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Genesis 25 : The principle of divine election

The Bible is filled with the doctrine and truth of the Lord God’s merciful election of some people to salvation.

In short, it means the following:

In His eternal divine Plan – even before creation – God the Father – in order to prove His love and compassion – decided to give a bride to His Son – out of the sinful rebellious humanity who deserves death – yes, to redeem certain people in Christ. And, in order to prove His holiness and righteousness, He decided to leave the rest of the rebellious humanity in the doom/destruction that they choose for themselves. Therefore, He does not do them an injustice, because they thoroughly deserve eternal condemnation.

In the Bible the lost sinner is depicted as a victim (like a drowning person), but as a mutinous rebel who is executing a coup against the Divine King’s authority. A victim deserves to be saved, but a rebel deserves capital punishment. That is why God do not owe anyone any pardon. Should He decide to grant it to some, it is only supernatural free undeserved favor/grace.

Few Christians will deny that the Bible is filled of this glorious doctrine, but many do not accept it, because it makes it sound as if God is unjust against some people. They think it casts a shadow over His character. Sounds as if He is a monster. And we do not want that.

That is why they would argue that God had just looked into the future before the creation and had seen who would later turn to Christ and so He chose them! OR that God actually chose Christ and everyone who chooses Christ, is also chosen. OR that He actually chose all people and therefore the entire humanity will eventually be in heaven (the heresy of universalism). But you can clearly see how all these views puts King Man firmly on the throne and God is dependent on what man chooses. God only agree with King Man’s decision. This is not in any way the message of Scripture!

No, the Bible teaches that the person who comes before the Lord in humble submission and contriteness of heart and places his faith-trust in Jesus’s redemption, DOES SO exactly because he/she was chosen by God before the creation. Our faith and repentance are the FRUIT/result of divine election, not the BASIS of election. The basis of election is God’s indescribable free grace and favour alone.

Think of Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead. If the Master did not specifically call him by name, all the graves would have opened. But Jesus only called Lazarus, and the rest were left in their graves. Did He do them any injustice? Absolutely not. But He chose that Lazarus be resurrected and therefore death could not hold him back for one second! That is a picture of the way it works with the salvation of a sinner. It is a resurrection from the spiritual grave. And God chooses who He will effectually call.

When we get to a part in the OT that is explained in the NT, we MUST place the NT-explanation first, and set our own ideas aside. Because the NT-explanation is an explanation given by the Holy Spirit himself.

And that is precisely what we see here with Genesis 25. Because, do you know what? The NT explains this chapter. Where? In Romans 9. Romans 9 is the essential part that explains the principle of election. And in Rom 9 Paul specifically uses Genesis 25 to illustrate the PRINCIPLE of the election!

Let us first listen to what is written in Romans 9 and then we will go through Genesis 25 by the light that Romans 9 casts upon it!

Romans 9: 7-18 > “Not because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls – she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on Man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display My power in you and that My Name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden”.

Back to Genesis 25 …

In verses 1-11 we read about Abraham’s death and his descendants. It seems as though Abraham married Keturah AFTER Sarah’s death and that a couple of children were born to him when he was about 140 years old – which would have made their birth a bigger miracle than Isaac’s!

Many Bible commentators suggest however, that Keturah was a concubine of Abraham’s – long before Sarah’s death – particularly because in 1 Chron 1:32 it is clearly stated that she was his concubine.

However it may be, the point of verses 1-6 is to confirm that Abraham was indeed the Father of many nations, but that it was – according to God’s election – ONLY through ISAAC that the Abrahamic covenant would be continued. That is what Abraham believed and that is why he gave his other children gifts and sent them away from his son Isaac (verse 6). One wonders whether Ishmael was also sent away, but we know that he was later involved with Abraham’s burial in the cave of Machpelah.

Point is, God’s promise was not fulfilled through Ishmael, but through Isaac. After the death of Abraham at the age of 175, God’s promise and intention simply continued. The baton was handed over from father to son. Only ONE son: Isaac. God fulfilled His promise He had made in Genesis 17:4 regarding Isaac.

In verses 12-18 it is about Ishmael and his descendants. God also fulfilled His promise that He had made in Genesis 17:20 regarding Ishmael! That Ishmael would be blessed and be the father of 12 rulers. But God did not choose him as the one through whom His promises in the Abrahamic covenant would be fulfilled.

Abraham was probably hoping that God would change His mind about Ishmael, but the Lord refused to exchange Isaac (the son born through God’s promise) for Ishmael (who was born through Abraham and Sarah’s own works). Therefore, Ishmael is not buried in the cave of Machpelah, because that was a monument of hope for the bearers of the covenant-promise – through Isaac.

Verses 19-26 deal with the descendants of Isaac. One could already see how the line of Divine election is unfolding: God chose Sarah, not Hagar or Keturah, to be the mother of the promised child. God chose Isaac long before his birth.

