Today’s Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 14-16:14; Romans 9:1-24; Psalm 19:1-14; Proverbs 20:1
When Asa became king over Judah he removed the altars and pillars to foreign gods and directed the people of Judah to the true God (2 Chronicles 14:2-5). This lead to peace. When we follow God and forsake other gods and idols, God will protect us. But we don’t, He won’t. Thousands of years of human history and we still refuse to live by this simple and repeatedly proven truth.
After King Asa defeats the Ethiopians he is met by the prophet Azariah who reminds Asa that God will be with Judah as long as they are with Him (2 Chronicles 15:2). Its interesting that God would send this message to Asa after such a decisive triumph, not to mention one in which Asa had appealed to God for the victory. But we are most vulnerable to forget God after we have success. We are apt to think that the victory came from our own strength and we don’t need God anymore. So the timing of this message to King Asa is spot-on.
In response Asa removed the idols from the land and also restored the altar in the Temple which had apparently been neglected (2 Chronicles 15:8). Not only did he remove the wrong, but he also restored the right. Its not enough to simply remove sin from our lives. We need to replace that exiled sin with something else – something good and pure and holy: Jesus Christ.
In an amazing symbol of his dedication to God above all else King Asa even removes his own grandmother from her position because she had made an obscene image (2 Chronicles 15:16). Even his own family was not off limits to Asa. This should be an encouragement to us today. We should not tolerate any worship of idols or false gods among our spouses or children or even our extended families. If family members insist on ignoring the true God we need to have the courage to confront them and even break off our relationship with them if necessary in order to remove ungodliness from our own lives.
Unfortunately Asa makes a big mistake in 2 Chronicles 16 when he bribes a pagan king for protection from Israel – Judah’s own kinsmen (2 Chronicles 16:2). While his plan worked, Asa put his faith in a man – the King of Aram – rather than in God. Not only that but Asa bribed the King of Aram with what belonged to God – the gold from the Temple.
The depth of our spiritual maturity can be measured by how we react to being confronted by our sin – either by another person or by the Holy Spirit. Apparently Asa didn’t have a deep relationship with God because he reacts very angrily (2 Chronicles 16:9-1). The same was true for me when I was confronted about my faults and failures before being saved. When confronted about their faults, very few people readily accept such constructive criticism. Instead they get angry as Asa did. The better reaction is to humbly repent.
Paul addresses a burning question that arises from the fact that Israel rejected God: “Did God therefore fail to fulfill His promise?” The answer is “No” because God never promised that all of Israel would be saved. Since salvation is not based on heritage but on choice not every Jew is promised heaven (Romans 9:6).
In addition God chooses some people for certain purposes as He did when it came to Isaac and Esau (Romans 9:11) and also with Pharaoh (Romans 9:17). This brings up another question: “How can God blame someone for doing what they do since it is He that makes them do it?”.
Paul responds to this question in the next few verses. These verses are often used by some to back up the theory of predestination – that God chose, before the world began and before anyone was ever born, who would go to heaven and who would go to hell. I always struggled with predestination because it seems to go against the concept of an all-loving God. But I deferred to others who were more well-trained than myself in Bible interpretation. However, after pondering over these verses for years I’ve come to the conclusion that these verses are not talking about predestination at all.
First, I don’t think these verses are talking about eternal destiny but rather earthly matters. For example, God chose Jacob over Esau to be the one through whom the Jews would come. Also, God chose to work through Pharaoh to later deliver the Jews from Egypt. These are not eternal events. In both these cases God does not explain why He chose these people. Nor does He owe us an explanation. We don’t get to know – or have to know – everything.
Little children are notorious for this. They ask question after question wanting to know everything (remember when you were one of those?). But parents are under no obligation to explain all their decisions to their children. Likewise, God is not under any similar obligation.
But notice also that Paul phrases his response as suppositions (“What if…”). Paul does not say that God does this. He just says “What if” God does this.
The point is we do not have the right to question God’s choices. And that is all Paul is talking about here. He is not saying that God chose some people to go to hell.
No one can claim they didn’t know about God. Every day and every night the universe itself speaks to God’s existence (Psalm 19:1-2). No one needs to be told that God exists (Psalm 19:3-4). Likewise, God’s word – the Bible – with its perfection, clarity, and trustworthiness also speaks of God and is more valuable than all that the world has to offer (Psalm 19:7-10).
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