“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)
God's sovereign protection ensures that man's choices do not thwart the ultimate plan of God. This truth is presented in the following verses. The question which opens the discourse is grammatically arranged so that it is expecting a No answer. It may be understood as “Is there unrighteousness with God? No, there is not.” Inevitably, God's mercy is behind all of His dealings with mankind. Were it not for the Lord reaching out to mankind and guiding the course of history, no one would be redeemed. In his flesh, a man could interpret this passage as though God were cruelly withholding His mercy from certain individuals. This perspective is carnal and inconsistent with the rest of Scripture. Instead, this passage should be viewed from the perspective of divine intervention. If God did not reach out to mankind, who could be saved? God desires for all to be saved (II Peter 3:9), and it is His goodness which leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4). Some will consistently harden themselves against Him, and others will humble themselves before Him; yet, if He did not provide the opportunity for an interview in His courts, the entire human race would be destroyed. Truly, it is not of the one who is willing or of the one who is running but of the one who is shewing mercy, even God. He can use the decisions of every man to work out His ultimate purpose. This truth is illustrated in the life of Pharaoh. Pharaoh consistently hardened himself against God; therefore, God hardened Pharaoh in return, thus giving him what his heart desired. Before these events ever occurred, God knew what Pharaoh's response would be; therefore, the Lord “raised him up” and used him in spite of his choices. Though Pharaoh himself was not profited, God used his death and the death of his army to be witnesses to all the earth. Years later, a harlot which lived in Jericho would proclaim to the men of God, “...we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt...And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath (Joshua 2:10-11).” Pharaoh's hard heart resulted in his death, but this ultimately worked out for the salvation of Rahab who chose the path of humility; therefore, hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.