The Wrong Side of the Coin
Rom. 9:14 - ďWhat shall we say then.Ē In light of what God demonstrated to us in His selection of Jacob over his twin Esau. in the womb. In His selection, He clearly favored one over the other without any merit or demerit on the aprt of either one. Do we have the grounds to ask , ďIs there unrighteousness with God? Is God unfair? Certainly not!Ē
We certainly think it often enough donít we? How many times do we ask the question, ďWhy God? Why did you allow this to happen? Why didnít you allow that to happen? And so on. Why God? This is a natural question from the flesh. As long as there is flesh, this question will be asked.
As Christians though, we need to learn not to dwell there, but rather to come at things from a different angle. We need a more positive approach. Our ďwhy GodĒ questions should be centered on His mercy and grace.
Why God? Why have You had mercy on Me? What have I done to deserve to hear and respond to Your call to salvation? What have I done that You should convince Me completely of my sins and then convince me of my complete forgiveness? What have I done that I may spend eternity in heaven instead of hell? Why have You allowed me, a sinner, to have a personal relationship with You?
You see, we need to have the perspective of the new man. Why do we need to look at it this way? Because it is the eternal perspective that matters most, and Paul points us in that direction in the next verse. He doesnít quote God as saying ďI will allow bad things to happen on whom I will allow bad things to happen.Ē No!
ďFor He says to Moses, ďI will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.Ē Yes, bad things have happened, are happening, and will happen in our lives, but thank the Lord, He has had mercy and compassion on us! We have been the recipients of salvation wrought by His divine grace and compassion!
We are the Gentiles spoken of in 1Pe 2:10 who once were not a people (we were fodder without hope, our forefathers from the days of Noah Babel went off on their own way without God, and His Word was lost and so were we ) but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (NKJV)
All these ďwhy God?Ē questions accomplish is to cause us to focus on the wrong thing. These are temporal setbacks, very real sources of pain, but if we are not careful they will draw us away from being thankful for Godís incredible mercy in the thing that really matters, grafting us undeserving sinners onto the vine of salvation.
I have been reading Corrie Ten Booms Prison Letters. I am always amazed at her faith. In solitary confinement, suffering from ill health, she receives the news that her father has passed away. Initially saddened, (hey itís okay to grieve!) but then gladdened as she knew he was with his Savior.
And in spite of her hopeless and helpless plight, she was able to write such things as: ďHow good the Savior is to me! He not only bears my burdens, He carries me too!Ē ďThe Savior is everything to me. Everything I lack, He supplies.Ē ďI am not afraid. The Saviour never leaves me alone.Ē
Well thatís Corrie Ten Boon, she was a super Christian, Iím not! That could be the case for you today, but it doesnít have to be. The same faith and love for her Saviour is available to you and to me, but many times we forget about Godís overriding mercy when we are in the midst of trying circumstances.
If we want the faith of a Corrie Ten Boon, then we must get into Godís Word, and the time to do it, is before the trying circumstances hit. To grow in faith you must feed on faith and you do that in Godís Word.
1Pe 2:1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,
2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (NKJV)
When God spoke these words about mercy and compassion to Moses, the people had just been involved with the infamous Golden Calf incident. He had every right to destroy them because of their idolatry. But He chose to show them mercy.
Then, when Moses asked to see Godís glory, the Lord replied, ďI will make all my goodness pass before thee; and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Godís election, His choices, His will is His glory because it reminds us again, it is all His doing! And His election, His choices, His will are all centered on mercy not judgement!
And the Lord passed before Him and proclaimed, ďThe Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty.Ē (Ex 34:6,7)
Adam Clarkesí Commentary puts it this way: In other words, though I am primarily kind and good, ďknow that I am a debtor to none of my creatures. My benefits and blessings are merely from my own good will: nor can any people, much less a rebellious people, (and thatís what we all are) challenge them as their due in justice or equity.
