Romans: Day 23

God’s Mercy and Compassion

by

Today's Text: Romans 9:1-19, Exodus 32:30-32, Ephesians 1:3-6

Scripture Reading: Romans 9:1-19, Exodus 32:30-32, Ephesians 1:3-6

You’ve probably been there—that terrible moment when you feel like you’re watching a train about to wreck. Your roommate chooses to stay in a toxic relationship. Your child makes a series of self-destructive decisions. Your brother or sister persists in a state of total denial. Your friend walks away from God.

Helplessness is a special kind of agony, especially when it comes to our loved ones. This is the agony Paul expresses in Romans 9 about the choices of Israel. Having had his eyes opened to the light of the gospel, Paul realizes with great anguish that many of his people—God’s people—have not awakened to the good news of Jesus Christ. Theologian N. T. Wright describes Paul’s reaction this way: “[Paul] was like someone driving in convoy who takes a particular turn in the road and then watches in horror as most of the other cars take the other fork.”

Paul’s sorrow is so great that he would rather take their place: “I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the benefit of my brothers and sisters” (v.3). This chapter, then, is not a cold, calculating explanation of Israel’s history and fate. Instead, Paul is wrestling with the mysterious ways of God, and he doesn’t arrive at many neat and tidy conclusions.

In Romans 9, Paul engages some complex theological questions, but if we zoom in a bit and look at his heart, we might recognize our own. Most of us have walked in Paul’s shoes—grieving the rebellion, blindness, or self-destruction of someone we love. From Paul’s own wrestling with heartache, we can discern two spiritual principles:

1. None of us can boast. None of us stands on moral high ground. God’s grace was not extended to us on the basis of human merit, but divine mercy. That is the principle Paul points to throughout the history of Israel: Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau. These men, these chosen ones who constituted the line of Abraham, were not selected because of their outstanding moral character, but because of the free compassion of God. As Paul explains, “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (v.16). In other words, none of us can pat ourselves on the back for our good choices or our strong faith, while silently judging others. It is all a gift, so that none of us should boast.

2. God is sovereign. The relationship between God’s power and our free will is a mysterious one, indeed. But when it comes to the decisions of a loved one, God’s sovereignty removes a great deal of weight from our shoulders. Namely, we cannot force someone to make the right choice. We cannot yell someone into wisdom. We cannot wrestle someone into agreeing with us. And we cannot compel transformation. There is only One who directs the streams of human hearts, and that is God alone.

The sovereignty of God does not permit us to become callous, nor does it permit complacency. Like Paul, we should mourn destruction whenever we encounter it. But it can relieve us of a burden we were never meant to bear.

Only God knows the whole picture and the entire story. Our task is to share the good news to the best of our ability, in humility, and then prayerfully leave the rest to Him.

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Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She is a regular contributor to Propel, blogs at SheWorships.com, and her first book releases in October 2017.

  • Charlotte

    Sometimes I feel guilty that I am chosen, and not others. Why me? I feel undeserving most days to know that I have this new life in Christ while others I love have not accepted Christ. They know the gospel, I pray for them daily. Why has God not given them the heart He has given me?

  • This devotional was so timely. I’m wrestling with understanding how someone has not received God. Tough to understand

  • Romans 9:3 and Exodus 32:32 really hit me. What amazing, Christlike love demonstrated by these two spiritual leaders to the point of wishing their own damnation for the sake of their people. May I be so burdened by the reality of my loved ones’ fallen state.

  • He already knows the choices we’re going to make and those we love. His mercy and compassion are boundless! We can never take for granted what he’s done for us! May all of us choose him over ourselves and our pride and our complacency.

  • A good feeling to know that God has lifted the burden from my shoulders, and only He can direct the human heart to follow in His path!!

  • Mandi Garcia

    Everything about this is on POINT. Loved it so much. Such a great reminder of what God has given to us. We don’t deserve any of it and not even for a second can we began to think that we are better than other people. It’s only because of God’s compassion, and mercy that I am even able to experience such a love through his son Jesus Christ.

  • Mackenzie

    This is so on point for me right now. My best friend has become engaged to a totally unGodly man. For the last few months I have felt this duty to tell her that I don’t approve and that she needs to pray more about it and realize the level of commitment. This passage has just taken that burden off my shoulders. I will continue to press in on praying for her, for God to speak to her heart, but I no longer carry the responsibility of saving her from it.

