17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
Now Paul gave a third illustration of theodicy—Pharaoh (vv. 17-18).
“For” carries the logic forward from verse 14. God’s mercy does not depend on the resolve or action of mankind in general, because He goes by His sovereign plan. This is especially true with the unbeliever Pharaoh. The issue here is not the reprobation of the lost but the function of God’s decree. God chose Israel in His divine economy.
Concurrently with Pharaoh’s sin, God was at work. Pharaoh was hard hearted in his actions but God made him a monument of history. Mercy is grace in action. All blessing depends on who God is and what He has done. God’s sovereignty is never irresponsible.
the Scripture says to the Pharaoh,
The sense of this “Scripture” comes from Exodus 9:16. This phrase equates words of Scripture with the words of God. Paul thought of Scripture as the Word of God.
God in justice gave Pharaoh many opportunities to repent of his dealings with Israel.
“For this very purpose I have raised you up,
The book of Exodus makes a statement whereby God declared His sovereign authority to Pharaoh. God brought Pharaoh into time for a purpose. It was His sovereign act, not a mistake of history. God’s plan advanced through what He did through Pharaoh’s place in history. This does not mean God made Pharaoh to sin, however; he sinned because he chose to sin.
The Hebrew of the phrase “raised you up” is “caused you to stand.” The meaning in the Greek of this verse is more general. The phrase “I have raised you up” places emphasis on God’s activity. God put Pharaoh at this point in history. God raised him up to display His power through a commanding figure in history.
that I may show [publish abroad] My power in you,
God’s purpose in bringing Pharaoh to power in Egypt was to demonstrate His power to the world (Ex. 9:16; Ro. 9:22). God was at work in Pharaoh’s career in bringing him to political prominence to show His power over him. He did this by saving Israel from the domination of Egypt over them. The point is that God must do things His way and by His scheme because He is sovereign in the universe. He is faithful to His covenantal plan to Israel. His sovereignty showed His scheme of salvation 40 years later in Joshua and other places:
Josh. 2:10-11, 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
Josh 9:9, So they said to him: “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt,
God’s power or authority over nations to fulfill His plan is the thought here. “Show” means to carry a message through, announce everywhere, publish abroad. To this very day, people read the Exodus story and see God’s power. God published His power to Pharaoh, the avowed and implacable enemy of God, and to all the world.
and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
“Power” and “name” are overlying ideas. God’s name as the merciful one carries over by this. His choice of Israel expresses His self-determining mercy.
God’s purpose in creation is to make His glory known. God put His power before Pharaoh 10 times; it was judicially enough for him to change his negative volition toward God and toward His plan for Israel.
If people turn negative in volition toward God, He will allow them to run their own course.
If God’s mercy or grace by the cross of Christ does not give man what he deserves, then His justice allows the hardening of man’s heart to simply consent to what would have happened anyway as he runs his full path.
The hardening of his heart in this case is justice. This is the same thing as God’s “giving them over to a reprobate mind” in the first chapter (1:24, 26, 28). Because of their negative volition, God allows them to run their course. He leaves them in their sinful state.
God’s absolute righteousness demands justice, but His sending Jesus to die on the cross provides mercy. Grace is not injustice, for Someone had to pay the price for sin.