Tuesday, August 5, 2014

David, the death of Uzzah and Reverence for God

by peter waller

At some stage during his rule as king, David decided to bring the Ark of God (which housed God’s manifest presence) into Jerusalem. The Ark had been housed for some 20 years in the house of Abinadab following its return by the Philistines. As David and a procession of people journeyed with the Ark, they danced with joy in expectation of more of God’s presence and goodness in their lives.
But the celebrations met an abrupt end when one of Abinadab’s sons, Uzzah, was struck dead by God. Uzzah had touched the Ark to prevent it from falling off the cart that was transporting it. All eyes must’ve turned to David – “Now what?” David was offended by God’s seeming harshness. And, suddenly, he was afraid of God. He feared that God might kill him too; “If God is so holy that he killed Uzzah for a mere knee-jerk reaction, he may well find some wrong in me and kill me too if I bring the Ark back home."

Is God safe?

Because of this fear, David abandoned his plans and left the Ark at a nearby house, inhabited by a man named Obed-edom (a “guinea-pig” if ever there was one). I imagine that David was confused at this time as to whether God was safe (and it was good to draw close to him) or dangerous (and it was best to admire him from afar). It probably was especially difficult for him to absorb since he already had a close relationship with God. He had history with God – with God’s help he had killed beast and brute while still a boy; as king of Israel, God had given him detailed battle strategies. Yet his experience with the Ark of God left him perplexed.
Three months later, David heard that Obed-edom’s fortunes had improved considerably since the Ark had been in his house. Having had time to think, this news seemed to provide him with some clarity, for he returned to collect the Ark. (What did he say to Obed-edom? “Thanks Obed, I just wanted to see if God killed you, but seeing as he’s blessed you, I’ll take it from here.” Courageous leadership.)
As the Ark entered Jerusalem, David danced joyfully, with all his might. He was again delighted; seemingly even more so than when he first led a procession to bring the Ark back home. What can we take from this story that is relevant to the New Covenant? After all, God no longer dwells in a physical container or building. And there aren’t stories circulating of people being struck down for taking the holiness of God for granted.

The Fear of God in the New Covenant

This story can help us to revere, even fear, God appropriately. That was the impact of a story with a similar ending from the days of the early church. Luke records how “great fear came upon the whole church” after God killed a husband and wife for lying about what portion of the money gained from the sale of their property they gave to the church. (Acts 5:1-11)

I believe God was mercifully preventing David and the early church from falling into the trap that Saul and that couple did – the trap of taking him lightly; of fearing man more than him. It is a trap that has devastating consequences, particularly because it leads to a lifestyle of sin; a worthless, wasted life that can expect God’s judgement. A life that flows from seeing God as either indifferent to what we do or who can’t help but overlook our wrongdoing regardless of the state of our hearts. More enlightened biblical writers (of the Old and New Testaments) didn’t make a mistake like this…

“… So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.” Paul, Romans 11:20-22

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.“ A wise man, Hebrews 10:31 and 12:28

“Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Another wise man, Psalm 2:11

Worship that is acceptable to God is worship that is offered with reverence and awe. And that means we must keep in our minds who God is. We must not become lazy and approach him as if he is just anybody. We must never become overly familiar with God. It is true that he is our loving, gracious Father who has opened the way for us to approach him freely and boldly. But it is also true that he is the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent King of the all created things. This can be perplexing at times: what exactly is the nature of God and how should we relate to him? I certainly don’t pretend to be in a position to write the textbook on the matter. What I suggest is that we take time to comtemplate these issues like David did. That we consider afresh who God is and what it means to revere and fear him in our thoughts, speech and attitudes, without losing the wonderful reality of his love and grace. Like so many things when it comes to God, it isn’t a case of “either… or…” but rather it’s “both… and…”