    • Donna

      Mackenzie, I believe you are called to love your friend well and that might look like a hard conversation with her about where her heart is at in choosing a man who does not love the Lord. But you are absolutely right, the burden of how she responds is not on you at all. You are right in praying for your friend, that the Lord would open her eyes but a lot of times he uses good friends to help us see our sin for sin.

  • I felt like I was so far behind but God knew exactly when I needed to read this.. I am so protective of my friends and they make bad choices..it was a nice reminder that I can put it on Gods shoulders

  • I’m a few days behind in my plan and yet this was right on time

  • I am behind in the study, because I started late. As much as I want people in my life to get some wisdom, make the right choices, I can’t do it for them. I needed to read this today.

  • This devotional felt like a wrestling match to me. Here I sit wanting to rejoice in God’s mercy in giving me Jesus Christ, yet I cannot help but feel conflicted about the destruction of the world. Sin and terror are prevalent every which way I step, and I can’t help but wonder, “God, why can’t you just stop this all right now? Why can’t you soften the heart of my friend who is lost in addiction?” LIke Romans 9:20, I ask “Why do you blame those who resist you? How are they supposed to resist your will if you have predestined some to know you?”

    I am grateful for this passage because it is challenging me to cling to God even more tightly as I learn to trust that He knows the big picture. I ask for prayer that the Lord would soften my own heart and allow my eyes to be opened.

    • Evie

      I prayed that tonight too, that the Lord give me eyes of faith, even if I can’t see Him doing something, that is always always is working. Like this devotional says, his sovereignty relieves us of the burden. He’s truly got this :)

  • This is a very difficult concept to understand, but the devotional helped me so much. Thank you!
    Sometimes when I think about it, it comes to my mind that, on the other hand, if God changed and softened all the hearts so that all would be saved, where would be our free will?
    Our mind is to “narrow” for us to fully grasp this, but one day it will be “expanded” by us being in His presence and we will understand so many things. That is one of my hopes.

    • Luisa

      But will those who are predestined to a hard heart have the free will to choose God?

  • Beautifully written and explained.

  • Alessandra Hurt

    Wow! I loved this reading and reflection!

  • Allison Joy

    I think the balance between God’s sovereignty and free will is similar to the balance between His sovereignty and prayer. We know that God is ultimately in control of everything. Prayer does not “change God’s mind” in the sense that we think of how humans change our minds. So prayer is believing that while God can change a situation, He also has sovereignty over it, and may not choose what we hope His answer will be. In the same way, God gives us a choice, but His sovereignty is true no matter what we choose. Basically, He can (and does) take command in any situation, no matter our choices, and also has the sovereignty to shift things so that our bad choices work out for good.

    (P.S. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well, and it’s entirely possible the above only makes sense in my head. :) )

    • Nyla

      I love what you wrote. It makes sense and I appreciate your comment ❤️

    • Sherry

      You stated it beautifully.

    • Jessi

      The Holy Spirit is using your wisdom to encourage me- thank you!

    • Janet

      No , I see exactly what you mean. Well said. I agree our prayers will not change God’s mind, but it can move His heart so he acts sooner. Jesus said the neighbor answered the door late that night because of the persistence of the person knocking. He longs for us to ask, humbly and in alignment with His Word. We are asked to come boldly before the throne. God is indeed sovereign, but there is also great power in persistent prayer and fasting.

    • Tamara B

      I like to think that we don’t have to pray to tell God our problems (since He already knows) but to remember ourselfs (and te enemy) that He is totally in control. God knows the bigger picture, and already knows what He is going to do about it, but He wants us to realise that aswell and aknowledge that we need Him.

  • Lizzieb85

    I love the section on God’s sovereignty. It’s true that we, mere humans, cannot change a person’s heart. Only God can. He calls us to be His tools in bringing His message to others, but only His Spirit can do the real ministering.

    BUT, & the author barely touched on this, we can pray! Prayer is powerful! Are we powerful when we pray? NO! But GOD is powerful & answers our prayers. He is not obligated to answer them. But He can in mighty ways. An example is of Moses advocating for the Israelites & the people of Sodom. God was persuaded(?) to be more compassionate. Maybe that is why He chose Moses, because He knew Moses would advocate for the people & God was going to be lenient anyway. How can we know? His ways are not our ways. BUT, if you desire to pray for reconciliation of a loved one, by all means do it! I think the tone of this Devo could slightly go in the direction of “Well, God’ll do what He’ll do, no point in trying” But God wants us involved in the great things He is doing. That is part of our relationship with Him. What a JOY to see if God will answer our prayers. And hopefully our prayers are in tune with His will so that we can see those positive answers often! And if He doesn’t answer them how we want, there is great peace in knowing “He’s got this”.

