Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? - Romans 9:18-21
Here I go again...thinking too much. Sometimes I just overanalyze things and make them more complicated. I wish I had the faith of Abraham - and just simply believed unconditionally. But I wrestle. I guess that's human nature - however, I don't have a hip thrown out of joint like Jacob, so I guess I should be thankful :-) However, God is probably up in heaven rolling His eyes good naturedly and sighing "oh no, Chris..not *again*...ok...let me try explaining this ONE MORE TIME..."
You see, if God has already chosen me like a lot of scripture says...then do I really have "free will"...because if He says "opps, she's not gonna believe because she doesn't want to" does that negate His omniscience? I used to go back and forth on this all the time...until I read the above passage in Romans, and it became a bit clearer to me, at least where choice of salvation or not is concerned...
God knows...He is omniscient. He told Jeremiah "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart" - (Jeremiah 1:5) In Psalm 139 it says "your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
So even before I was born, God knew what I was going to do. He knew whether I would accept Him or not. Why did He choose me? I don't know. Why didn't He choose others? I don't know, and really, it's none of my business :). I do know I can try and be a living example of Christ to others, to perhaps kindle a flame that was left in their hearts by God before they were even formed. It's one of those things I just need to accept by faith -
"It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Roman 9:16)
When it becomes difficult (at least for me) is when I try and anthropomorphize God (fancy big word that just means put human characteristics onto something that is not human - impress your friends and use this word when describing your mom who sometimes seems to love her pet chihuahua more than you, allowing it to eat at the table off her good china, and dressing it up in the latest "Juicy" couture pours les chiens...)
By putting human characteristics onto God, aren't we then limiting Him? For we as humans all "fall short" don't we? So why are we trying to make God like the guy next door? He's G-O-D...not Harvey, Joe, Dave, or Pastor Bill, or the Pope...He's G with a capital G...O....D. Something we can't fathom, we have no clue as to His full powers/capabilities - He only shows us glimpses, and those glimpses we get are usually so awesome and cool they bolster our faith, and sustain us throughout our measly human existance on earth :).
There's a lot of neat stuff in Romans...take a moment to re-acquaint yourself with it today...Oh, and don't forget to look up at those clouds and thank God for His handiwork :)
Here's that passage from Romans 9:18-21 in the Message - It makes things a bit clearer :D
God told Moses, "I'm in charge of mercy. I'm in charge of compassion." Compassion doesn't originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God's mercy. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, "I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power." All we're saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill.
Are you going to object, "So how can God blame us for anything since he's in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?"
Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn't talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, "Why did you shape me like this?" Isn't it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn't that all right?