You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:19-24 ESV
This is such an emotionally charged text that I have been putting off delving into it for some time. Paul answers the questioning from skeptics of this sort of understanding of salvation with heavy-handed criticism. The exact opposite way I’ve been taught is pastorally acceptable. “Who are you, piece of clay, to tell the potter how to do things?”
He then offers up a potential reason God would have things this way; why he would create some people for mercy and some people for destruction. “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
I have to keep this short, and it won’t do the passage justice. But here’s what was revealed to me this morning.
Paul starts with some right assumptions:
A, no one is worthy of saving. He didn’t say “vessels of good” and “vessels of evil” or “clean vessels” and “dirty vessels”. He said “vessels of wrath” and “vessels of mercy”, neither of which deserve mercy, as is the nature of mercy.
B, God desires to reveal all of his character to the vessels of mercy. Not just his mercy.
So what if God, in an effort to reveal his wrath and power, patiently endured not only the vessels of mercy, but also the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to show the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy prepared for glory?
God is showing us much of his character, even fault in our own character, through how he deals with those vessels destined for destruction. He endures their enmity and wrath against him for so long, and so patiently, that it puts us to shame when I think I’m doing a great job of showing patience and grace to them. God will always have more love and grace for the lost than I will.
When I am wronged, I immediately want to get even. I don’t want a moment to go by without vengeance, retribution, or a leveling of the scales. And no one has ever wronged me near to the extent I’ve wronged God, to the point of taking his Son’s life. And yet his patience still continues through the ages.
God, I don’t have categories for the mercy you have for me. Even the mercy you show toward people who are not on a path to repentance, and therefore mercy.
I’ve tried not to think of the fact that there are people walking around who are predestined for wrath, because I thought, “Surely there’s no glory of God to be beheld there.” This passage has corrected me. Beholding your mercy for everyone on this earth convicts my heart that my mercy is nothing like yours. I have such a long way to go before I can love people at enmity with me the way that you have through the ages. I’m in awe of your mercy this morning, beheld through the way you forbear lost people.
This post is part of my Weekly REAP series. I’m posting these from my personal journal to share what God is teaching me, and to give some practical examples of the REAP method. I didn’t write any of these with publishing in mind, so forgive me if they don’t always wax eloquent. Here is some more information on the REAP study method.