    • Keryn Farnum

      Oh amen and AMEN to you dear sister! You spoke what I was thinking! Thank you! There is so much power in active prayer! My family and friends know that I covet their power filled prayers more than anything else in this world…standing in the gap for those I love and even those I don’t really know but ask for prayer is my go to gift…I stop everything I am doing if someone comes to mind or if someone asks for prayer and pray right then and there…

      • Anna

        Thank you Keryn, your words jumped off the page for me yesterday morning… “pray right then and there”. A couple of hours later, in the middle of a shopping mall, I was burdened for a woman and said that I’d be praying for her. Then those words came to me, and I prayed for her right then and there. It was God. It was amazing.

    • Tamara B

      It’s stated that “prayer is a mighty wapon”. And I do believe that, but realizing God already knows the future, I come to think that what we are changing, is not His reaction, but our hearts. God does what He has planned, but He wants us to pray for it even though.. not because He won’t do it if we don’t pray, but because He wants interaction with us, and wants us to realise His almightyness. Our hearts go out to the people and situations we pray for, and changes us.

      • Tamara B

        Ps: I also sometimes feel the urge to pray for a person or situation. Asking God to change things. Believing God will change it. I think it’s just a complicated thing

  • Whoa, this one is tough. I have been praying for my friend and wrestling with her for years on coming back to God. She only is interested in Him when there has been heartbreak in her life, and once she’s recovered, she’s back on her self-destructive path. Today’s Scripture and devotional has been a great reminder to, “Let go and let God”.

  • Diane Huntsman

    “God’s grace was not extended to us on the basis of human merit, but divine mercy.”
    Oh that we would truly grasp this truth.. what a change there would be if we really got this. Feverishly working to obtain favor and work some more to retain it.. it’s never enough.. and sadly it was never put upon us to do it in the first place.. divine mercy given without a moment of working for it.

  • I believe that when God hardens hearts, it’s for a purpose – but that purpose always leads to good. That’s why it’s so important not to judge people on their journeys. You never know how God might be directing them, or even us, in ways we cannot see. So have compassion and show love. I think that’s all we’re meant to really do. And if we find our own hearts to be hardened, pray about it. Walk it out with the Lord. But be kind to yourself in the softening process. Non-judgment shouldn’t exclusively be extended to others. It should be extended to ourselves as well.

  • “There is only One who directs the streams of human hearts, and that is God alone”. I needed to read that today as I struggle with the guilt of meeting literally dozens of new people over the weekend, and sharing my faith with not a one. God, you direct the streams, we are expected to simply flow! May my influence be directed by you and not forced by me. I don’t know what you’re doing behind the scenes in the hearts of the people I meet, but You do. Help me to trust!

  • Kathy Hemphill

    God wants that “none should perish”–those who are in Christ(who belong to Him by free choice) are His elect and predestined for a victory provided by Christ. Those in Christ can hold onto His promises for His children, for their present and their future in Christ have been predestined. All things will work together for good, and on and on–what a marvelous and sure Hope for those who belong to Him.

  • This is exactly my biggest struggle, the concept of predestination. If God has His elect, then where does free will come in? I get that we are not to sit idle and do nothing if we are “predestined”, but how do I explain this concept to my loved ones who are not believers? Are they considered not predestined, or if by God’s grace they one day decide to follow Jesus, were they always predestined? And if God knew who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’ from beginning to end, again how does free will come in to play.

    Thank you for everyone’s insightful comments. I always gain so much from reading them.

    • Amanda

      God does predestine His people, but we have no way of knowing who He predestines. He may not choose to save someone we love or He may. Because we have no way of knowing, we still spread the gospel and pray that God uses us to accomplish His will. However, I do think it is important to remember in talking about election/predestination that we are all deserving of hell, and God shows us tremendous mercy by saving us and giving us a new heart in Christ. God is a completely good God, so any sin that taints our souls separates us from Him. And we are all sinful. So the beauty of the gospel is that God chooses us – His people – regardless of our sinful states! We don’t have to work our way to Him; He came down to us and is restoring us back to Him. Free will happens in common grace (although God is still sovereign over all), but in terms of salvation, God is the one who changes our hearts from darkness to light. Otherwise, we would be saving ourselves.

