emilynisch

When God Chooses

In Christianity on April 21, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I’ve recently been learning about what it means to have God’s favor. It’s a bit different than I expected.

The other night I opened up my bible to Romans, Chapter 9, where Paul talks about who Israel is. He tells us that Israel is not the biological children of Abraham (to prove, if this were the case Abraham’s offspring would be reckoned through Ishmael). Instead, Israel is the children of God’s promise, that is, the children of his promised son, Isaac. (9:6-9)

Paul goes on to teach us about what Paul calls “God’s purpose in election.” (9:11) He says that though Jacob and Esau were even twins and of the same mother and father (unlike Isaac and Ishmael), and Esau was born first, God’s plan was the “the older would serve the younger…’Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (9:12-13)

The point that God’s making here, says Paul, is that he chooses who he chooses. Jacob, Isaac and so on, didn’t claim God’s favor on their lives because of anything they had done. As Paul says, God distinguishes between Jacob and Esau “before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad.” (9:11) So, it is made clear to all of us that God’s purpose for is is “not by works but by him who calls.” (9:12)

This is comforting. When we ask God why he blesses us (perhaps fearing he will stop blessing us someday), or when we fear that God’s blessing is leaving us, or isn’t there, or has never been there, we can stop and remember that God’s calling is unfathomable. It’s not by our choice or effort, it’s just because it is. I love how circular God’s argument is – and that, for him, a circular argument works because he’s God. Using something God said in Exodus, Paul explains how God is just (which is what we’re worrying about when we fear our works won’t measure up to receive God’s favor): “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (9:14-15)

If God has mercy on us and turns our hearts to him then we partake in the promise God made to Abraham. He has chosen us.  We are in his promise, so we can stop trying to please him and know that he has chosen to be pleased with us. (I wonder if this is another image of Christ and the church:  husbands and wives should continue to be for each other (even if they are not always emotionally happy with each other) in the same way that Jesus has chosen to be for everyone God has chosen for him, to the point of sacrificing the most that is humanly possible.)

Knowing these things frees us up to actually follow God.

A few mornings ago as I woke up I felt the like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. This isn’t new to me; it’s something I struggle with periodically. That morning I suddenly realized that I could trust God with that weight. And, if I’m not being weighed down by things that aren’t actually on my shoulders, I can carry the loads that Jesus has actually put there. I will actually be able to follow him.

If we believe God has irrevocably chosen us, just because he has chosen that he will have mercy on us (as Paul explains in Romans 9:16-24) then the weight of our world is on him. He’s carrying our broader scale life and our ultimate destiny. So, we can just confront what each day presents, and find that it is appropriately small.

I’ve just been learning this, and I’m still in the process of practicing it. I know each of us has different areas where we struggle. I struggle with feeling the weight of huge long term things (and also am good at seeing things that way); others may struggle with looking at the details and forgetting the direction they’re going in (and be great at arranging all the details so that someone else’s long-term plan is possible). So, find how these ideas fit into your life and who you are. 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