And therefore I now spare the Jews; not because either you, (Moses) who intercede for them or they themselves have any claim upon my favour, but of my own free and sovereign grace I choose to show them mercy and compassion. I will give my salvation in my own way and on my own terms. He that believeth on my Son Jesus shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.Ē
This is God's ultimate design; this purpose he will never change; and this he has fully declared in the everlasting Gospel. This is the grand DECREE of reprobation and election.Ē By that Clark means that what you and I do with Jn 3:16 is the determining factor in our salvation or damnation.
Joh 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
We can either receive it and have everlasting life, or harden our hearts to it and perish.
As we mentioned last week, God in His great grace and mercy has given us His great gift of salvation through His various means of grace. Itís all His doing, but if we resist His grace and stop trusting in Jesus, we will be lost! Because that is what God has elected to do. He gives us everything we need for salvation, but He never forces it upon us.
V16 - So then it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
It is mercy! Godís mercy alone. There is nothing you and I can do to earn mercy. If we lift but one finger, by definition it is no longer mercy! It is reward! It is something earned. Our salvation is totally based on faith coming to us, not us coming to faith.
Yet, if we abuse His mercy, and despise the gift of faith that He has given us in our baptism, and we continually harden our hearts through the deceitfulness of sin and unbelief, He is more than just and righteous to snuff out the candle of faith that He has placed in us and bring eternal punishment upon us.
I know it has been a long time, but remember the words that Paul spoke at the beginning of this letter?
Ro 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Darkened. No light! Faith snuffed out! Damnation! Was it Godís fault? Is it Godís fault? No. He has been merciful and patient to the max. We bring it on ourselves. Why has He delayed the second coming of Christ? Whatís taking Him so long to come back and judge the earth?
2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (NKJV)
Who knows, in His great mercy and compassion it may be you that He is giving opportunity to repent and turn back to Him by placing your faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, and surrendering your thoughts, words, and deeds, your very life to Him!
V17 - For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ďfor 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.
First of all letís comment on Paul saying, ďFor the Scripture says to the Pharaoh.Ē What does that tell you about Paulís opinion of the Scriptures? He doesnít say ďGod says to Pharaoh, or Moses said to Pharaoh, but ďthe Scripture says to Pharaoh. Scripture speaks for God, or more accurately God speaks through Scripture.
This is the Word of God, it is all God-breathed and donít let anyone tell you differently!
Okay, so Paul brings Pharaoh into the picture at this point. Why Pharaoh? Because he wants to demonstrate the two sides of the coin. Those who receive Godís grace to their salvation and those who resist it to their damnation
And He also wants us to see His overriding character of mercy.
God makes no bones about it. Pharaoh owes his position of power and authority in Egypt to God alone. God raised him up and brought him through the ranks so that Godís power could be put on display. He would use the incidents with Pharaoh to publish His power. But as we have seen when God passed before Moses, His power and his mercy are very closely linked.
Do you doubt Godís mercy in His dealings with Pharaoh? I suppose you could, if you look at the end of Pharaoh. He and his people all lost their first-born sons as the result of Godís actions, and he and his entire army were wiped out when God brought the divided waters of the Red Sea.
down on them That doesnít sound like mercy does it?
But there we go again, in our flesh, looking at the wrong side of the coin. But think about it. How many plagues did God send onto Egypt before He finally judged them? How many wouldíve you sent before you lost your patience? I regard myself as a merciful and patient person, but I gotta tell you, we recently changed our phone service and there was a delay in switching over.
The switch was to take no more than 20 days and it was going on three months. I had corresponded with the company vial e-mail 3 times and called them on the phone once. On the fifth time I e-mailed them and threatened to call the Better Business Bureau.
And donít tell me youíre better at mercy and patience then I am. I wonder how you are in heavy traffic? I wonder how you are when thereís trouble at the service desk, when your car isnít repaired correctly, or when your phone service is down? We canít come close to the mercy and patience of God!
