Ah! They’ve Won! (Gen 32:22-30; 2Tim 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8)

The one of possible application for our Sunday readings can be summed up as “One’s Being Chosen.” This summary carries perception that the Most High destined a number of certain people for salvation owning them for Himself when none of them has outdone good or bad. In point of fact there are many Scripture references; for example, (2 Thess 2:13) says, “… brethren …. God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” also (Eph 1:4) confirms the same truth “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love.”

In view of God’s royal dominion over this subject, we cannot apprehend all aspects of election; however, with a certain degree of validity the study of this issue proves the fact that God’s making a chose was always based on certain principles from which men naturally shrink. The principles God has been guided by can be found throughout all Scripture, but the mystery of God’s foreseeing of the elect cannot be exhausted entirely. For instance, before the birth of twin brothers, Jacob and Esau, God loved the younger Jacob, but the elder Esau He hated, (Rom 9:13). Surely, those whom God loved, He loves and they have been chosen, and vise versa with respect to those whom God doesn’t love similar to Jacob’ and Esau’s characters. You will agree with me that to explain why the one unborn was loved and other hated it is the same as by fingers to untie the ‘Gordian Knot.’ However, the legend says that many skillful people failed to untie the historical Knot except Alexander the Great; thanks to his exclusive authority he sliced the Knot in half with a single stroke of his sword. So we, neglecting the scholastic explanatory of that kind – Why one is chosen? – will strike it with a single illustration.

The following is our paraphrase of what Max Lucado, a Christian author, wrote with the words of his friend Kenny. It says that when Max’s friends visited the Disney World, they made a tour of the crowded Cinderella Castle to watch a morning show. Kenny told that in the course of playing the fairy there was a moment when the beautiful girl appeared as the legendary Cinderella. Shortly after most kids rushed to see the “princess” from a little distance with a hope to be favored by warmly look, touching, and converse. Accidentally Kenny caught sight of two children, probably brothers, standing far away from the rest and watching quietly. Oh boy, it turned out that the face of young brother had imprints of deformity. A little later one thought struck Kenny that the boy is craving for being turned into a handsome lad and join the Cinderella’s brotherhood. However, the miracle had not happened, but the wall of alienation retained its power over all pitiful. Then, don’t you think that Cinderella wished to break the obscure wall that separates small from great, rich from poor and free men from slaves? In our case, there would no point in continuing if she wouldn’t. But she destroyed the segregation! Just as the princess noticed the little hermit, she took her steps forward. Slowly advancing through the crowd, she cut off the bodily line and crossed the hall. Then, approaching the boy she knelt at eye level with him and placed a kiss on his face. “Ah!” was a common whispering, “He’s won a favor!” “It is unbelievable!” Meantime the heart of the boy was overwhelmed with that kiss likewise John Newton, a composer who was inspired after divine touching of his heart with this writing, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.”

Presumably, on hearing the story we’ve come up with some understanding of how God’s election works.  If it is so, it produces in us a courage to travel to the next objective – a determining  of certain qualities of characters God wants to see in His elects. But in advance let us be sure that we don’t confuse God’s call with God’s election; a helpful reminder in this case can be a verse from Mat 22,  “… many called, but few are chosen.” Here “chosen ones” in Greek – ἐκλεκτοί – also can be translated as selected or elected ones.

As we noted earlier, all the readings for today wonderfully set around the idea summed up as “One’s Being Chosen.” To help you see the matching of the readings under this caption, we will outline all of them within a paragraph begin with (Gen 32:22-30). It  narrates a trial of the patriarch Jacob. Here Jacob fought with the man who has been thought as Michael, one of the mighty Angels, who was sent to test Jacob’s faith. At that all-night-fight Jacob somehow could stand firmly against the Archangel; unbelievably, but at the break of that day he was still on his feat. And the outcome of this wrestle was a receiving of the newest name unknowing before, – the “Israel” or “Undefeated.” The history of our civilization confirms that Israel might lose a battle, but it is impossible to win a war with him. The next reading from (2Tim 3:14-4:5) represents a scope of instructions handed down by the apostle Paul to “his beloved son” Timothy. The young man was chosen as a successor of the apostle Paul by virtue of God’s gifts upon him revealed while on their missionary travels. The Scripture and Tradition say that Timothy’s entire suitability for the work of the ministry relied on his zealous in achievement and trust to God. The church highly commemorates him as the martyr for Christ’s sake, who “did learn kindness and goodness and was sober and temperate in all things.” And the Gospel reading from (Luke 18:1-8) narrates the parable of the persistent widow. The woman, regardless her desperate situation, continued pleading the judge for justice. She had pleaded the unjust expert on and on until he decided to defense her. Saying this parable, the Lord drew a parallelism between the two attitudes of a character, –  the widow’s and of the elected who have been distinguished with perseverance in achievement.

