Romans 9-11 has been a dense and difficult portion of scripture. We have grappled with election, hardening, envy, and pruning. Perhaps it is instructive, then, that mercy has the last word. Here’s how 11:32 puts it:
For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
When we think about God, we need to bring the concept of mercy front and center. This is not to say that God is not holy or that he does not have a standard of judgment. Everything is headed toward God’s judgment of the world! Yet, the story of the gospel is a story of mercy. Though we did not deserve God’s grace, he showered it upon us.
The Pharisees struggled with this merciful aspect of God’s character. When Jesus came on the scene, they couldn’t figure out why a man of God would eat with tax collectors and sinners, and one of Jesus’ main critiques of the Pharisees was that their fastidious personal devotion was not mixed with mercy for the people around them. When Jesus, the very Son of God, came on the scene to show us what God is like, he showed mercy again and again.
There is no doubt that Romans 9-11 has dealt with hard themes. At one point, Paul argued that God might “bear with great endurance the objects of his wrath”. Now, at the end of the section, we find that Israel, who had become objects of wrath through their rejection of the gospel, has actually been marked for mercy. Truly, God’s ways are unsearchable and higher than our own. His mercy, though, is close at hand. Praise the Lord for showing us mercy!