Don't Sass God
(More from Romans 9:)17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?I think I would like to look at the passage where the Scripture speaks to Pharoah. I see the context is in the middle of all the plagues, after the diseased livestock (plague #5) and the boils (plague #6).
But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses. 13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. 17 As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go. 18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. (Exodus 9)
The setting of this is a struggle between two nations. Pharoah of Egypt wants the Israelites to remain his slaves, but Moses has been given the vision to free these people and lead them out of this existence. The Bible says that God "hardened" Pharoah's heart in this matter. God helped him to be set in the course he was going and to stick with his intentions and not waver.
A.:Because God was showing His power to the world.
If Pharoah had let the people go and this struggle between these two leaders (and peoples, respectively) had been short-lived, would it have gotten much press? Certainly not. However, who hasn't heard of this great event? Cecil B. Demille even made a movie about it! The Jews became well known partly because of these events. So what is Paul saying by quoting this? Is he saying that God chose to harden Pharoah's heart so He could send him to everlasting torment for the glory of God? Certainly that is not the point Paul is making. (We don't even know that Pharoah did not repent. He may have. If I remember correctly, we don't know that he died in this struggle, so he could have had a chance for a change of mind and a turn in faith to this God that he had gotten so much exposure to during this struggle.) I think Paul is saying that God has moved in the hearts of men to direct the affairs of this nation of Israel - and other nations - for His glory. He just got done telling us in Romans 9:14-16 about God showing mercy to the people of Israel after these events with Pharoah, whom He hardened (remember - it was Exodus 33 Paul was quoting before he quoted this passage of Exodus 9).
It occurs to me that this is all a very Jewish discussion going on here. I am having to look up many old testament passages and they all seeem to be having to do with the formation and the trevails of this people, Israel. Paul is still talking about that which he brought up in the opening verses of this chapter - the people of Israel and the question of what is God doing with them? - God chose them, but they, as a nation have not received their Messiah. He is answering that. God wants the gospel message to go out to the Gentiles and has a purpose for the Jews being set aside for the time being. God moves in the hearts and affairs of men to accomplish what He wants in this world. He wanted His name to be known, so He hardened Pharoah's heart and He brought this people out with great signs and wonders.
Next we have an objector asking, "Well, why does God still find fault if He hardens and has mercy based on His will to shape history?" Paul answers the objector by telling him not to accuse God of anything unjust. There is no unrighteousness with Him. God is the potter. He is shaping the world and he has different purposes for different peoples. He moves in the leaders' hearts. If some coutries are blessed (like the USA) and others seem to be cursed (like Somalia or Sudan), God has a purpose and a right to make some for honor and others for dishonor and this is done for His sovereign purposes, ruling in the affairs of men. The Pharoahs, Sadaam Husseins, Fidel Castros and the Kim Jong Ils of the world are all going to play into His perfect plan for this planet. If the nation of Israel has had relatively few converts to Christianity, it will all make sense as to why. God knows. We usually don't know the purpose while it is happening, but some day it will all be clear. At the end of the day, God will never, ever appear to be unjust, unloving or unrighteous.