Increased passion and joy

I think David made progress following his initial confusion at the death of Uzzah and gained a more complete view of God – a view that didn’t diminish his passion and joy in worship, but actually bolstered it. As crazy as it sounds, perhaps we would benefit if God struck someone dead for dishonouring him. It would be better, though, if we learnt from these two narratives that have been recorded in the bible for that very purpose so that history need not repeat itself.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The rise and fall of Saul

by Peter Waller
The narrative of the life of Saul in 1 Samuel makes for gloomy reading. A tall, handsome young man receives a stunning call from God and is anointed the first king of Israel. Shy at first, early heroics under the influence of the Spirit of God win over his detractors and embolden him to lead. More battle success follows before Saul’s character cracks in some high-pressure situations. It becomes apparent he isn’t fit to lead God’s people. By the time he dies on a lonely battlefield, the armies of Israel vanquished at the hand of the Philistines, his sins are truly staggering. Jealousy and insecurity led him to attempt the murder of David and Jonathan, his own son, and drove him to execute 85 priests of God and their families with scant evidence against them. And on his last night alive he consults a medium, despite knowing doing so is forbidden by God. What insights can we glean from his life that may prevent our lives from becoming similarly ill-spent?

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. (1 Peter 3:14-15)

Saul’s first two major sins were committed because he feared men more than God. Faced with an army that was scattering and a priest who was dithering, Saul overstepped his duties and offered a sacrifice he had no business offering. On another occasion he caved in to the will of his men and let them take some livestock after destroying the Amalekites, going against God’s instruction to destroy every living thing, including the animals. To be sure in both cases he was under great pressure from men, but this only served to reveal the hierarchy in his heart. He feared man first, God second. This led him down a path of sin and devastation and he never returned to God. He layered sin on sin, unlike David who dealt with sin by repenting. His own story became more important than the story of God. He esteemed his own name above that of God’s.

Following these sins, Saul was told by Samuel that God had taken away the kingdom from him and would give it to another. Saul’s response to hearing this news is galling. He pleads with Samuel to appear in public with him so that Samuel’s (and God’s) disapproval of him would remain hidden from the people. Although Saul knows the root of his sin is his preoccupation with what man thinks of him, when Samuel confronts him his response is not to attempt to make right with God but rather to preserve his image before the people.

Saul, as I see it, was familiar with God. He did not see him for who he is – a consuming fire – and so he did not revere him as he ought to have. Perhaps he saw God as a merciful, easy-going God who was more likely to overlook sin than he was to actually do anything. This is evidence of how poor our memories sometimes are and how slow we are to comprehend who God is even though we see him act clearly. Saul’s calling and rise to king had God’s fingerprints all over it. It was not a hard “case to crack”; Saul became king through divine intervention and lots of it. Yet if Saul was a detective, it seems he would have arrested the wrong man. His life as king began with God, yet was lived as if it began with himself.

Next time I’ll consider how David was prevented from becoming overly familiar with God.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Theatre of Nightmares - A Letter to the Newspaper

Below is a letter I recently sent to the Cape Times regarding adverts for a strip club that appear on their Sport's page each day:

I am shocked that the Cape Times has agreed to run the Mavericks adverts. These adverts are pornography (albeit not hard-core).

If you are addicted to pornography, you should be aware that it is exactly that - an addiction. And I would argue that it does more damage than the addictions of alcohol and nicotine. It ruins minds and destroys relationships. And it is more rampant than alcoholism.

I am fortunate enough to have a father who is not naive about the hazardous effects of porn. He ran an anti-porn campaign when I was a young boy, and that may be the reason that I have managed to avoid succumbing to a porn-addiction; unlike so many of my peers who have ruined their lives unwittingly.

Ted Bundy, the serial rapist and murderer, testified in an interview conducted just hours before his execution, that pornography, more than anything else, had led him to commit his heinous acts. What started out as mere dabbling in soft-core porn as a youth, raged into a wildfire of lust that even hard-core porn could not quench. So he turned to rape. Murdering his victims was merely part of the clean-up operations.

You may be addicted to porn and not be driven to such extents. Your addiction may be played out in the privacy of your bedroom or study. But what effect does it have on your life? Does it add depth to your relationships, or does it undermine them? Does it make you feel good about yourself or ashamed?

If you confidently assert it does not have any negative effects on you, I fear you are a typical addict. Like the alcoholic who blames his problems on circumstance, the gambler who insists he does not have a problem, or the druggie who gets irritable when his next high is threatened.