      • Kylee

        God is the one who changes our hearts from darkness into light – YES. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Cecelia Enns Schulz

      I don’t know if I’m right, but I always think of it like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. God is the author and has written the story. He has given us different pathes to choose. He ultimately knows which we will choose but we have the option of path a or path b. He knows the outcome of both so – predestination but he’s given us the choice so – free will. I feel like the prayers of others and other people walking in their God given identity can be part of the choosing too. If that makes sense. It always helps me.

    • Michelle

      Your thoughts are mine Amanda. If I continuously struggle in my walk w God could that mean I’m not chosen and I’m beating a locked door?

      • Mel

        This verse came to mind Michelle for you from Romans 10v9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. In this life we will always have struggles but the fact you are here reading Gods word working out your faith shows your heart and it is not hard.

    • Nyla

      @bizmom
      Thank you for your amazing comment and deep questions. They affirm my faith and cause me to dig! It seems to me that Christ died for all. He chose us, our salvation is predestined, He knows who is in the book of Life, because the Father wrote it and He IS the beginning and the end.
      Free will may be in our willingness to accept the gift. God knows the outcome of OUR decision, already. The gift is there. We may hear the message a zillion times, but may refuse to accept/take it.
      Maybe that is the simple answer to the complex question.
      If we have a place to go, have been given a map and told the directions to it, but insist we have better routes, we may never get there. We may spend our whole lives proving we’re right or disproving the map. In doing so, we miss the destination.
      For some people, I believe it’s a simple decision to believe. The logic in the directions don’t make sense. They will never make sense. But when they are tired enough, perhaps they will finally just CHOOSE to believe the directions are correct.
      For others, the directions may prove to be something they’ve been looking for, for a long time. It comes as a relief.
      Just my 2 cents. Don’t stop believing and being in Him. You are a light ❤️

    • Elle

      I do not understand my will to be “free” in relation to the word as a noun. E.g. “The power of acting without constraint of necessity or fate.” I do not understand myself to be autonomous. I understand myself as in need of a savior to set me free from the slavery of sin.That which I will to do, I do not do. (Romans 7:15)
      The only way that I actually understand the concept of my “free” will, is that I am not being coerced into serving Jesus. I run because he has won my heart. I am not “free”, I belong to him and I could no more fall out of love with him than I could use my “free” will to chop off my perfectly good leg… in other words I would have to be out of my mind. I think that is kinda the point. If you SEE Jesus, he will break your heart in the sweetest most wonderfully gentle way and you will fall irrevocably in love. The freedom that I experience in there is that of actually being able to completely fall to utterly surrender because HE IS FAITHFUL.

    • Lizzieb85

      There are some great answers here. I will add, you don’t have to talk about predestination with non-believers. The Gospel is so simple: Christ died for ALL. THAT is the decision a non-believer needs to make. Do they believe THAT? The other stuff can be debated & pondered on for a lifetime, but believing Jesus as one own’s Lord & Savior is the only & most important decision that matters. The Gospel is the milk a baby can handle. Predestination is the meat that can be chewed on by a growing Christian.

      Even a person who accepts Jesus as Lord & Savior on their deathbed is predestined- but why wait a lifetime to benefit from the grace of God?

      • Wildflower

        Lizzie I always look forward to your insight on these posts. Your responses always speak to me so clearly and are really relatable. Just wanted to share that I appreciate your thoughts :)

      • Missy

        Excellent advice!

      • Tamara B

        Great thinking! Once you have the faith, you can have some meat. :)

    • Tamara B

      It came to mind, that God is above time. He is the beginning and the end. We might think of it as a timetravel. If I could go forward a million years, I would know who is saved and copy their names out of the book of life. Coming back, I would know who will be saved, even if they haven’t made the choice yet. Does that mean, the have no choice anymore? No, I just already know what they will decide, because in my point of view, it is in the past. (I just made this up, might be non-biblical, but gives me more understanding..)

  • I’ve been wrestling with this passage over the past few days. Our pastor taught on Romans 9 on Sunday. One thing I wrote down has really stuck with me and helped me understand this passage: “God chooses those He knows in His foreknowledge will choose Him.”

    Also this from The Wiersbe New Testament Bible Commentary (written by Warren Wiersbe):
    “God is holy and must punish sin, but God is loving and desires to save sinners. If everyone is saved, it would deny His holiness, but if everybody is lost, it would deny His love. The solution to the problem is God’s sovereign election.”

