Time —1. Promises to Abraham Books —Genesis Figures —Abraham Isaac Jacob Begins with —God's call to Abram Ends with —Jacob's family settling in Egypt
This lesson looks at "God's purpose according to election" (Romans 9:11). When God elected one, he necessarily rejected the remainder of the group he chose among. This principle of ELECTION or DIVINE CALLING is a major thread running unbroken through the whole story of the Bible. It is important for Christians to understand how this principle relates to human choice and responsibility.
1 The Main Point
A first principle of election: God's choice is primary, and his will is sovereign. Nevertheless, when exercising his will and making his choice regarding a person, God takes account of that person's disposition.
In the examples of election and rejection that we are about to consider, God was not appointing people to their ultimate and eternal destinies.
Rather, God's choices had to do with birthright and ancestry. When God "hated" Esau, he was not consigning him to hell.
Nevertheless, these elections are no different in principle, and much the same rules apply to our election to eternal life:
What Paul calls "God's purpose according to election", goes hand in hand with the choices and attitudes of those whom God elects.
God's choice is primary because the purpose originates with him —after all he is your Creator, he designed the grand purpose, and his will is sovereign.
Your choice is secondary —because you could accomplish nothing all by yourself without God's providence.
Nevertheless, God does not elect or reject you without respect to your heart's leaning. Rather, God makes his election and rejection with due regard to the disposition of those he chooses among.
Do you love God, seek his truth, live justly, yield to his will? "The Lord looks on the heart" and that bears upon his reckoning.
This does not make you the CAUSE of your own election, but it does mean that you are responsible, you are accountable, and you also choose.
2 Examples of Election and Rejection
God began making choices at the dawn of history. God preferred Abel to his brother Cain, rejecting Cain's presumptious offering, and accepting Abel's made by faith from heeding God's word (Hebrews 11:4 Romans 10:17) . When Cain killed Abel, God appointed Seth, in his place and still rejected Cain (Genesis 4:25).
Noah (descended from Seth) found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8) . Noah's family was chosen from among the world's inhabitants to survive the flood. This election certainly took into account that Noah did all that God commanded him (Genesis 6:22).
From among Noah's sons, God elected to honour Shem and Japheth, and rejected Ham by cursing Canaan his son. This election was connected with Shem and Japheth's respect for their father, and Ham's disrespect. (Genesis 9:18-27).
Abraham (a descendent of Shem) "believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6) . God's choosing and calling of Abraham cannot be isolated from this disposition.
Abraham had a son Ishmael by his wife's slave-girl Hagar. But election was at work. "Cast out the bond-woman and her son, for in Isaac shall your seed be called" (Genesis 21:10-12) . One factor in this was the bond-woman and her son's disrespect for Abraham's true wife Sarah (Genesis 16:4-5;Genesis 21:9-10)
God had already chosen between the twins Jacob and Esau before they were even born (Genesis 25:23,Romans 9:11-13). However, we would be foolish to conclude that God took no account whatever that Esau would despise his birthright.
Election and rejection continued beyond the time of the Promises to Abraham. One of Jacob's sons, Joseph, dreamed that he would rule over his brothers. His brothers rejected the God-given dream and sold Joseph to slavery in Egypt (Genesis 37) . God chose Joseph for greatness.
Joseph had two sons in Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim. The latter received the birthright blessing from Jacob (Genesis 48:14-20) . Ephraim's descendants became the great tribe of the northern kingdom (Isaiah 7 Ezekiel 37:15-22) . But "Ephraim is joined to idols" (Hosea 4:17) and God cut off Ephraim, fulfilling his promise through the house of Judah instead of Joseph.
Election and rejection continued even after the conquest of Canaan. When the Israelites wanted a king, their law gave God the right of election (Deuteronomy 17:15) . God chose Saul (1Samuel 10) but later rejected him "because you have rejected the word of the Lord" (1Samuel 15:22-23) . David was elected and Eliab and others rejected on the basis that "the Lord looks at the heart" (1Samuel 16:6-13) . Although David's throne declined in power because some subsequent kings were wicked, David's family remained the royal family until the Messiah "the Son of David" came. He too was elected and accepted by God (1Peter 1:20).