What difference do these adverts make in an oversexed society? They serve to further deaden our consciences to the horror that pornography is. We are a society perishing for a lack of knowledge. We do not trace problems to causes. Rape and divorce are as common as Impala in Kruger; one barely gives them a second glance when they appear. Relationships are impoverished. Pornography is a key villain in so many of these tragedies, yet we laugh at it as if it were the Jester... we perceive it to be little more than some entertainment. And this is what Mavericks want us to think. They are to be pitied even above their victims.

But, thankfully, there are many who are aware of porn's destructive potential. Some of them are ex-addicts who have fought courageously to rid themselves of the filth. Yet we are still vulnerable... corruptible. In our more lucid moments, we know it will do us more harm than good. Yet, if we let down our guard for a moment, our sexuality is easily overwhelmed. 

Enter the Cape Times. I turn to the Sport page as I sip my cup of tea mid-morning... and I'm fighting, again, to maintain my sanity. I realise I am not an audience member watching a Jester; I am a part of the play and am on an assassin's hit list. Except that this is not make-believe.

Peter Waller
Cape Town

PS. I will not support the Cape Times so long as the adverts are allowed to run. And will attempt to dissuade my employer from doing so. I appeal to the Editor and Owners to be courageous and so "No." to Mavericks' money for the sake of their readers.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Psalm 40 - David a Man After God's Own Heart

by peter waller
God as deliverer
This Psalm was written by David in a time of fear, yet it starts out with a recollection of what God has previously done for him:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

I want to be like David. Although he was a king, he was humble before God. He didn’t rely on his own ability to deliver himself. He recognised God (and God alone) as deliverer. And this caused him to wait on God and cry out to God. What about us? When we’re in a tight spot, where do we turn? Do we spend more than fleeting moments in prayer? Do we recognise our dependence on God and wait for him to act? Or are we consumed with our own strategies for deliverance, wherein God plays merely a minor role at most?

Us as worshippers
The benefit of waiting on God is that he acts; we are delivered. But, even more importantly, we see him act and this transforms us into the kind of people we were made to be – worshippers:

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.

I’ve heard it said that what every person craves, ultimately, is glory. We love the glory of rock concerts and sports events. We revel in the glory of great art. It is glory that satisfies us and makes us glad. And it is David’s sighting of God’s glory that is behind his exultation in these verses – “none can compare with you!” David’s happiness causes a song to rise from his heart to his mouth. And this song is not just any happy tune – it is a song of praise. Seeing God as our deliverer satisfies our souls and the overflow is worship. As worshippers we realise our true calling or identity which, in turn, secures our contentment.

Obedience built on relationship
This experience of God and worship of him lays the foundation for a relationship with him. David now makes a surprising comment:

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Then I said, “Behold, I have  come; in the  scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

This comment is especially surprising when you think of when it was written – under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was based on on-going sacrifice. Sacrifices were ordained by God. They were not man’s idea to deal with sin in order to be reconciled to God, they were God’s idea! Yet David says, “In sacrifice you have not delighted.” He seems to have a deep insight into God’s heart.

To be sure, these verses are “Messianic” – they are prophetic of the life and work of Christ. I’m not sure what degree of insight David had in this regard. I don’t know whether he appreciated he was writing about Christ, or whether he knew fully how to apply what he was writing to his own life. But the fact remains he had got an insight into the New Covenant that was at the core of God’s heart. God was yet to unveil his plans fully, yet here is David writing about them. What do we make of that? I think we say, “David had a relationship with God; a relationship where God showed David what was on his heart.”

David saw that God was after more than base level Old Covenant living. He was unhappy about the distance between himself and men and he wasn’t particularly excited about the system of animal sacrifice as a means of forgiveness. He saw that God wanted people who delighted to do his will; who obeyed from the heart, not begrudgingly.

David’s relationship with God is reflected in his communication with God. He heard God, “You have given me an open ear”, and he responded to him, “Then I said”. God was delighted! Here was a man that “got” him; that heard him. He bragged of his closeness with David, describing him as “a man after my own heart, who will do all my will”. David was a man ahead of his time in this way. Its almost as if he was a Christian before Christ had come to earth. He obeyed from the heart; he delighted in obedience. Whereas God described most of David’s fellow Israelites as having ears but being deaf, David says, “God gave me ears to hear!”
Why don't you ask God for ears to hear if you want a clearer understanding of what he is really like?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Staying True To The Faith With Cards

Three Reasons To Use Christian Birthday Cards:

A birthday should be a celebration, and as a Christian you probably like to celebrate as much as the next person. 

