Today's reading form Romans is the reason I dislike Romans so much. Seriously. Sometimes I really have trouble with these passages. Paul uses a couple of examples from the Old Testament to speak about God's sovereignty. He talks about Rebekah's children, and God's choosing Jacob over Esau to fulfill God's purposes. He also talks about Pharaoh, whom God raised up and placed in the very position he was in, in order for God to display His own power and majesty.
Paul quotes God's own description of Himself that He had given to moses, as He said, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." Again, talking about Pharaoh, Paul says, "God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."
Paul's point here is clear: God is sovereign. To me, the thought of an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God, who is sovereign over everyone and everything, who does what He wants to when He wants to just because He wants to is chillingly frightening.
Until you remember that He's GOOD. He's SO good! That's the only way I can have any peace about this passage in Romans 9.
Paul goes on to speak about God's grace. The prophets of the Old Testament foretold of God's grace which was to come, but the Jews rejected their message. They refused to listen to the prophets and instead tried to earn their salvation. Thus, they missed God's grace when He came in human form. God's grace was then offered to the Gentiles, as Paul makes the point that the gospel is for all people everywhere. Likewise, God's grace is for all.