    I still don’t completely have a grasp on this, and won’t until heaven, but I do know that I can trust a God who, in His grace and mercy, offers me salvation in spite of what I deserve.

    • C Gunckel

      Thank you for your comment, it helps!

    • Ana

      Your comment helped me! Thank you!

    • Melissa

      I’m a little behind in this study. I’m not sure if you will get this message but I am so thankful for your post. I was really struggling with these scriptures but what your pastor said spoke to me! Thank you!

  • Always timely. Woke up to the oppressive weight of the grief of an adult child seeming lost to the Lord. My darling daughter went off to college and has veered hard off the path of love and light. It has been such a sadness, but the message to me as a Xn. mother has been the one I read today: I cannot change her. It is not my battle. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. I must trust God. Pray and trust God…that is my battle. God alone saves. But it is hard and it hurts. I would so appreciate your prayers for her as she is at a critical juncture in the road at this very moment. Thank you all.

    • Morgan

      I was raised in the church, I too went off to college and lost my desire to know God. But I wanted to share with you where I am at now. I graduated college two years ago and my passion for Christ is stronger than it has ever been. I am doing mission work and loving every minute of it. My relationship with Jesus is closer than it ever was before college. I encourage you to keep praying for your daughter. I was the prodigal daughter and All I needed was forgiveness.

    • Leenda324

      Paula I’m right there with you with a daughter who proclaims herself an atheist. It hurts. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. I wrestle with this as I know you do, too. I tend to blame myself: if I had prayed more, been a better mom, etc. let’s pray for our girls and each other.

      • paula

        A friend just reminded me that the past, our fretting and regretting, is Satan’s domain. Jesus is all about the now. And please, God, please, the future. I will pray with you…and we will leave the past alone.

    • Mindy

      Paula, I too often carry this weight of my daughters and have difficulty finding the balance between turning over my worries to God and relying on my own “mother’s intuition.” I have a strong desire to control things, particularly with my two daughters, and I try to justify this by my having lived through similar experiences. Am I using the wisdom God has given me as a mom, or is this my way of rationalizing my desire to control everything? The struggle is REAL! I wake up in the middle of the night stressing over issues! My goal today is to focus on continuing to pray for our girls that they would see God’s light that He is shining on their paths; however, I suppose what I learned from reading Romans 9 this morning is that I need to ask God to help me focus on MY weak areas, rather than trying to “intercede” for everyone else (although never stopping praying for others). I’ve decided that my other prayer for today is that He will provide me with motherly wisdom, knowing the right words to use and when to use them. This is so very challenging as a parent! I can definitely relate to your post this morning! Thanks for sharing!

      • paula

        Yep. My struggle, too. What is the Lord’s prompting to speak the Truth in love…and what is me and my hard-driving need to fix it all and get it right. Is it my role as a Xn. parent to exhort? Or am I being controlling? My non-Xn friends are all so accepting of whatever sin their beloved child sets before them. I can’t do that. A real struggle. When do I just shut-up and let the Holy Spirit work? And when do I speak at His prompting? Thanks for your reply.

        • Jami

          Oh my gosh, you just expressed what I go through every time I’m with my son who has rejected the God of his youth after college. What do I say and not say? What am I condoning? Does he see my unconditional love as acceptance? So much struggle. And a deep, deep, pain I’ve never felt before that feels physical. It’s been 2 years and it hasn’t lessened. I pray constantly for peace and hope- for both of us, trusting with all my heart that God is not done with the story.

          • paula

            I know. Do take care of yourself as the worry does manifest itself in physical ways. I am sure my thyroid troubles have arisen out of all of the stress. But God gives respites and we have to step away from the mental spinning and into His daily offerings of grace…like getting outside for a long walk early in the day to clear our heads and offer praise, or focusing on people in our community that do want and need our help and advise and meager wisdom. Ya know, I keep praying for some godly person to have an impact on my daughter’s life. But I see in this moment, I need to be available to be that person in the life of someone else’s wayward child. If I pray that for you, and you pray that for me, well, perhaps we will end up being the instruments of grace we so long for. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?

          • SuzD

            Amen. A prayer for all of us, to be the instrument.

