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the promised one :: thoughts from Nancy Guthrie

One more post on The Promised One. This is a good one (I can say that because I didn’t write it!) and you will want to keep reading even if you didn’t do the study with us. I have been so sad that this study is over…I am missing it! If you are still finishing up I would love to hear what God has been teaching you. Go back and leave a comment if you have a chance!

There were so many “new” things to me as I did this study on Genesis and truthfully, I am still struggling through a few of those things. The idea of God “choosing” people has been one of them. This was not really a new idea to me but an idea I have continually struggled with because, quite honestly, it doesn’t seem fair and makes me a little uncomfortable. I was so thankful that Nancy agreed to address this struggle that many of us have with God sovereignly choosing people even as we see it all the way through Genesis in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and throughout the rest of Scripture. After reading Nancy’s thoughts I was challenged to look past my own preferences of what I am comfortable with about God. Because the truth is I am more comfortable with a god that fits into my definition of good and fair. But, like Nancy said, I want a God who is bigger than me and my ideas, not a god I can control. I still feel like this is something I am struggling through but it is pressing me to expect God to continue revealing Himself to me as I continue to study His Word. I pray that you too would be challenged to continue studying the Bible, looking for who God is and how He works.

It is such a privilege to have you here, Nancy. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

As I’ve read some of your comments along the way of studying The Promised One, I see that’ you’ve had some “I-never-saw-that-before” moments. I had those too, so it is fun to me to share them with you. I’ve also seen that you have struggled with the idea of God “choosing” people. You wouldn’t be the first to struggle with this. And I promise you that when the idea was first introduced to me I struggled with it too. I remember the day and where I was sitting when a Sunday School teacher pointed out that when God chose Abraham, Abraham was a pagan idol worshiper who was not looking for or listening for God and had done nothing to make him worthy of God choosing him. And yet God chose him and called him and made incredible promises to him. That opened me up to the idea of God being the one who chooses who will be his, and from there I began to see God initiating and choosing everywhere I looked in the scripture and became convinced. I hope that might happen for you. God got bigger in my estimation and man got smaller.

In this study of Genesis we’ve seen God’s sovereign choosing not only in Noah, but in God’s choosing of Abraham, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau (which becomes a repeated theme throughout the Bible illustrating God’s choosing), and Judah over his older brothers to be the ruling tribe. If we were to continue to work out way through the Bible (and I hope you will consider moving forward with the next study in the series, The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), we would continue to see this divine choosing of who will be his. In Deuteronomy 7, Moses tells the family, which has become a nation, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that he Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all people, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he sore to your fathers . . .” When we come to the New Testament we hear Jesus say, “No man can come to me unless it is given to him by the Father.” God sovereignly and graciously gives the desire for Christ to those whom he calls out of the world. The difficulty and the great mystery is that apparently he doesn’t do that for everyone. He reserves the right to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. That is to say, God doesn’t treat everyone the same, yet he never treats anyone unjustly. Some receive justice and some receive mercy, and God reserves the right eternally to give his executive clemency, if you will, to those whom he chooses.

Perhaps one reason we have a hard time with this idea of God choosing some for salvation is that if we’re around the church for very long we are pressed over and over again to choose Christ. And choose him we must! However, the deeper reality is that we are only able to choose him because he has first chosen us. We would like to think that we are smart enough, spiritually inclined enough, that we would have chosen him on our own, but that ignores the reality that we are born spiritually dead—not just sickly but dead. Dead people have no ability to choose or reach out for help. So if you have been made alive together with Christ, it is because God chose you before you were born and determined that he would make you alive by uniting you to Christ who is alive forever. Just like the Lord chose to set his love on Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, so God chose to set his love on you—based solely on his sovereign good pleasure. That’s grace—getting what you don’t deserve and can’t earn.

But this still hits some of us as unfair. We think that if God grants grace to some, then He must grant the same measure of grace to all if He is fair and just. Here we must stop for a moment and ask why this should be so. Why does the granting of grace to some require the granting of grace to all? But I suppose the deeper issue for each of us is this: Have you come to place that you are willing to accept what the Bible presents to you about who God is and how he works even if it doesn’t fit with what you think a loving caring God ought to be? Or are you only willing to love and worship a God who fits into your definition of what God ought to be and what he ought to do?

Don’t you want a God who is bigger than you, a God who can contradict you? Or do you want a god that you can control, a god who completely fits within your preferences? Do you want a God who lovingly and graciously sweeps you into his grand plan for his created world, or do you want a god who waits around to be invited into plans for your life? You see this is the beauty and necessity of studying the Bible—that more and more we would worship God rightly because more and more we are worshiping the true God and not the God of our own making. This is also the joy and privilege of coming to the Bible expecting that God will reveal himself to us more and more clearly—he shows himself to us, the Holy Spirit helps us to understand, and we increasingly become less interested in using God to get the life we want, less oriented toward reading the Bible to figure out what we’re supposed to do, and instead become more interested in submitting to what God wants, and more grateful for what God has done for us through Christ.

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Nancy Guthrie is the author of numerous books, including the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series. Visit Nancy’s website to find out more about her books, speaking schedule, Respite Retreats, and Bible studies.

  • Debi - I love the way she explains this difficult concept. It doesn’t make us “better” than others and in no way does being chosen diminish the fact that we are still called to love everyone and preach the gospel to everyone. I remember when I first struggled with this idea of God choosing and the seemingly unfairness of it my pastor so gently and so graciously explained that if I was so adamant about God being fair than I and everyone else deserved punishment, b/c what is truly fair is that He saves none. God is in fact UNFAIR to save any at all. Wow. Mind blowing to put it that way. How thankful I am that God chooses to give grace and mercy when it is completely undeserved!! Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for doing this study on your blog. Tomorrow I will begin leading this study with two of my friends who are believers but currently either do not attend church, or have never done a bible study! I am nervous, but also excited! Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Jody - And then you look at others God has chosen. People like Paul, a thorn in the side of Christianity until God selected him. Or Kirk Cameron in modern times, a non-believer who is completely on fire for God and who’s passion lies in evangelism. It really is amazing what can happen when God gets ahold if someone.ReplyCancel

  • Mary Ann - I think the most beautiful thing about God is that he knows us individually. In all his omnipitance, he knows us….he knows me. Anyone can change and feel the Love of God. I’m so glad I know Him and know that he cares about me. Everything I’ve experienced, good and not so good, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me or doesn’t care. He simply allows some things to happen even if it doesn’t seem fair. All he wants is our faith and trust, our obediance and love. I am glad Jess is sharing these lessons. In our busy lives, it is easy to forget what is important. I know that without my faith in God, life would way too hard, way too easy to go another way. Thanks for sharing Jess and thank you for being you.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Ahh, Nancy, once again you’ve taken the knots of confusion in my head and untangled them so easily and gently. Thanks for sharing your gift of communication with us. So thankful for you! I’ve so enjoyed this book, mostly because of how deeply I got to study Scripture. My pages of Genesis are now wrinkly thanks to all my flipping. 🙂ReplyCancel