Bible reading for Aug 19.
I Samuel 11.
"But Saul said, 'Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.'" (1 Samuel 11:13)
FIRST VICTORY. God rescues Israel from a degrading subjugation to the Ammonites. Empowered by the Spirit, Saul unites the tribes and brings about a decisive victory over the enemy. This was Saul at his best. Here he shows mercy to his people (v 13), but later he will become harsh (cf 1 Sam 14:24, 39). This is the beginning of Israel's united monarchy (c 1050 BC), which will include three kings ruling successively over all the tribes: Saul, David, and Solomon.
"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." (Romans 9:16 NASV)
WHAT ABOUT ISRAEL? Chapter 8 is the pinnacle of Romans, maybe even of all the New Testament epistles. The Holy Spirit is the agent who applies salvation, leads us into holiness and assurance (8:1-17), intercedes for us (vv 24-27), and is preparing all of creation for a glorious future (vv 18-23). God's perfect plan to deal with human sin through his Son is a golden chain of salvation from eternity past to eternal glory (Rom 8:28-30). Theologian Herman Bavinck summarizes the gospel message (which Paul is explaining in Romans) this way: "The essence of the Christian religion consists in this -- that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is again restored in the death of the Son of God and through the grace of the Holy Spirit is re-created into the kingdom of God" (from The Sacrifice of Praise). But the Jewish-background believer at this point would ask, what about Israel? Paul said he preached the gospel "to the Jew first" (1:16). Had God abandoned Israel in his offer of the gospel to the Gentiles? What about the calling and promises he made to the OT people of God? (See Rom 3:1-3.)
DIVINE ELECTION. Chapters 9 through 11 address God's plan for Israel. In these chapters he will discuss Israel's past (9), present (10), and future (11). This is not a mere parenthesis in Paul's writing but an important exposition of God's plan for his people. Chapter 9 attracts a lot of attention from students of the Bible because here the Apostle Paul talks at length about the topic of divine election. Predestination is mentioned briefly in 8:29 (cf Eph 1:3-11), but here he writes about who, when, how, and why God chooses whom he chooses.
CHOICES. Much of this chapter is about three sets of individuals and God's choice of one over the other. His purpose of election can be seen in...
1) His choice of Isaac rather than Ishmael (9:6-9). That is, God's choice is not by natural means, but supernatural, through his word of promise (Isa 55:11; Acts 12:24).
2) His choice of Jacob over Esau (9:10-13). That is, God's choice is not by works good or bad, but by his own purpose and calling (Deut 9:5; John 15:16).
3) His hardening of Pharaoh, while showing mercy toward Moses (Romans 9:14-18). That is, God elects not on the basis of human will or effort, but by his mercy (Ex 4:22-26; 34:6; John 1:12-13).
INCLUDES INDIVIDUALS. Though the wider discussion is about God's election of the people of Israel, we cannot say that divine election only has to do with groups of people, like Israel or the church. Individuals are involved. In fact, this is clearly brought out in verse 16 and the use of the singular participles, "the one who wills" and "the one who runs" (NASV), which is not as clear in some other translations. Now the Bible teaches that humans are responsible before God for their choices, but also that God is sovereign over all creation, including salvation. We may not always understand how that fits together (Deut 29:29). But, for example, we see both perspectives in the words of Jesus here: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (John 6:37) The Father gives people to the Son and because of that we come. And if we come to Jesus we will never be cast out. The gospel is offered freely, so we may freely come. But behind all of that is God's eternal plan that ordained that we would come. Let's rest in that!
FURTHER READING. Check out Steven Lawson's article on divine election here. And Tim Keller answers three objections to the doctrine of election here.
AND FINALLY, here's a comparison of "How People Elect, and How God Elects"...
People choose people whom they deem worthy;
God chooses the unworthy.
People choose people based upon merit;
God chooses people based upon mercy.
People make choices based on limited knowledge;
God makes choices in accordance with infinite wisdom.
Sometimes people choose others in an arbitrary way;
God elects in accordance with his divine purpose and plan.
People elect people to positions of power and license;
God elects people to be holy and blameless.
People elect people to special privileges;
God elects people to know and serve his beloved Son, Jesus.
When people elect people, pride is often the result;
When God elects people, there is never room for pride.
People elect others with a view to their own self-interest;
God elects people to the praise of his glorious grace.
With people you have to be good enough to be chosen,
with God no one is good enough -- nor too bad -- to be chosen.
Image credit. Photo by Dmetry Osipenko on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The NET Bible is a free, online resource, and a ministry of bible.org.