    • Nyla

      @Paula – can we be friends?!? I am there. Ah, really! I too have a daughter that I see spiraling. It breaks my heart as she is about to have her 3rd daughter. She is in horrible denial of her husbands alcoholism and when not pregnant will drink too. The girls are affected. It breaks my heart and causes me to lean so hard into Him.
      You’ve (and all who responded to you and relate) have inspired me to start a group
      You’re invited to my new group ‘No more white knuckles only calloused knees’ on GroupMe. Click here to join: https://app.groupme.com/join_group/32015882/O9vane
      I hope you will. My daughters struggles are so private. I don’t feel free to share with too many people. I hope this can be a place of support. Thank you Paula for your honesty and plea. I am praying and right there with you. ❤️

  • Well written. Tough one, this topic.

    God help us to open our hearts to your wisdom. Your Word says that if we call to You, you will show us great and mighty things which we do not know… We call to You, God. Knowing Your ways are higher than ours, help us stand on what we CAN understand about your nature and character and Trust in Your loving mercy for what is yet still cloudy to us now…

  • My grandfather kept sheep. Every spring, we would follow him up to the barn to watch him dote over the little ones, maybe even watch a birth in action. Every now and then, one or two would end up in a box in the corner of the kitchen for special care or as orphans.

    I have wrestled LONG with Paul’s answer in Romans 9; it never feels satisfactory to my mind. The picture of my Pappy with his sheep has helped tremendously, as he LOVED those sheep — was tender, involved, meticulous — like we all want to picture God loving all of us.

    But at the end of the day, the lambs went to market come April…

    There have also been seasons where I wrestled with the Lord as my Shepherd. How can this be comforting? No ACTUAL shepherd, especially in Bible times, ever raised sheep for pets. They serve a purpose, and they are slaughtered at the shepherd’s hand. How can I trust a shepherd who might choose something scary and unpleasant for me?

    Two things have helped me reconcile this somewhat:

    1. Keeping chickens. I can now personally relate to caring for something deeply and wanting its ultimate best, all the while being in charge of its end and purpose.

    2. Realizing that MY shepherd became a sheep and led the way to slaughter. I can die to the Lord’s purpose for me because he went first, and rose again. The death of Jesus is evidence that our God is good and loves us beyond measure; the resurrection is evidence that He is in absolute authority over the universe. Whatever he has in mind is best then, even if it offends my “sheep” sensibilities.

  • churchmouse

    Once again, SRT is so timely. I was wrestling a couple days ago with the estrangement of my sister. It hurts me. I have reached out several times in the past and we reconnect for a brief time and then there is some perceived offense and she is angry and gone again. I tend to feel guilty that I can’t fix our relationship and even more guilty that I cannot restore her relationship with God. She proudly declares herself an atheist though she was once a believer. That hurts more. Sharon, your devotion pulls me up, gives me encouragement to not grow weary and gives me hope. “Our task is to share the good news to the best of our ability, in humility, and then prayerfully leave the rest to Him.” Yes. Friends, will you pray, along with me, for my sister Mary? And I will hold my hand open to her no matter how many times she slaps it away. Yes.

  • LivingJoyfully

    But by God’s grace…
    If it wasn’t for God’s grace, I would have walked the other fork in the road.

  • Sharon this was an amazing interpretation of Romans 9. And exactly what I needed. Thank you for your clarity and simplicity.

  • I find this passage really hard. I understand that God chooses to show mercy and that it is not something we earn or deserve, but I really don’t get how a loving God could create someone, knowing they are doomed for destruction because he chooses to harden their heart so there is no chance they could be saved.
    Also 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” I don’t understand how he can want everyone to be saved and yet choose to harden some people’s hearts. Please can someone help explain this to me? I’m honestly trying to understand all this but struggling right now.

    • Elisabeth7291

      It is hard, and I won’t pretend it isn’t. There are others who can probably give a better and more theologically accurate answer, but I think I’d it like this: we all deserve death. Because God is holy, we all SHOULD and deserve to be in that ‘hardened’ bucket. But we’re not. By God’s grace, some are saved. I think to often we start from the place that all should be saved and it feels unfair that some aren’t. But if you begin on the other side, it may be easier- at least it is for me – to grasp.

    • SJ

      Everyone has the choice to be saved. That truth is Bible-wide. But God, in his foreknowledge knows the choices we will make before we make them. An example I’ve heard is of a mom who sets out snacks for her children and calls for them to come in from playing outdoors. She has set only 3 snacks out even though she has 4 children but knows before she calls them that only 3 will come inside because 1 would rather play outdoors than eat. This explanation, although simplistic, has always helped me. The Bible tells us over and over that salvation is for ALL who will accept the gift. I choose to trust Gods heart in this matter.

      • "Other" Karen

        Thank you for this explanation!

      • Nads

        That’s a helpful analogy! I struggled understanding this.

