Read Romans 9
Focus on verse 17
A “Sovereign” is what kings used to be called because kings in the past – and perhaps even in current times – had total sovereignty over the kingdom that they ruled. Within his kingdom a king had absolute power, which was rarely questioned regardless of how it was used. In the last hundred years or so there are few true monarchies remaining in western civilization, though at times tyrants still do rise up to seize control in places and attempt to rule in this fashion.
In today’s reading Paul addresses one of the thorny theological questions regarding God’s sovereignty. It is a question over which many sincere seekers have stumbled. Paul uses the illustration of God’s treatment of the Pharaoh who opposed Moses when he led the people of God out of slavery in Egypt.
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (v. 17)
The issue folks take with this is that it would seem Pharaoh really didn’t have a choice in the matter. If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for the purpose of using Pharaoh as a demonstration of His power and to gain popularity and/or notoriety among the surrounding nations, Pharaoh does not seem to have the choice to repent and submit to God since God had chosen to use Pharaoh simply as a means of demonstrating God’s own power. I admit this seems a little harsh. Pharaoh would appear to have essentially been born for the purpose of being destroyed, by which God’s power would be made known to the people Pharaoh was oppressing.
While this appears to be a problem, we need to remember that with God all things are possible. God could feasible destine Pharaoh for destruction without impinging upon Pharaoh’s free will to choose – I admit I’m not certain exactly how that works – I just know that if I believe “nothing is impossible with God”, then this also would fall into that category. In addition, we must also remember that if God is truly sovereign, then He would have every right to do as He pleases with any part of His creation while remaining absolutely righteous in the process. While this is not a truth I like to entertain, and one that certainly flies in the face of all things politically correct, it is a truth nonetheless.
Perhaps it comes down to a crisis of faith. Can I believe that God is able to do something even though I do not understand exactly how He is able to make it work? If God is truly sovereign He has no obligation to explain it to me either. Perhaps that’s why we call it “faith”.