For me, I can honestly say that I have had God in a box of sorts. He is very loving and caring- compassionate, forgiving- in my box. It is much harder to wrap my mind around (to add to my box) a wrathful God. One whose anger burns against evil.
It is easy to think about His anger burning perhaps against those we think “really bad.” But we forget that we are guilty too. If not for grace, if not for mercy.
We do not receive the punishment we deserve. God stays His hand against us only because of Jesus Christ.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 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?” 21 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? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
Does this passage make me uncomfortable? Yes. Because it takes God out of my box, and I start to have questions. I don’t understand how this picture of God fits with what I have stored in my mind.
Does God seem ruthless and cruel to you in this passage? That He would use his vessels as He would either for good or evil? Does it make us feel like we are just being controlled by God with no free will?
We have to widen our view of God, and be willing to reconcile what we have perceived and known of Him with what we don’t understand and have not yet explored.
The question in verse 19-“Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” How does Paul respond? He says, “Who are you to question God?”
That immediately made me think of Job. He lost everything- except his life- and he felt he had done nothing to deserve it. What happens in the end of the book when he gets an opportunity to question God (and God speaks to him)? (Read Job 38-42)
Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.
Can we imagine the presence of God? Think about examples in Scripture of those who did not even see God but rather an angel and they were terrified. Imagine for a moment the power, pure goodness, love and righteousness embodied in one being- standing before you.
It makes me uncomfortable- to think about being in the presence of one who knows the deepest darkness that lurks in my heart- and knows well the justice I deserve. Thanks be to God for sending Jesus Christ as our intercessor- that we may stand before the throne of grace with confidence.
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
You see, we are created by God. The life that we have is not ours but His. We have failed to keep His law- yet He has extended us grace because we called on His Name. We have experienced the mercy of God- and it is a wonderful thing.
But there are those who do not choose to acknowledge their creator and Lord- and their path leads to destruction and death. They have no protection against the burning anger of God- His justice called for a right punishment against them.
This passage not only cultivates a deep humility in my spirit and thankfulness to God for saving me- but also a sorrow for those who are lost.
I will address this further in a later post.
I pray that as we wrestle with passages that portray God in a new way- pushing against our old perceptions- we will approach God prayerfully concerning our questions.
He has graciously extended mercy- and more than that- we are His adopted sons and daughters. We can’t forget Romans 5-8 when reading Romans 9.
We must see this picture of God in the light of the one who gave His Son for us- who reached across the chasm sin made between us and gave His Son so that we may dwell in His presence. He defeated the power of sin and death. Praise be to God.