Back to the original question. How many plagues? God sent 10 plagues upon the Egyptians. As Lenskiís commentary states, that is the number of completeness. So we infer that He was completely merciful and completely patient in giving Pharaoh opportunities to repent. But Pharaoh refused and when his refusal was complete, God hardened his heart and did him in.
Too many times we look at the wrong side of the coin. We focus on the bad things that happen and we forget Godís mercy. ďSomeone may say to you, ďHow could you believe in a God who wipes out nation after nation, man, woman, and child in the Old Testament with no mercy?
No Mercy? What about the 400 years he gave those nations to repent? And this same merciful God has the power to wipe out entire nations!!! And He did. Maybe we should ask, how can you not believe!
Lu 12:5 "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! (NKJV)
Someone has rightly said, that Godís mercy is not getting what we deserve and Godís grace is getting what we donít deserve. How true!
V18 - Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
As we mentioned, 10 times Pharaoh hardened himself against God. He steeled himself to His Word spoken through Moses. Have you been steeling yourself to the Word of God? Shunning obedience or putting it off? You are playing with a very dangerous fire.
Letís talk a little bit about hardening of the heart. Theologians speak of the ďstages of hardening.Ē Quite frankly I donít understand all the jargon, but I do know this, the final stage of hardening is call ed the judicial stage and it is final and hopeless. The door to repentance is closed.
Doesnít that scare you just a little bit? Lenski likens it to a door. This door is not slammed shut at the first sign of hardening and resisting of Godís grace. Thank the Lord for that! Oh as I look at my life and the hardening of my own heart in my younger years, what thankfulness I feel that God didnít just slam it shut! I deserved it, but in His mercy he gave me other opportunities.
I tremble when I think of what I was playing with in those days and young people let that be a lesson to you. Donít walk away from your faith, donít get careless with the Word of God and your response to it. Donít think you can come back to it at your whim and fancy. Remember, faith is Godís doing not yours, and you donít know when the door may be finally regrettably, shut for you.
Thankfully, Godís door of mercy closes slowly and gradually. And He is ready to fling it wide open for you at the first sign of repentance on your part. And He does not close it without giving you ample warnings. Being here today and hearing this message is such a warning.
It is only when the warnings are utterly in vain, (and God knows when this is the case) that the door sinks regretfully into itís lock. (Click!)
Eze 33:11 "Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, (the closing of the door of mercy) but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?' (NKJV)
As we have been talking about election, and hardening of the heart. Please donít worry about whether you have been elected or hardened. It is Godís final work, not yours. Donít fret about His secret counsels, but attend to your own plain duties in this matter of salvation.
Nowhere in Scripture are you told as a Gentile that you are not elect, or that you have personally been hardened. But you are told that Jesus died for you and you are invited to come to Him. He says
Eze 18:31 "Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?
32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!" (NKJV), ď
Repent, and believe the Gospel. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find, knock and the door of mercy shall be flung open for you. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out. DO what God says and your salvation shall be sure!
Suppose you were very poor and a rich man were to announce that he was going to give 10,000 dollars to a hundred people whose names no one knew but himself, but at the same time promised that he would give it to everyone who applied for it. Would you say Iím afraid I am not on his favored list, therefore I will not ask for the money?
No! You would say, I donít know if Iím among the hundred or not, but I do know I have been invited and therefore I will go! Do the same respecting your salvation! Do not sit still! Are you a sinner? Then you are invitedĒ, therefore come! It is a faithful saying and worthy to be accepted by all, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!
The invitation is universal, whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. Jesus never said, come unto Me all you who have your names written in the Book of Life, all of you who have not been hardened. He said come unto Me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest!
The door of mercy is still open for you today. If you hear the call of the shepherds voice come and be saved. Donít delay, for one day that God will regrettably close that door and it will be too late. Donít let your heart be hardened! Donít think that be being a good church attending person you will be saved, you must come to Jesus not just to church!