8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? 
What strikes me today is what Paul states in verse 16, that my standing before God depends not on “human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Now, this is basic “saved by grace through faith” teaching, but in this context it is about God’s divine prerogative to extend his mercy to certain people in special ways. For instance, God showed mercy to Jacob in choosing to call him and not Esau. If we believe in grace, that we are saved as a gift from God, then it must follow that ultimately everything depends on God’s mercy.
But in meditating on this basic Christian teaching, my thoughts were led in a different direction. What about the mercy that I am called to display? If God’s intent in showing mercy to me is to save me and then conform me to His image, then doesn’t it follow that I am to be like God in this way as well? Is my basic posture toward other people one of mercy? Or do I regard them based on “human desire or effort”?
Our world can be a very merciless, and we can be very quick to judge. Do I see the people around me as fellow strugglers in need of mercy? The slow clerk at the store, the driver who cut me off, the neighbor who plays his music too loud, the customer service rep who didn’t help me, the person whose social media rant annoyed me? These are snapshots from just the past couple of days in my life where I struggle – even now – to take a posture of mercy. Sometimes it is a challenge for me to hear Christ’s call to be merciful as I have received mercy. And yet He persists, and today is calling me to mercy through this passage.
So my prayer today is that the mercy God has shown me would overflow into merciful living in my life, that I would be a conduit of God’s mercy in my relationships and encounters this day.
What is the Word leading you to pray about today?
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 The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 9:8–21). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.