Tuesday, October 6, 2015

God's Electing Grace

Recently I was reminded of a great verse from the book of Judges.  In Judges 2:1, it says, "Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim.  And he said, 'I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers.  I said, "I will never break my covenant with you."  I can't help reading this verse without thinking about God's work in saving and sanctifying his sinning saints.  

Israel was by no means the "good" nation.  Israel was as rebellious as every other nation.  Many times they did things that seemed unthinkable right after God had demostrated his power in supernatural ways.  An example is here in Judges 2 when God had given them the land he promised many years ago.  God told them to "make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their alters.  BUT you have not obeyed my voice" (2:2).  Or we could talk about the golden calf incident in Exodus 32.  There the Israelites make a golden calf out of their jewelry turning their praise from God to this calf saying, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 32:4)!  Or Israel's complaining about having nothing to eat after God made bread rain down from heaven.  Israel was not the "good" nation.  So what made them so special?

Nothing made Israel special in and of themselves.  Rather God made them special because of his chosing of them to be his nation.  We see in Israel God's electing love.  In Judges 2:1 we read, "Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal."  What does Gilgal have to do with anything?  Back in Joshua 5:9 we find out Gilgal is a pretty important reference.  "And the LORD said to Joshua, 'Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.' And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day."  Gilgal means "to roll."  Gilgal is where God had covenanted with Israel to roll away the reproach of Egypt.  Egypt was a place of slavery and oppression yet God in his kindness brought his people out of the reproach of Egypt.  

The angel of the LORD then graciously reminds them again of his grace in leading them out of Egypt.  "I brought you up from Egypt."  Egypt was bigger and stronger then Israel.  The people of Israel would have never been able to overcome the Egyptian oppression in their own strength.  When I think of the way the natural man is under the dominion of sin I can reflect back to the power and strength of the Egyptians over the Israelites.  Most of us miss this connection because we think we have pretty good control over our sin.  We minimize it.  We don't find it offensive to God because we don't see very many sin issues.  Left to ourselves we are powerless against sin's dominion.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:7-8, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."  When he uses the word "cannot" he is speaking of an inability to do something.  Those in the flesh cannot please God, they cannot submit to God's law.  They are powerless to obey God.  This is exactly the same situation the Israelites faced while under the Egyptians tyranny.  

Yet God in his kindness chose to rescue the Israelites.  This did not happen because Israel was great but because God is great.  "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Deut. 7:7-8).  God rescues his people.

Next we see God's purpose in bringing them out of Egypt: "And brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers."  Romans 8:30 says, "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."  The same truth is being taught to us here with the Israelites in Judges 2:1, "I brought you up from Egypt" is a picture of God justifying his people and "brought you into the land that I swore to give to your father" is a picture of God glorifying his people.  When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt it was a guarentee that they would make it to the Promised Land.  In spite of Israel's sin, God made a promise he had to keep, therefore Israel made it to Canaan.  "Those whom he justified he also glorified."  If you are trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation, God promises glorification.  It was a done deal when you were justified by his grace.  The reason this is true has nothing to do with us but rather God's electing grace.

Notice what God says next in Judges 2:1, "I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you'."  This statement is what guarentees our glorification.  Once being justified the process of sanctification begins in the life of the believer until death.  This is a responsibility of the believer to submit to God's commands found in his Word.  We are to be holy as our heavenly Father in heaven is holy.  This is the aim of every follower of Christ.  This is an impossibility left to ourselvs but by God's covenant keeping grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a change takes place in the life of redeemed sinners.  From sinner to saint truly is a supernatural work brought about by the covenant keeping God.  Though we act like Israel by hanging on to idols, God keeps pursuing and changing us.  

When the angel of the LORD came to the people of Israel, he came from Gilgal to Bochim.  I already spoke about the significance of Gilgal but is there any significance with Bochim?  Judges 2:4 tells us, "As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept."  The angel had pointed out the fact that Israel was not willing to drive away their idols.  Israel was to break down the alters where false gods were worshipped yet they disobeyed. The people see their sin and begin to wept.  "And they called the name of that place Bochim" (5).  Bochim means "weepers."  Israel was shown grace at Gilgal and was also shown grace at Bochim.  Grace rolled away their reproach and made them weep over their sin. 

"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God's] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).  As God's chosen people may we remember his saving grace.  May we remove the idols in our lives that hold us back from the greater joy found in knowing Christ more and more.  May we weep over our sin then return back to the cross knowing our sin is removed because of Christ.  May we proclaim this great message of Christ to the world through our mouth and life.  

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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