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)
We live in a merit-based society. Our kids are graded for their schoolwork and they are rewarded for achievement in various extra-curricular activities. Likewise, adults are reviewed at work and receive promotions and raises based upon their performance. If we are rewarded at work, we want to know why - “what am I doing right?” If we are demoted, we want to know why - “what am I doing wrong?” Even in relationships, whether consciously or unconsciously, verbally or non-verbally, we are constantly seeking, receiving, and giving feedback regarding our mutual satisfaction. We want to know how we are doing.
But there is one relationship that is completely devoid of any merit, one relationship that is truly unconditional. Clearly, that relationship is our union with the Lord. Many people, when confronted with the doctrine of election, want to know why God chooses those He chooses. Why does God set His love on certain people? We want to know what it is in us that causes Him to either choose us or to allow us to go our own way.
Deuteronomy 7:7-8 records God’s explanation of why He set His love on Israel to the exclusion of all other people on the earth. It was not that there was anything inherently desirable about Israel. On the contrary, it is noted that Israel was the fewest of any nation on the earth. For that reason, it could be said that God’s love for Israel was not a because-of love, but an in-spite-of love. The text indicates that God set His love on Israel…because He set His love on Israel. In other words, it is not something in Israel that caused God to choose him but rather something in God.
God’s electing love for Israel is a model for understanding His electing love for the church. Like Israel, there was nothing inherently desirable in any of us that moved God to choose to redeem us through Christ. Rather, there were countless reasons to let us - rebel sinners, every one - be damned for all eternity. In spite of us, not because of us, God set His electing love on us and sent His Son to bring us to Him and to bestow upon us all the blessings in the heavenly places.
The greatest blessing in existence - adoption into the family of God with all the blessings that that entails - is bestowed purely based upon the gracious, loving choice of God. It is unmerited by us. We didn’t earn it and never could.
Consider the relief that this in-spite-of love should mean to us. There is nothing that we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing that we can do to make God love us less. His love for us is founded in His own being. This enables us to love and serve Him freely without any fear that we will be accepted or rejected based upon our performance.
This knowledge also eliminates pride. We are no more deserving of God’s love than any other rebel sinners. Our salvation is all of grace. The gospel of God’s electing love should drive us away from self-esteem and toward Christ-esteem.
Questions for reflection:
1. Are you seeking to earn God’s love? How and in what area of life?
2. If you have children, is your love for them a good analogy for God’s love for His children? Why or why not?
3. How does the knowledge of God’s unconditional love help you to recover from a recent fall into sin?
4. What greater demonstration of love is there than that One would give His Son to save those who hate Him?