      • Sarah

        This is a great analogy! Thank you for sharing!!

      • Tricia C

        Thank you for this analogy.

      • Michelle

        Your thoughts are mine Amanda. If I continuously struggle in my walk w God could that mean I’m not chosen and I’m beating a locked door?

        • Michelle

          Sorry put the above in the wrong place. The problem arises
          for me when God is the reason some people are not saved; his choice to harden your heart. Unlike the ‘snack mom’ who does not interfere with her child’s choice to come inside.

    • Katie

      Leenda324
      10 hours ago
      Ok it’s Monday night. I haven’t read Tuesday’s devotion yet. But I have very few Christian friends. I’m 64 years old and have been divorced for 10 years to a man who is gay. Needless to say my adult children have suffered. Deeply. As have I. My daughter is now an atheist. My son is kinda agnostic. Although I pray for both of them, I’m asking for prayer for my son right now. His name is Drew. He is deeply intelligent. He has pretty severe anxiety issues. (Is finally on meds for that. ) He works in a customer-facing situation and is subject to daily verbal abuse. I’m concerned for his mental health. He feels so hopeless I want to tell him to run to the Lord but I think that will sound like a trope to him. Would you all please pray for him. And for his sister, Devin. They are both lovely and wonderful people but oh! They need Jesus. Thank you my friends.

      REPLY

      Wildflower
      In response to Leenda324 9 hours ago
      Praying ❤️

      REPLY

      Sidney
      In response to Leenda324 9 hours ago
      My prayers are with you and your son and daughter.

      REPLY

      Alexandria Buttgereit
      In response to Leenda324 9 hours ago
      Oh, I’m praying for your children ❤

      REPLY

      Christina
      In response to Leenda324 7 hours ago
      Praying!

      REPLY

      Tina
      In response to Leenda324 7 hours ago
      Lifting your precious ‘God already loves and knows their hearts’ children, Drew and Devin… and yourself up to the Lord In prayer…
      God be with you.. Leenda324

      REPLY

      Ana
      In response to Leenda324 6 hours ago
      Praying!

      REPLY

      Katie
      In response to Leenda324 4 hours ago
      Lesley, you are certainly not alone in grappling with this! Even Paul was grieved by this same issue as we see in vs. 1-5. I would suggest flip-flopping your thinking a bit. Instead of asking “why does God choose to harden some hearts?” ask, “why does He choose to soften some hearts?” And the answer to that is because He is good, loving, and merciful. Think about Paul. He was killing Christians. He was an enemy of Jesus Christ and clearly had a hard heart toward God. But the Lord softened his heart, literally opened his eyes to the truth of the cross, and made him one of the greatest leaders in the history of the church.

      The truth is, we are all enemies of Christ. We are all naturally hard of heart toward our Creator. God would be 100% justified in letting sin run its natural course in our hearts: death and separation from Him. But instead, He gives mercy. And how He chooses is not up to us to know, as is clearly stated in v. 20-21.

      I hope that helps a bit. This commentary helped shed some light on the passage for me as well: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/romans-9/
      Praying for you (and me!) to have the faith to trust in His mercy and justice.

      REPLY

      • autumn

        praying!

      • Anne

        Katie I am praying for Drew and Devin. Strength the kind that only Jesus can give them and peace that they are loved.

      • Lesley

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Katie, and for the link to the commentary. I’ve had a quick read but will definitely go back and look at it in more depth.

    • Christina

      Grappling with this and many other difficult issues has been freeing for me. One of the passages my sweet husband, who has helped direct and guide me in this learning is John 3:17-18: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” We all, because of our sin nature from birth, deserve eternal separation from God. We are born on a path of condemnation. [Please note that I am not advocating the difficult teaching some hold to that babies who die are eternally separated from God. That is a discussion for another thread, but that is not what I’m saying here.] But God. He did not send Jesus to condemn us. We were already condemned. He sent Jesus to make a restored relationship with Him possible. We have no idea who will believe and who will not believe. It is our job to share the love of God and the good news of the rescue He provided with all who will listen. Some will escape the path of condemnation, but some will continue down the path they were already on. All should hear the truth. We must decide to leave the results of hearing the message up to the Sovereign God of the universe. Because, like it or not, there are some things we simply cannot understand about Him. If He was to be fully and completely understood, there would be no “otherness” about Him. I’m not saying to blindly hear teaching and adhere to it without personal wrestling. I’ve done that plenty. When I am seeking Him with my entire being, He seems to place a realization of truth in my heart and a peace to follow that I will not completely understand it until I’m with Him in glory, and maybe not even then. And that’s ok. I pray this does not come across harshly or arrogantly. It is simply a product of my journey with the Spirit to understand Truth. Blessings to you as you work out and wrestle with the Spirit in your own understanding of this deep truth.