The problem that you will face is when you go to buy birthday cards for those that you love. Most mainstream birthday cards do not reflect Christian values and degrade many of the things that you believe in. Many of these cards are far too sexual in nature, or they seem to enjoy insulting the recipient. 

You want a card that will help you celebrate someone’s special day, but you do not want to violate your principles to do so, and the best way to do that is by buying Christian birthday cards from a Christian retailer.

Christian Birthday Cards Glorify Christ

In all things Christians are to glorify Christ and the God that created them. Where a secular birthday card may talk about how close the recipient is to the grave, a Christian birthday card tells the story of the years that Christ has loved the recipient. 

The focus of the card is on the goodness of God and how God kept that person alive for another year, and blessed them with friends or family that love them enough to bring them a birthday card. Rather than focusing on the year that has passed, Christian birthday cards point to the good things that exist in the present.

The Cards Are Uplifting

How many times does a person turning forty need to hear a joke about being “over the hill”? To many Christians the joke is tasteless and glorifies death at the expense of God. Secular cards are full of such jokes, laden with sexual innuendos and other things that are unsuitable for Christians to give each other. 

On the other hand, a Christian birthday card is a way to express to someone an interesting verse or thought that can be very uplifting. The right verse, at the right time, can cause the spirit to soar and bring people into a greater relationship with Christ. This can be a double edged sword. When you go to pick out a birthday card for a fellow Christian, and it has a verse of uplifting message, make sure that you take the time to really look for one that says what you want to say to that person. A thoughtful card is powerful, but a thoughtless card can cause a lot of damage.

Good, Clean Humor

So far the focus has been on serious birthday cards, but not all Christian birthday cards have to be serious. There are plenty of good, clean cards that you can give your brothers and sisters in Christ that are sure to get a chuckle, but do not have to stoop to the level of more secular choices. 

The whole point of the card is to show the recipient that you love them and wish to celebrate another year of life with them, and part of celebration is laughter. Do not be afraid to have fun with birthday celebrations, just make sure that the jokes that are on your card are something that you would have given to Christ.

There are a lot of choices out there for birthday cards, but as a Christian, finding the right card is not always easy to do. With a little extra effort you can give the people that you love Christian birthday cards that they will enjoy and that honor Christ at the same time.

I am George Hancock, long-time pastor and Christian for over thirty years. I am encouraged when I see Christians taking the time to find their Christian birthday cards at Christian stores because I know the message will be suitable. For my cards I shop at http://www.dayspring.com/cards/shop_by_occasion/birthday/, and I can find everything that I need.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Seeking Glory And Life After Death

 Unconventional Thoughts On Seeking Glory And Life After Death

Many people assume that seeking eternal life is no friend to hoping for and seeking after one’s enjoyment.  Surprisingly enough, the two are dynamically cohesive.  Truth be told, man is too easily pleased and often too distracted and caught up in fleeting lower forms of happiness only to miss out on ultimate and endless satisfaction.          


Striving for things Eternal

Many people are spiritually weak.  People tend to ramble about in life, coasting listlessly.  People tend to be bored and held captive from spirituality.  According to the Bible, we are to fight for faith and take hold of eternal life, which is given to those who eagerly seek, not dawdle.

Seek glory, honor and immortality more than you seek anything on earth.  Seek it, want it and pursue it.  If you are an apathetic person in spirituality, pray to God that he pushes you intensely toward seeking these things such that you know how precious glory and honor can be.


True Honor & Glory

Seeking honor is not seeking praise from man, but seeking praise from God.  On judgment day, God will bring to light things that have been hidden in darkness, and then man’s praise will come to him by God.

Seeking Glory is to seek God’s glory.  We first must want it and enjoy it and seek it as the highest treasure of worship.  Admire and delight in Him and do not exchange that for anything, for what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  Seeking is not just to see the glory, but to share in the glory of God.

There may be many sufferings along the path to glory, which is why ministries like Heart Felt Christian Counseling exist; nevertheless it is how we respond to the sufferings,  that leads  us to the glory.  It is not losing heart, it is our outer self, decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed daily.  We should not look at the things that can now be seen, these things are temporary, look for the things that are unseen,  these things lead to eternal life.


