There are two important points to note from these three verses, 14-16:
i. God's special blessings and call are independently of human merit (or lack of)God's famous declaration from Exodus is then repeated: "I shall have mercy on whom I have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion". This is perfectly congruous with what went before: that God is obliged to NO ONE in His dissemination of blessings; He can bless who He wants for whatever purposes.
ii. God is really gracious and 'big-hearted' in His gifts! (Point [i], instead of causing us to feel concern and 'injustice', should instead lead us to rejoice that His heart is one which longs and loves to bless!)
We may ask for gifts towards ministry;, for relief from suffering (or financial troubles, like yours truly...*grin*); we may point out the perfect 'deservedness' of so-and-so for this privilege or that anointing; we may have perfectly logical and understandable reasons for needing a word, some sign from God, etc. Yet let us never forget that the Lord of Lords - when He DOES eventually bless you - is under NO OBLIGATION to do so. No matter what the situation, His showers of compassion and graciousness are rained down as HE sees fit, not as WE do!
This is especially wondrous in cases where people obviously do NOT deserve any of God's hugs (as in the case of Israel). He shall have compassion on whom He will, even (or especially?) on they that LEAST deserve it.
This is exactly the scenario Moses experienced in Exo 33. Let's look at that chapter to see how events unfold which lead to God's declaration:
Exo 33:12-13 (Moses says to God), "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people', but you have not let me know whom you will send with me...IF YOU ARE PLEASED WITH ME, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you..."(Notice that Moses is petitioning God almost to the point of desperation; here our dear prophet is trying to 'leverage' his requests by suggesting that God's pleasure with him should be reflected in a particular blessing... *smile*)
Exo 33:15, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What ELSE will distinguish (us) from all the other people on the face of the earth?"(See the more intense 'negotiator' role Moses has taken on)
Exo 33:18, "Now show me Your glory."(Moses finally quits the 'courtesy' and virtually demands God to meet his requests, despite the Lord's gracious agreement expressed in vs.17)
After which God does indeed bless Moses by causing His goodness to pass 'in front of' M (vs.19). Yet lest Moses forgets and feels that God OWED it to him to thus reveal His glory, the Lord declares unambiguously and lovingly, "Moses, I am showing you my glory because I am pleased with and know you by name (vs.17); I abundantly pour out my mercies and compassion - but don't you ever think that the basis for my doing so is in anything other than My Word, My Wisdom and My Love. Don't ever feel that I am being COMPELLED by human standards or reason to do so. I love you because I am Love, and not because you deserve it. I shall have mercy on whom I shall have mercy."
In Exodus God wanted to convince Moses that the latter's deservedness did not determine divine blessing; in Romans Paul emphasizes fittingly that human 'deservedness' (or otherwise) is not even an issue.
Yet a salient point to note is that the context does not involve SALVIFIC notions, but refer strictly to privileged destinies, temporal blessings, special revelation, prayer requests, etc. The eternal personal salvation of individuals simply isn't the focus here. Paul is talking about the NATION of Israel, what she was sovereignly bestowed with, how she forsook her God and thus her blessings, and how God calls independently of any basis in Man (and thus why it makes no sense to protest that Israel 'should not' have been the Chosen Race given their obvious failures).
Rom 9:16 sums all this up very grandly: "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy". Indeed when it came to the CHOICE of Israel as God's people, it depends on nothing but the loving will of God.
Paul's hypothetical objector was under the (false) presupposition that when God chooses people, He necessarily chooses the 'best'. Thus when Israel fell, this failure naturally reflected back upon God's initial 'faulty' criteria, making God Himself a failure as well.
Yet to employ this line of reasoning would be to forget that the election of Israel by God was done INDEPENDENTLY of the Jews' merits. God had not chosen Israel because she was somehow 'superior' to everyone else, and thus Paul's hypothetical objector (and all of us!) must be reminded that even though elected of God, there is no inherent reason why success in the holy life is somehow 'automatically' or 'effortlessly' achieveable. In fact, the tragic unbelief of the Hebrew race throughout the generations (in spite of their special standing before God) have proved to be their undoing.
Nevertheless the message loud and clear must also be that God is SOVEREIGN with respect to who He wishes to call for whatever destiny/privilege/blessing He has in mind. Yet the wondrous fact is that God is always 'not playing fair' in a gracious and merciful direction i.e. we're always receiving undeserved compassion and providence! God's sovereign flexing of absolute 'deservedness' is thus in OUR favour, pouring out His love on us IN SPITE of our un-worthiness!
How amazing is His love for us...*smile*
(Next, let's look at the Reformed
interpretation of the passages we've just discussed. Alternatively,
we can continue with verses