      • Emily Cele

        Very good, Christina, thank you! Ultimately it is all about the sovereignty of God and our call to bow to his holiness.

      • Emily B.

        Thank you for your reply! It’s really helpful!

      • Lesley

        Thanks, Christina, your reply is really helpful. I agree, there are some things about God that we will never be able to understand, but I also appreciate your encouragement that it’s ok to wrestle with these questions. I think I’m going to be wrestling with this for a while!

    • Susan

      I believe God only hardens the heart of those people who have chosen to harden their hearts, like Pharaoh did.

      • Katie

        Susan, I could not agree more. How you said this, to me, shows both the simple and complex nature of free will and God’s sovereignty and how I explain how they are intermingled.

      • Emily B.

        That’s what my study Bible said, too! People like Pharaoh have already made their choice, and God hardening their hearts is a consequence of their actions.

    • Marytony

      I was reading all the responses and what I thought when the bible says that “He hardens hearts”, what came to mind was the story about Pharaoh and the Israelites. What I think is that the heart was hardened for A PURPOSE. In this case God was displaying his Glory for all to acknowledge He is God above all.
      At the end of the day all of us have a choice to make and Pharaoh was seeing the same signs and wonders as the Israelites and could have chosen to bow down.

    • Lesley

      Thank you to everyone who has shared their insights here. I really appreciate you taking the time to do that and you’ve given me a lot to think about.

  • Leenda324

    Ok it’s Monday night. I haven’t read Tuesday’s devotion yet. But I have very few Christian friends. I’m 64 years old and have been divorced for 10 years to a man who is gay. Needless to say my adult children have suffered. Deeply. As have I. My daughter is now an atheist. My son is kinda agnostic. Although I pray for both of them, I’m asking for prayer for my son right now. His name is Drew. He is deeply intelligent. He has pretty severe anxiety issues. (Is finally on meds for that. ) He works in a customer-facing situation and is subject to daily verbal abuse. I’m concerned for his mental health. He feels so hopeless I want to tell him to run to the Lord but I think that will sound like a trope to him. Would you all please pray for him. And for his sister, Devin. They are both lovely and wonderful people but oh! They need Jesus. Thank you my friends.

    • Wildflower

      Praying ❤️

    • Sidney

      My prayers are with you and your son and daughter.

    • Alexandria Buttgereit

      Oh, I’m praying for your children ❤

    • Christina

      Praying!

    • Tina

      Lifting your precious ‘God already loves and knows their hearts’ children, Drew and Devin… and yourself up to the Lord In prayer…
      God be with you.. Leenda324

    • Ana

      Praying!

    • Katie

      Lesley, you are certainly not alone in grappling with this! Even Paul was grieved by this same issue as we see in vs. 1-5. I would suggest flip-flopping your thinking a bit. Instead of asking “why does God choose to harden some hearts?” ask, “why does He choose to soften some hearts?” And the answer to that is because He is good, loving, and merciful. Think about Paul. He was killing Christians. He was an enemy of Jesus Christ and clearly had a hard heart toward God. But the Lord softened his heart, literally opened his eyes to the truth of the cross, and made him one of the greatest leaders in the history of the church.

      The truth is, we are all enemies of Christ. We are all naturally hard of heart toward our Creator. God would be 100% justified in letting sin run its natural course in our hearts: death and separation from Him. But instead, He gives mercy. And how He chooses is not up to us to know, as is clearly stated in v. 20-21.

      I hope that helps a bit. This commentary helped shed some light on the passage for me as well: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/romans-9/
      Praying for you (and me!) to have the faith to trust in His mercy and justice.

    • Erin

      Praying for your family!!

    • LivingJoyfully

      Jesus,
      You know Leenda. You know how hurt she is and how her children heart. I pray they would sense how near you are and how you long to hold them and grieve with them. Provide people to walk alongside them. You know what they need. Come Holy Spirit and comfort them.
      Amen

    • JulieG

      Praying for you all!

    • Mari

      Praying for Devin and Drew. And You too.

    • Nancy Tuggle

      Praying for Drew & Devin to come to know Jesus.

Further Reading...