A theme that has been creeping up as we continue through the book of Genesis is that of God’s providence. In today’s doctrinal circles, this can be somewhat of a point of contention. If God is sovereign, then how much free choice can we really have? Wouldn’t any of us having any free will limit the total sovereignty of God on some level? However inconsequential our lives may be, absolute sovereignty means just that: every single thing in total submission. Rather than continue to avoid the issue, we are afforded the opportunity to look at it here in a different light – that of the rights of inheritance.
When one reads the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and sees what we would consider peculiar behavior for a human being, we must understand that the people in the Bible are living at a different time and in a different culture. It can be difficult for us to relate to these people, when reading about how they treat their children and how some are blessed and others seem to be lo0ked over. Are they really playing favorites? Is love for our children not a universal value that spans culture and history? I would say it is and would also say that this is not contradicted in the Bible.
We have to imagine a culture where your inheritance was typically given to the firstborn. When that child was born, they became the target of your influence, education and affection. This was not because you necessarily like them more than your other children, however. This was because as firstborn and heir to your inheritance, you want to make sure that you teach them how to run it wisely.
In a sense, Abraham’s focus on Isaac at the expense of his other children is really in the regions best interest. Do you remember how Abraham treated the people that he worked for earlier? He understood that his wealth was the source from which everyone around him was sustained. He had a responsibility to them as well. Abraham comes off of the pages of Genesis as an incredibly generous benefactor, full of a sense of responsibility that surely came with the wealth that he possessed.
As Abraham grew older and looked around at the people who depended on him. He needed to provide a way for everyone. He did this by choosing to invest in Isaac. He circumcised him to symbolize a covenant between himself and God. He was willing to sacrifice him to show his faithfulness to God in all things. When his mother died, Abraham took great care to choose just the right woman for Isaac so that he would have a life companion, just as his father did. I’m sure he poured into Isaac and reminded him of where they had come from. He would have shared of his successes and his failures. He made Isaac his chosen one, not to play favorites, but for the good of all the people.
What gets lost in the discussion of God’s right to sovereignty is his purpose. It is fact that only God is God. He alone made the universe and everything in it. He gets to make all the rules. He has the God-given right to do so. God can choose to favor one group of people over another. In fact, he does. He sets apart the Jewish nation and displays his mercy toward them and showers his blessing upon them. If you look at the course of human history, the Jewish nation was as sinful as any other nation that existed at any given time. Yet he deliberately chooses to bless them, deliver them from their enemies, increase their territory and refer to them as his chosen people.
At this point, some would ask, “why?” and in response, some reform-doctrine christians might suggest “it doesn’t matter…” or even that it is inappropriate to question God as his purposes are higher than ours. I love my reform friends but it is important to ask why, especially when considering God’s sovereign choice because it is the heart of the Bible.
Much like Abraham chose Isaac for a greater purpose than just playing favorites, God had a special purpose in choosing the nation of Israel. While at first it may seem that he simply favors one nation over the rest of the world, out of this nation he would deliver a Messiah who would come to save the whole world.
A study of God’s sovereign will is important to understanding the lengths to which God will go to redeem the one he loves. It speaks of his foreknowledge, wisdom and compassion in a way that would leave any understanding of them incomplete without it. Today, bask in the glow that God’s plan for your salvation has been an eternity in the making. By choosing Israel, he was choosing you.