According to our texts and the previous discourse we can say that endurance and perseverance in achievement are the common virtues of the elect. Thus we see Jacob as a man of faith who armed himself against his own unbelief, as well against his fear of impending encounter with his brother. But previously the night of wrestling, Jacob had the wonderful vision of the Son of God accompanied by the heavenly hosts who descended and ascended from Heaven by the ladder, (Gen 28:12-15). The most important part of that vision was a hearing of a promise given him by the Lord, he said to Jacob, “I am with you, and will keep you whenever you go.” To believing God’s promise was the mystery of Jacob’s steadfastness and success in fighting with the mighty angel; having been undefeated was a result of Jacob’s trusting to the words of God with whom all things are possible, (Mt 19:26). The faith in God’s promise made possible to endure and perceive in the fighting with the angel and with all the rest Jacob had experienced for life. The two mentioned virtues distinct God’ elect, the Scripture sums it up under the same name with Israel.

It would be a good question if you ask me, “Pastor,  beside of the endurance and perseverance of faith / achievement, could you mention anything else to convince us in our election as well?”  Well, I would say that trials and persecutions can be distinguished for all elect, they also are immanent for the characters depicted in our Sunday readings and they may be taken for granted as the signs of elected, if you want. We found the interesting thought on this issue in the poetry of the Jewish poet, Richard Beer-Hofmann. Here it is, “Not to know dreamless sleep, Visions at night – and voices round by day! Am I then chosen? Chosen that all suffering calls me, demands me, and complains to me? …. That even the dumb look of the dying beast ask me: Why so?” On hearing this groaning we may say, “I am fine with visions and even voices are possible, but why trials and persecutions?” Well, trials and persecutions are not the purpose of God’s election but they are simultaneously outcome and signs of being elected. This truth can be confirmed on the basis of many passages from the Scripture including our readings. Thus Jacob had to depart swiftly from his home for years and by this he escaped from furious anger of his brother Esau. As well it can be seen in our epistolary reading , “For I (Paul) am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. ….,” (2Tim 4:6-8). This verse contains the apostle’s allusion of his martyrdom for Christ’s sake. As well Paul wants Timothy to be prepared for harsh time and persecutions for the apostle knows that they are inevitable consequences of being chosen. Timothy, he wrote,  “ …. be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry,” (2Ti 4:3,4). The expectation of the apostle passed upon Timothy with striking accuracy. The tradition says that Timothy was zealous in the ministry handed down by the apostle. He ended his life as a martyr in the year 80; he suffered death for Christ’s sake at Ephesus being stoned by the pagans.

Who are the elect if not the true disciples of Jesus Christ? The Lord wants them to reflect the light of truth to this world and they pursue. They may be distinguished from the rest by their endurance, perseverance of faith / achievement  and with persecutions launched against them, (2Th 1:4). 

Dear friends, from the apostolic up to the present age there is no boundary for anyone to enter in the glory of the elected people as well as to endure the cross of the true discipleship. Behold, the bell is “…. still chiming and calling. Calling the young and old to rest, but above all the soul distressed, longing for rest everlasting,” (LSB # 645). Nicolai Grundtvig, the composer of this hymn, points to the soul distressed; somehow they have obtained the better hearing of God’s calling and responded to it with great concern. “Many in saving faith may come where Christ His message is bringing: “I know Mine own, Mine own know Me; Ye, not the world, My face shall see. My peace I leave with you,” (LSB # 645).

Now let imagine ourselves as the people who have been invited to “The Wedding Banquet.” We missed not the invitation but responded to the call with all accuracy, coming rapidly with many others guests to enjoy the party, (Mat 22:1-14). At the end of the banquet the servants of the King were ordained to bring to light the friends of the bridegroom. And after the gathering the friends all together like a farmer who gathers his wheat into the barn, the prince addressed to the chosen, “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Afterwards, the rest of the guests amazed at the sight of the actual event, bursting forth, “These are the people whom we used to hold in derision and regarded as not worthy of a penny? How have they been numbered among the Sons of God? And besides, how are their portion among the saints?” Meantime the hearts of the chosen were overflowed with song of praise. “ To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen,”(Rev.1:5b,6).  Behold, how good and how pleasant it would be if we are all who strive to live righteously before Christ become the citizens of his kingdom forever!

Beloved in the Lord, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (I Pet 1:2)

                                                              Amen

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