Life after death

Different religions have a variety of answers and explanations about what happens to us after death.  The overall arching theme apparent in all of religions, save Christianity, is that one must be a good person in order to inherit those good things that await a man after death.  Though the definition of good and of bliss varies, this line of thinking dominates religions.  This is a striking contrast to what Jesus and the Bible teach, which is that a man can never be good enough, thus needs to rest in the merits of the sinless Savior, having no merits of his own. 

Another way to think of it is that being good is not enough, we must be perfect, because God is Holy and cannot look on wickedness.  He is also just, therefore by His very nature cannot overlook our rebellion against His will and must bring forth justice.  The just penalty for sinning against an infinite God is an eternal sentence in Hell.  Most people think this is outrageous; however it usually boils down to the reality that they simply do not understand the magnitude of God’s purity, thus how absolutely offensive sin is to Him.    

Any reasonable person understands they are not perfect, which is why man must look to Jesus, the perfect one.  And because Jesus is infinite, His death on the cross was sufficient to pay for our eternal indebtedness to God, enabling us to come before His presence and have fellowship with Him forever.   

Being found clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is the gift of God to all who turn from doing whatever they please to doing what pleases Him, and not trusting in their own merits but His, the believer can enjoy God for all of eternity.  If one truly desires enjoyment he would do well to seek out eternal life.  

Cinidi manages to find time to write despite her full time profession as a medical coder in Missouri.  As an author, she has the pleasure of supporting orginizations such as heartfeltcc.com.

Friday, April 26, 2013

An Expert's Diagnosis of My Heart

by Peter Waller

My wife and I have a private joke. Sometimes when someone (including ourselves) does something obviously wrong, we say, “But they shouldn't be too hard on themselves”. We got this from someone who, after telling my wife about some downright childish and wrong behaviour of theirs, said, “But I think I’m being too hard on myself.” We are so quick to justify and overlook our own sin. This leaves us feeling superior to people around us. Well, Romans 1 and 2 has just the tonic we need...

Romans 1:18 – 2:5 starts with a cutting appraisal of mankind, which we'll look at shortly. In it, it seems that Paul is only condemning the vile and unbelievers. But Chapter 2 makes it clear that if anyone judges people for the behaviour in Chapter 1, they are hypocrites, for they are no better. Rather than judge, they are to see God’s patience and forbearance with them as sinners. They are to see his kindness and be motivated to repentance by it.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things... Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.


Paul is saying that people who have known God’s kindness should not assume that it is because of their goodness. They should not presume themselves to be good and to have merited God’s kindness. Nor are they to judge those God is opposed to. Paul wants us to see that we are no better than anyone else. And then we will see God’s kindness for what it is – grace – and not for what it isn't – merited favour. 

We must do this if we are to find repentance. God’s way for bringing human repentance is mercy. He gives us extravagant grace and over-the-top, undeserved blessings in order to lead us to repentance. His kindness is meant to be what changes us. We are not recipients of his kindness because we are different from anyone else. Rather, if we are to be different from others it will be because of his kindness.

Perversely, his kindness often leads us to believe that we are righteous. But as we read Romans, we realise it is not the case. We realise that we are all like our first father, Adam. The apple didn't fall far from the tree. Seeing this – the fact that we are made of exactly the same moral material as the vilest sinner – enables God’s kindness to us to have its intended effect. Failing to see this, will result in his kindness only deepening our deception and self-righteousness.

So, until we know God’s kindness – and until we know that it is because of grace, not merit – we will not repent, not really. Since grace is God’s path to repentance, if we don’t know his grace we have missed repentance. Fortunately, he is patient with us in this regard.

In light of all their repeated shortcomings, the person who continues to judge others is hard-hearted and impenitent. The person who doesn't step out of the seat of judge and fall on their knees in repentance before God has a stubborn heart. And they are storing up judgement for themselves.


