Items posted on 29 January 2012
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Numbers 23.18-24 – Election and God’s free choice
Posted: 29 January 2012 in Numbers

And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.

Those familiar with the story in Numbers will know that Balak, king of Moab attempts, on three separate occasions, to persuade Balaam to curse Israel. On each occasion God instructs Balaam to bless Israel, and puts the appropriate words in his mouth. The above is the blessing Balaam utters on the second occasion.

In ancient times, as it does today, Israel represented a very small percentage of the world’s population, and to human sensibilities it is bound to seem outrageous that God should place his blessing upon them alone. Nevertheless, the Lord chooses whom he chooses, and, as the above passage says, God is not a man that he should repent. We know, of course, that Israel’s election will include its role in bringing the light of Christ to the Gentiles. Even after the time of Christ, however, there is an elect whom God has freely chosen for himself. Nowhere in the Bible is an explanation given for why God should choose some, but not others. It is stated as a fact, and left at that.

But maybe the scandal in the particularity of election is also its point, at least in part. If everybody were chosen to be recipients of God’s special favour, and with the human psyche being what it is, it would not be long before the idea began to insinuate itself into our minds that we had some kind of automatic right to the gifts which God distributes as he will. Prior to the fall we might have conceived of ourselves as creatures wholly dependent upon the good pleasure of our Creator, and without any rights when we stand before him. But now we need something like predestination as a sharp reminder that we are but creatures, and dependent upon our Creator’s will.

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