.”
God’s mercy is unbelievably vast!
Incredible! God restricts his judgments to three or four generations of those who hate him, but pours out his steadfast love on a thousand generations of those who love him. There’s no comparison! God’s mercy is VAST.
This encourages me so much. God is unbelievably long-suffering and patient. Again and again and again he doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. In his mercy he gives those who hate him opportunity after opportunity to repent before bringing judgment. God so longed to show us mercy he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him would have eternal life. And he pours out his mercy on a thousand generations of those he saves, who now love him.
So pray in faith and with great hope for your loved ones, children and grandchildren. Pray that God would show his mercy to a thousand generations and save every one of your descendants till he returns. Ask him to save your brothers and sisters and friends and classmates. God wants to sweep thousands and thousands into his arms and into his kingdom.