reflections of mine others might find useful

Reflections on Romans 9:18 (Fri)

If you don’t know what these daily Reflections are about, go to: Join Me For Breakfast. Also, check out Pastor Bob’s blog.

click here for the Net Bible link to today’s passage

I noticed parallelism between today’s verse 18 and Tuesday’s verse, 15. Here is my comparison of the two.

mercy and compassion
mercy and hardening

Verse 15
the two key verbs each appear twice in the Greek
Verse 18
the two key verbs each appear just once in the Greek (although many English translations repeat them twice) Technically it should read: God has mercy on whom He wills, and hardens whom He wills.

Verse 15
The first use of each verb is in the future active indicative, meaning God, in the future, actively and certainly will be showing mercy [and having compassion.] The second use of each word is in the present active subjunctive, meaning that God presently and actively is showing mercy [and compassion] in some sense as a response.
Verse 18
Both verbs [mercy and hardening] are used in the present, active, indicative, meaning that God presently, actively, and certainly is showing mercy [and hardening.]

Incidentally in my study today, I learned more about the Net Bible’s GRK tab. I had noticed that some words have two Greek number references. I originally thought the one in parenthesis was a root word or a form of the word, but today I figured out that the number in parenthesis are used immediately after verbs to show the tense, voice, and mood of that verb. That was helpful today.

The other thing that needs to be addressed about today’s passage–the elephant in the room–is the word hardening. The Greek word means literally that, to harden or render stubborn. I’ve already said the verb is in the present, active, indicative, meaning that God is presently, actively, and certainly in the process of hardening. This troubles us to think about. How is it fair that God hardens people? It seems they have no choice.

My Reformation Study Bible (ESV) footnotes helped me resolve this dilemma.

“When God “hardens” Pharoah’s heart (v.18), He does not create fresh evil in it, but gives Pharoah over to his already evil desires as an act of judgment, resulting eventually in God’s display of “power” (v.22) in the destruction of Pharoah’s army.”

That helped me a lot. Instead of looking at God as cruelly making someone hard, the sense is really that he leaves some in their rebelliousness. They are in no way entitled to being rescued from themselves–so no one can judge God as being unfair. In fact, He is simply giving them what they want. The wonder is that He would reach down and rescue any of us from ourselves and that he would ever soften any heart!

The last comment I’ll make is about the Greek word, thelo. It means God is doing what He wills, what He desires, what He decrees, what He chooses. It is present, active, indicative. This is the bottom line of the whole passage: He is entitled to do whatever He decides to do and He does exactly that!

What about the rest of you? Do you have any thoughts on today’s passage? I feel like it’s just me and three other people wrestling through these passages, rather than it being a churchwide journey. It would be an encouragement to me and to everyone if you would take a minute to share your thoughts and insights.

Please comment below! Thanks!


  1. I’ll get the comment ball started. Now everyone else(besides the few of us) will not have to worry about being first or whatever is keeping them from writing anything!
    I was thinking about the hardness thing too. I realized that Pharaoh was already a hardhearted man even before Moses spoke to him. He allowed slavery and horrible treatment of the Israelites . Then he kept ignoring the judgment of God(the plagues)until they hit home with the death of his firstborn son.
    God does what He wants,but He does so from a heart that is good, merciful, and compassionate . How great is our God!

    • Martha, I was thinking today about how you have such great insights and the ability to put them into words. God has gifted you in this area and I was thinking that perhaps there’s some kind of ministry awaiting you in this area.

      Anyways, you have blessed me by your comments. Keep them coming!

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