A man I’d never met or talked to before phoned and told me, “For the next hour you are going to listen to me as I show you why I don’t like your God, and why I do not believe in the God of the Bible.”
Because, he said, look at the horrible things God has done – the Flood, for instance, and wiping out Jericho, ordering the genocide of Amalekite women and children, and helping the Israelites kill thousands of people. And what about the horrors in the book of Revelation, and Jesus threatening people with eternal hellfire? And on and on the list went.
So I asked him – after his hour was up – “What shall we say then? Is God unjust?” Romans 9:14. Is God wrong in all this stuff he’s done? “Not at all,” Paul replies, because “what if God did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory,” verse 23?
The man on the phone saw God as horrible, but what Paul saw was God making his “glory known.” How? Through his mercy, because if it wasn’t for God’s mercy we’d ALL be destined for destruction, verse 22. If God had left everything up to us, we’d all be dead and gone forever – BUT, fortunately, the glory God prepared us for from the start (verse 23) does “not depend on MAN’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy,” verse 16.
Our efforts only made us “objects of God’s wrath,” verse 22, and deservedly so after rejecting God for a serpent and spitting on our birthright. God had every right, therefore, to reject us in return, but “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction?” God had every right to “show his wrath and make his power known” – and he has shown it too (as the man on the phone pointed out) – but never to our total destruction. We deserve total destruction, of course we do, but God has made us “objects of his mercy” instead, verse 23, because in the end it will help us see his glory.
It’s only by God’s mercy and unending patience that we’re alive at all. And fortunately, in the meanwhile, he’s only given us a taste of the wrath we deserve. Yes, it’s involved (and will involve) some horrible things happening to people, but it’s nothing compared to the total destruction God could have unleashed on us. And when we’re all finally IN the glory God “prepared in advance” for us, what are we going to complain about then?