The Mystery of God’s Mercy

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.

Romans 9:18

Let’s be clear. There is a mystery in God’s story that we will never fully solve. That mystery begins in the fact that God is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), yet doesn’t give his mercy to all people with the same measure. Upon some he lavishes his mercy. With others, he withholds mercy.

Romans 9 refers, in particular, to the example of God’s mercy as seen in the Exodus. He showers his mercy upon Moses and the Israelites, while choosing to harden Pharaoh’s heart. On the surface, this might seem capricious and unfair. But we must remember, first of all, that Pharaoh participated in the hardening of his heart. He was not a victim of divine whim, but someone who chose to reject God’s will.

Moreover, we should know that God’s purpose in hardening Pharaoh’s heart was to display his power and fame throughout the earth (9:17). In other words, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was part of God’s plan to let the whole world know him in truth. God was working through Pharaoh so that all people might see him and ultimately be drawn to him. We will never know for sure why God chose to harden rather than soften Pharaoh’s heart. But our trust in God’s goodness allows us to live with this mystery.

Moreover, God chooses to show mercy according to his own will, and this fact reminds us to be grateful for what we have received. God hasn’t showered his mercy upon us because we deserved it, but because of his inscrutable grace.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you understand the mystery of God’s mercy? When have you received mercy from God, knowing full well that you did not deserve it?

PRAYER: O Lord, there is much here that I don’t quite understand. Of course, I love the part about your showing mercy to those whom you choose. But, I must confess, there’s a big part of me that wishes you had found a way to soften Pharaoh’s heart. I could rewrite the whole Exodus with a big Hollywood finish, a love fest between the Egyptians and the Israelites rather than a terrible confrontation.

But, sovereign Lord, I acknowledge that your ways are the best, even when I don’t fully understand them, or even when I don’t necessarily like them. You know what you’re doing. You care about this creation and all of its inhabitants far more than I do. Your plan, to unite all things in Christ as you renew creation, is being worked out according to your matchless wisdom. Help me, Lord, to grow in my understanding of who you really are, and to grow in my ability to let you be God, even when I don’t fully understand you.

Finally, I must thank you for being merciful to me. You have been good to me in so many ways, and I freely acknowledge that I have not earned such goodness. For your mercy and love, I give you thanks and praise. In the name of Jesus, Amen.