For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:15, 16 ESV)
Plague after plague has come upon Egypt and yet more are to follow. What is with Pharaoh, enduring the plagues one after or another or, even worse, promising to let them go if Moses will take the plague away only to harden his heart and break his promise? The answer is locked up in this verse. God is behind it. There is no doubt that Pharaoh is culpable for hardening his heart. But there is also no doubt that God has ordained this hardening. This is, perhaps, one of the hardest things to understand (or accept) in the Scriptures. And yet, there it is. Paul writes in Romans about this verse,
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy… So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9:15, 16, 18 ESV)
if you need to find justification for God to act in such a way, it is also in is verse. Pharaoh was made that God’s name might be proclaimed in all the earth. In other words, he was made by God for God’s glory. Paul also knew that his readers would wrestle with this, finding it hard to reconcile with their notion of fairness. So he goes on,
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 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?” 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? 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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— (Romans 9:19-23 ESV)
God can do what he wills with His creation, for we are His and not our own. We were made to bring Him glory in whatever capacity He wills. That we were made for His glory is not in question. What is in question for you and me is this: in what way will you glorify God? Will you do it through willful obedience and love, or will you do it through defiance and hardness?
Lord, you have called me out of darkness and into your marvelous light, revealing that it was not my will that prompted my choice to follow you but yours. My desire to follow you points to your power and shouts your glory, not mine. That is humbling and yet freeing at the same time! It also points to the great cost of your salvation for one who stood guilty before you. It points us to Jesus and the demonstration not just of your power but of your love. May I be an able ambassador for you with this good news.