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God’s Authority

He makes what He wants

You will say to me then,
“Why does He still find fault?
For who has resisted His will?”

Romans 9:19

The above questions come in the context of how God used stubborn Israel to show the extent of His mercy and used stubborn Pharaoh to show the greatness of His power. They are questions that someone might ask when confronted with this topic. The first question asks about the justice of condemning Pharaoh for his stubbornness. If God wanted a stubborn man to show His power, and Pharaoh provided the obstinacy God was looking for, then how can God judge Pharaoh for being stubborn? Didn’t Pharaoh ultimately do what God wanted? It seems unjust for God to condemn Pharaoh.  

The second question addresses the level of God’s control. Is it possible for a person to act the opposite of what God wants? With Pharaoh, if God wanted Pharaoh to be stubborn, could Pharaoh do anything else? If Pharaoh could not help being stubborn because such was God’s will, then how can God justly hold him accountable?

Notice how the following verses do not give a direct answer to these questions.

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?”
Does not the potter have power over the clay,
from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Romans 9:20-21

The Lord often used questions not to learn information but to shed light on a topic.  Paul used these questions in the same way. The questions in verse 19 were based on the presupposition that God changed Pharah’s personality.  They assumed that God overrode Pharaoh’s will and made him stubborn so God could display His power. Instead of trying to answer questions based on a false premise, Paul raised new questions that clarified the reality of the situation.

The first question asked if a created being has the right to question his God. It is followed by a second question that clarified the focus of the first question, asking if a created being can question what God has made of him. The third question supplied the answer through the illustration of a potter who made various types of vessels from the same lump of clay. Clearly, the potter had the right to make whatever vessels he desired from a lump of clay. There is nothing wrong with a potter taking some clay and forming part into a beautiful vase and the remainder into a waste bucket. The clay has no right to question what the potter makes from it.

Notice that the potter did not change the substance of the clay to make the different vessels. He did not take some clay, make it lumpy, and then smash it when it did not form into a beautiful vase. No, he took portions of the same clay and used them to make a variety of vessels, some for one purpose and some for other purposes. 

In the same way, God did not change the substance of a man or men to accomplish His purposes. He did not take a man, make him stubborn, then smash him because he would not comply. No, He took from a common group of stubborn mankind and formed two groups, one for showcasing His mercy (Isreal) and one for showcasing His power (Pharaoh). 

Could Pharaoh ask God why He used Pharaoh in unrepentant stubbornness as a vessel for displaying God’s wrath and not as an unrepentant vessel for displaying God’s mercy, like God did for Israel?
  • It is righteous for God to use Pharaoh’s stubbornness to display His wrath and, at the same time, hold Pharaoh accountable for not repenting. 
  • It is righteous for God to use Israel’s stubbornness to display His mercy and, at the same time, hold Isreal accountable for not repenting. 
  • It is righteous for God to use anyone’s stubbornness for any purpose and, at the same time, hold them accountable for not repenting.

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