What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid! For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.(Romans 9: 14-18)
The apostle Paul is teaching the Roman church the place of Israel in the plan of God, in the light of the New Testament, and Israel’s failure to enter into it, for the most part.
Paul’s first argument is the doctrine of election.
God chose Abraham, to be the “Father of many nations” and to bring the Messiah into the world. Of Abraham’s eight children, God chose Isaac, and of Isaac’s twins God chose Jacob, and not Esau.God chose Leah to be the mother of Messiah, not Rachel, whom Jacob chose. God’s election trumps man’s election.
Among all of the multitudes of Israel, God has chosen the believing remnant of Israel, to be the true, spiritual Israel. “Not all Israel is Israel”.
Election is God’s prerogative, there is no necessity in it, other than God’s pleasure. Why did God chose Israel above all other nations? Could there be a reason, humanly speaking? In the Torah, God told Israel,
For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.(Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
The Lord did not choose Israel for any quality in them, but he “Set his love” upon them. He chose to love them, because he wanted to.
The Lord alone has full freedom. He doesn’t have to do anything of necessity, everything he does, is because it pleases Him to do so, for whatever pleases God is right and good. No person could ever put him in debt to them, God doesn’t have to save anyone, if He judged all men and sent them to a fiery hell, it would be the right thing to do.
Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.(Psalm 115:1-3)
It pleased God to show Israel so much mercy, after untold years of idolatry, prophetic warning and pleading, providential miracles of deliverance and provision time and again, for centuries.
The Psalmist exults in the freedom of God to show mercy in Psalm 130;
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.(Psalm 130:3-4)
But the LORD was not indebted to Israel, they had no unconditional claim upon his mercy.
Israel hardened her heart to God’s pleadings and warnings. She presumed upon God’s mercy, as in the days of Jeremiah, when they said “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the LORD…” as though no matter how sinful, God would always be with them because they had the temple of the Lord in their midst.
They had no idea of the doctrine of the freedom of God. He can have mercy on whoever he wants, he owes no man mercy. At the same time, the LORD has freedom to harden whoever he wants also. God hardened Israel’s heart as a judgment, just as He did Pharoah’s heart, centuries before.
Of course God is not arbitrary and unpredictable. Pharaoh first hardened his own heart to God, in spite of all of the wonders he saw and the warnings from the Word of God, which he ignored. At a certain point, God himself began to harden Pharoah’s heart, increasing his resistance to God, and deepening his spiritual blindness. God has the freedom to do so, just as He has the freedom to show mercy and forgiveness.
We are seeing the same thing occur in the world today. Centuries of Christianity has been preached and witnessed to, giving the world the offer of personal salvation, eternal life, and the blessings of Judeo Christian civilization.
But what is happening is a rapid hardening of the hearts towards God. How else could a pro-gay, adamantly pro abortion and even infanticide proponent be elected president for two terms? America has grown hard hearted in her resistance to God band His Word. The will come when God himself will harden the hearts of this age, and this will doom the multitudes to Hell.
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.(2 Thess 2:10-12)
What happened to Israel? Why are they not leading the way of the nations into the New Covenant?
The same thing that happened to Pharaoh happened to Israel for the most part. They had repeatedly hardened their heart to God, failing to truly believe the prophets, erecting their own version of spirituality, and denying the Word of God by promoting the teachings of their rabbis and sages over scripture. The final hardening occurred when the Messiah himself came to them, and they received him not.
But unlike Pharaoh, the hardening of the chosen people is temporary and partial, God has reserved a remnant for himself.