Given how important it is for us to see the depth of our corruption, it is now good to re-look at what it says in Romans 1:18-31. These verses are cutting. And they are descriptive, not of the worst people, but of all people. As we read them, may God’s Spirit remove the veil from our eyes and heal our blindness to our true condition, outside of Christ. May we realise that they are talking about us. Let’s see them as a diagnosis of our own unregenerate hearts, whether or not we are guilty of each specific behaviour described in them. Paul, a spiritual physician expertly trained by God himself, is diagnosing us all. It is worth reading them as if he has come with his stethoscope and blood pressure gauge and examined us. He has checked our skin and our eyes. He has taken blood tests. He has quizzed us on what symptoms we have experienced. All the while he has scribbled notes. Now he is reviewing his notes and, as he does so, a frown settles on his brow. As we sit and wait anxiously, the frown deepens, until, after clearing his throat, he breaks the awful news of our diseased body in a grave tone:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Footnote 1: Objections

  • "Well, I did seek God so I’m different to the people described above." The bible is clear that all who seek God, do so because he first seeks for them. And they love him because he first loves them. (See 1 John 4:19; Romans 5:8; John 6:35-39, 44; Romans 9-11)
  • "If we’re all the same and are reliant on God’s mercy to seek him and escape from our sinful natures, why does he hold those who don't seek him accountable?"At first I thought this was a difficult question, now I think it is more flawed than difficult. Typically, it is a question about the justice of God: is God just to judge sinners who have no hope of obeying his commands and satisfying his requirements, no matter how hard they try? But the question contains the answer. We are sinners; he is holy. Our sin offends his majesty and holiness and, therefore, he is just in judging all of us. That he saves some is mercy; it does not make him unjust in not saving all. It is his mercy, so he is entitled to dispense it as he pleases. This then moves the question on from justice to why doesn't he save all? This seems to me to be the truly difficult question. In Romans 9 Paul seems tentatively to suggest an answer. He suggests that God's mercy is seen more brilliantly by those he chooses to save against a backdrop of the judgement they deserved being administered to others. This doesn't fully satisfy me, however, and I'm left with Paul's closing words in Romans 11 going through my mind: 
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Whatever the reason, if we will remember that it is his prerogative to show mercy to whom he pleases, then we will avoid slipping into the trap of believing that God owes salvation to all men.

Footnote 2: A clarification

In relation to the grim diagnosis Paul makes of all men, it seems necessary to clarify something. Christians should move from seeing themselves as sinners to grasping their new identity as saints. This is because of the wonderful doctrine of rebirth or regeneration. The word regeneration has the same root word as genesis which is Greek for “origin”. So regeneration speaks, if you like, of a rewriting of the book of Genesis in the life of believers. And in the second take on Genesis, there is a new Adam – Christ. Now, just as people who have not experienced a new origin are just like their father, Adam, so those who have been regenerated are just like their new father, the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a life free from sin. He obeyed God perfectly, even to the point of giving up his life to die on a Cross. This is the new cloth we have been cut from. And we have the same characteristics and qualities as this second cloth. In the past we were like a filthy rag, now we are pure white. Why we don’t always act like it is because we are still carry the flesh with us and so we are capable of resorting back to our old natures. There will come a day when the old nature is cut from us and we are fully free. But for now it is important that we see that our real selves are the regenerate selves, despite having the old nature clinging on like a dead body tied to us. And that, just as we are capable of living as our old selves (which, in Adam, are slaves to sin) we are also capable of living as our new selves (which, in the second Adam, are slaves to righteousness).

However, simply because Christians are now in the second Adam does not mean that the verses in Romans 2 (concerning God’s kindness leading them to repentance) are nullified. On the contrary, being new creations makes the repentance of Romans 2 possible. Christians are still the recipients of God’s unmerited and incredible kindness. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Without God’s mercy and grace, there would be no new creations. We would still be stuck in the first Adam as rotten sinners condemned to suffer God’s wrath. And while it is important that we shift in our minds from seeing ourselves as sinners to understanding we are saints, we must never go so far as to forget our condition when we first received of God’s kindness. We should always remember our deep poverty at the time God first smiled at us. That first smile was pure mercy. When he kissed our mouths and breathed his life into us it was sheer grace. And when he embraced our old corpses until they came alive it was entirely charity. Being in Christ entitles us to enjoying his smile on an on-going basis. But let’s not forget that our position in Christ has nothing to do with us – it was all Him and it was all mercy on his part. Therefore his favour is founded, ultimately, on grace and mercy.