We are taught early in life how to choose sides. Just chose the strongest, fastest, tallest, smartest, prettiest and trendiest and you can’t go wrong. With a smiling face, you’ll find your place among the stylish crowd.
But, what if our precious standards of evaluation are wrong? What if the best choices are not the most popular or comfortable? What if success is not found in the path of the beautiful and the bright? What if our method of selection is so flawed it actually leads to our ruin?
The history of human choices is not a good one. The original couple made a choice that had all the indicators of success. They choose a beautiful fruit to be smarter and stronger. How brilliant! But, it was dead wrong. Look around, our ability to make wise choices isn’t much better. There is something deeply flawed with the way we decide things.
However, God doesn’t evaluate things like we do. Who would choose David over Saul to be king? God did. Who would choose a life of poverty for the Christ? God did. Who would willingly choose to die on a cross? God did. Clearly, God doesn’t make choices the way we do. We would do well to throw away our flawed filters of decision and pay attention to how God chooses.
A case study: God chose Jacob, not Esau.
God’s choice is explained at the birth of these twin boys (Gen. 25:19-26), and later examined by other Biblical writers (Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9:11-14; Heb. 12:15-17). We also learn about God’s choice by looking at the families of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 36-50).
Genesis sets up the study this way,
Genesis 36:1 Genesis 37:2
“This is the account of Esau.” “This is the account of Jacob.”
That similar beginning is followed by a shocking contrast!
Who God chooses is surprising! First, the family of Esau is described as large and powerful. They control twenty-seven chiefdoms and have eight kings who rule the rising power of Edom. They are literally, a royal family. Align yourself with Esau and you’ll never lack food or protection (or so it seems; see Obadiah).
On the other hand, the family of Jacob is described, “This is the account of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen was tending the flocks” (Gen. 37:2). What? The hope of Jacob’s family is pinned on a boy! A shepherd boy, from a dysfunctional family, surrounded by brothers who hate him.
Now, what family do you want your daughter to marry into? What family do you want to be a part of your church? That’s easy, Esau! Yet, the hope of humanity does not rest with the numbers and security of Esau, but in the single, rejected, but faithful son of Jacob.
Take heart! God often chooses to work through unexpected and feeble people (1 Cor. 1:26-31). God’s work is not often done among the many and the mighty! It is done among the few and the faithful.
Our value is not tied to how big a church we attend, but to the God we serve. Our future does not depend on the quality of our family tree, but on the newness of our life in Christ. Our hope does not rest on our plans, but on God’s providence! We don’t have to be many, powerful, smart, or even perfect, God chooses to work through feeble, but faithful people.
God does not choose to remove us from pain. Esau’s family had so many possessions they decided to leave the land of Canaan. They seized some land to the east and set up their own nation. On the other hand, Jacob “lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan” (Gen. 37:1). He has no nation, and before long he is nearly starving to death. Remind me, who did God choose?
Then, there is Joseph. The chosen one! Yet, his brothers hate him, toss him in a pit, and sell him into slavery. He is later lied about, thrown in prison, and forgotten for over decade. Could God choose such a path for His people?
Yes! God often chooses the most painful path. Faith is not found on the couch of convenience, but by carrying our cross (Luke 9:23-24). It is fleshly religion that seeks to make comfortable spectators. Discipleship calls for sacrificial service (2 Cor. 12:15; Phil. 2:17).
To make godly choices we cannot run from the pain. When we sacrifice our time, affection, energy and possessions to know and serve the Lord, it is the best choice we can make.
Our salvation is the goal of God’s choice. Yes, Esau’s family was attractive, but ultimately, they became corrupt, ungodly, murders who brought death, not life (The Herodian family of the N.T.).
On the other hand, Joseph’s pain worked out to the salvation of his family. Joseph summarized the purpose of God’s choice in this memorable statement, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).
The ultimate purpose of God’s choice is not to make things comfortable for us, but to save our souls and the souls of people around us (1 Tim. 2:4). So, the fundamental question behind each godly choice is, “Does this lead me closer to God and help me save more people?”
Our “decision maker” is broken! It is too corrupted by external appearances and personal comforts. It is time ask, “What would God choose?” Then, do that.
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
A couple of quotes on Genesis 36-37,
“secular greatness in general grows up far more rapidly than spiritual greatness” (Delitzsch, Franz. New Commentary on Genesis. vol. 2. (p. 238))
The promised spiritual blessing demands patience in faith, and emphasizes that waiting while others prosper is a test of faithfulness and perseverance. Wisdom literature later developed this theme more fully: the unrighteous prosper in worldly power and wealth, while the righteous seem at times to lag behind such prosperity (see Ps. 49; 73). God will give the promised blessings to Jacob’s seed, but only after long refining and proving of the faith. (Ross, Allen P. Creation and blessing. (p. 588))
An interesting book for further study:
The Edomites: Symbol of the World. By Homer Hailey