8/30/2011

Why did God Call/Chose Abraham? (Gen 18:18-19)

Gen12callingofabram

Previous passage: "Walk Before God Blamelessly" (Gen 17:1-27)
Next passage: "The Wonder of Laughter" (Gen 18:9-15; 21:1-7)

Christians often inadvertently think that they choose God, because they accepted the invitation to study the Bible, or to attend church, or to repent and accept Christ as Savior and Lord, or to go overseas as a missionary. But Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide..." (Jn 15:16, ESV). This is the doctrine of election. Likewise, Gen 18:19 says, "For I have chosen him (Abraham)..." It is confounding and humbling. Why would a holy God humble himself to chose a proud sinner who thinks he knows better than God?

The God who chose Abraham gives us a clue as to why God chooses and calls proud sinners to be his humble servants. Consider these questions: How does God summarize Abraham's call (Gen 18:18-19)? How does Grace and Law, Calling and Obedience, relate to each other (Gen 18:19)?

1st, Abraham is to teach and order his household in "the way of the Lord" (Gen 18:19a). This is the most explicit expression so far of Abraham's responsibility to create a counter-culture, a new God-fearing community in which God's ways are pre-eminent. This underscores the corporate nature of our covenant relationship with God. Though we are saved individually, we are automatically saved into a community of other saved persons. All Christians, like Abraham, are called to live and shape this alternate humanity, this "new creation" community. God called Abraham not just to "receive a blessing" but to "be a blessing" (Gen 12:2). God wanted to be not only the God of Abraham, but also to be the God of Abraham's descendents (Gen 17:7-8; Lev 26:12). See "Walk Before God Blamelessly" (Gen 17:1-27).

2nd, the 2 marks of this "way of the Lord" are "righteousness and justice" (Gen 18:19, ESV) -- "by doing what is right and just" (Gen 18:19, NIV). These 2 words are often paired in the Bible. It has to do with both personal individual godliness and socially just and generous behavior. God is the Lord of every area of our lives.

3rd, the relationship/order between God's favor and Abraham's obedience. Gen 18:19 says, "For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (NIV). The ESV says, "For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

The order and relationship of God's favor and Abraham's obedience could not be clearer. Derek Kidner (Genesis, p133-134) says, "Verse 19 shows particularly clearly how grace and law work together, for it opens with grace (I have chosen him) directed toward the firm discipline of law (direct/command...to keep the way of the Lord) through which eventually grace may reach its goal (that the Lord may bring ... what he has promised)."

God did not choose Abraham because he is "doing righteousness and justice" Rather, it is because God choose Abraham that he is "doing righteousness and justice." Christians are saved by grace alone (Eph 2:8-9). But saving grace always gladly turns to obedience as a way to relate to our Lord and bring about his loving purposes in the world and in our lives. Martin Luther says, "Salvation is by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone." Thus when a Christian truly knows that God gave us unmerited Grace and Favor, then our utmost heart's desire is to fulfill the Law.

Ref: "The Friend of God." From "What are we put in the world to do?" Tim Keller, Leader's Guide, p 140.

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