In verses 19-26 we see the process continue when Jacob becomes the chosen one to continue the covenant-promise, and not Esau. While it ought to have been Esau, because he had the birthright.

The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer on behalf of Rebekah, because she was barren, and during her pregnancy she was conscious of how the babies jostled within her. Verse 23 > The Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Twins therefore, who were already in conflict while still in the womb. But the younger boy would be the one through whom the Lord would fulfil His promise in Christ. Before their birth already, the Lord decided who would bear the birthright.

It is to this that the Apostle Paul refers in Romans 9 when he explains the principle of election. Yes, in His omniscience God already knew beforehand what Esau and Jacob were going to do. And we all know that JACOB was going to be the actual villain. But God’s choice did not rest on their deeds (good or bad). God’s choice did not depend on foreknowledge. It only rested on His own good will and grace.

Verses 27-34 deal with how Esau sold his birthright to Jacob – so that God’s Plan could be fulfilled. Jacob did not trust in the Lord, but made his own clever plan. Esau was actually the “good” man and Jacob the rogue. But God’s choice passed Esau by and Jacob was in the sights. Esau became a man of action, Jacob was the one who would rather stay at home. In human eyes Esau was the chosen one. But in God’s eyes it was Jacob.

One day when Esau came in from the open country, he was famished. But Jacob did not show friendly hospitality, but took the opportunity to gain advantage. In the same way that he was a heel-grabber at their birth, he once more grabbed at what he could get. He wanted Esau’s birthright – in exchange for a bowl of soup.

Esau only saw what was at hand: The instant gratification of his temporary needs. He did not have a feel for spiritual and eternal matters. Therefore, He swore an oath to Jacob: “Yes, you can have my birthright, just let me have that soup”. He completely forgot the future and sold his eternal destination for a beer and short-lived pleasure. If it feels good, then do it. If it tastes nice, eat it. That’s Esau!

But, what was playing out here behind the scene, was the Lord’s eternal Plan. The Lord himself was in complete control. That does not mean that Esau was innocent. He could not blame the Lord’s divine Plan for His unspiritual behaviour of unbelief. It was his own fault. The Lord only allowed him to go ahead in his foolishness, and passed him by, that is all. And Esau could never blame the Lord for any injustice.

And that Jacob – the deceiver – would become the bearer of the covenant-promise and that the Messiah would be born out of him? And that he would become a serious believer? Well, he certainly did not deserve that. He was that only due to God’s free favor alone.

So, it is untrue that people who will eventually be eternally lost are lost because God passed them by in their distress. Yes, He DID pass them by, but they are lost because they – by their own choice – up to the very end of their lives, never fully placed their hope in Christ. In the same way Esau sold his birthright because he chose to despise it and placed more value on temporary needs, and not because the Lord God must be blamed for it. The Lord simply chose to leave him in his folly. But the fault was his and not the Lord’s. He was guilty, not God.

If one is lost, it is one’s own fault. If one is saved, it is the Lord’s “fault”.

To put it different: If one is lost, it is only due to one’s own choice. If a person becomes saved, it is only thanks to God’s free grace!

To put it still more different: If you are lost, you do not want to be saved because God passed you by in His eternal council and therefore, until the end of your life, you will feel very comfortable about the fact that you do not want to be saved from it. That is why Jesus said in John 10:26 “You do not believe because you are not my sheep”.

But if God chose you for salvation in His eternal council – then somewhere along the way in your life, you will begin to become repentant, and the Holy Spirit will overturn your life and you will turn around to Christ with all your might. That is why it says in Acts 13:48 “All who were appointed for eternal life believed”. And in Acts 16:14 it says about Lydia that the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

How does one know with certainty that the Lord did not pass you by in His eternal council?

If there is inside of you an interest and burning desire and a hunger and thirst to be saved and to live with the Lord. You yearn/long for forgiveness of sin and to be accepted by the Lord and not to dishonour His Name any longer. And you purposefully cast yourself upon Him.

The person whom the Lord has passed by in His eternal council, will never get to that point until the end of his/her earthly life and also not have much feeling for it. In fact, NO feeling for it at all.

The Lord God however, uses His great message of election and reprobation to shake all His elect sheep out of their spiritual death. Because it is exactly they who wake up when they hear these things. The person who today seems to have been passed by, could wake up tomorrow and become seeking! No one should ever be written off this side of the grave! Jesus spoke in John 10 particularly with unsaved Jews about the sovereign choice of God. Yes, with the unsaved! And to THEM He says in 10:15 “The good shepherd lay down His life for the SHEEP… not everybody across the board!”

For someone who is still in spiritual death, the message of God’s sovereign choice is a frightening call to repentance.

But to people who know and love Him, this message is an enormously profound comfort. The comfort to know that my eternal salvation does NOT hinge on my piety and devotion, but on His eternal choice for me! That is a rock steady foundation!

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category Genesis Series

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