Bible Readings for May 31st

Deuteronomy 4 | Psalms 8687 | Isaiah 32 | Revelation 2

The phrase “scandal of particularity” describes the shock of realizing that Yahweh chose to save the world through a particular person in a particular place at a particular time. Jesus, of course, is the greatest example of the scandal of particularity, since he was born to a poor Jewish teenage girl from the tiny, out of the way town of Nazareth, during a period when Israel lived under the shameful oppression of the Roman occupation. Why should the Savior of the world, the eternally begotten Son of the Father, be born there? To her?

But the scandal of particularity in salvation history stretches all the way back to the point that Yahweh singled out one man from all the world—an idolator (Josh. 24:2)—to bless the entire world through his offspring, even when that man’s offspring did not yet exist at the time. God chose to save the world through Abram?

In Deuteronomy 4:32–40, Moses brings this scandal into clearer focus. He challenges them to inquire from all the peoples of the whole earth: has any other people ever heard a god speaking, as Israel has (Deut. 4:33)? Has any god ever redeemed one nation out of their captivity to another nation by all manner of supernatural power, as Yahweh redeemed Israel out of Egypt (Deut. 4:34)?

And what other nation can boast the covenantal love of Yahweh, the true God of heaven above and earth beneath? Who else has seen his fire and heard his words?

Remember, then, that we are speaking about Israel. This is a ragtag, unimpressive, small, weak nation. In the Promised Land alone there were seven larger, stronger nations than Israel (Deut. 7:1), not including the mighty empire of Egypt, from whom Israel had just escaped.

Yahweh chose Israel? Simply so that Israel would know that Yahweh alone is God and that beside him there is no other god (Deut. 4:35)? Purely out of his free love for their forefathers (Deut. 4:37)?

And, to bring this into the New Testament teaching about election, we read in Ephesians 1:3–10 (and elsewhere) that the Father chose us in Christ from eternity past. This is a radical, shocking scandal, but we do not think often enough about it in this light because the story has largely become routine and pedestrian to us. Of course, Yahweh chose Israel. Obviously, Jesus is the Son of God, born as a human being to his mother Mary. Unquestionably, Yahweh loves me.

But if we stopped long enough to recognize how bizarre it is for the creator of the whole universe to speak to us, to go to war for us, even to die for us, the only proper response is faith, love, worship, and ultimately obedience.

When was the last time you were genuinely surprised by your realization of the lavish grace of God toward you?

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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