What God Wants Most
“In many cases, our need to wonder about or be told what God wants in a certain situation is nothing short of a clear indication of how little we are engaged in His work.” (Dallas Willard)
Most ancient religions believed that the gods did not like humans. Humans were accidental or incidental or created to do the yucky stuff gods did not want to do. Mostly, the gods were annoyed by and angry at humans. The gods would just as soon kill a human as interact with one. That was their default setting.
So, humans had to do certain things to keep the gods from being angry, to appease them, change their disposition, and convince the gods to bless the humans.
The God of the Bible is different. He doesn’t start out angry. He creates humans on purpose with purpose. Humans are not here to be slaves or lackeys, and we don’t have to convince God to bless us. Blessing is God’s default setting.
In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God blesses the birds and the fish. Later (in verse 28), God blesses the humans immediately after creating them. They hadn’t had time to do anything to earn that blessing; God gives it preemptively.
The humans rebel and sin spreads deeper and wider until the whole world is corrupt. God begins again with Noah, and again we read that he immediately blesses the humans after the flood — before they have a chance to demonstrate their repentance (Genesis 9:1). God does not bless in response; God blesses proactively.
It’s God’s default setting towards humans. He wants to bless us all.
When God appears to Abram in Genesis 12, he says, “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (vv1-3).
What’s the one word that gets repeated over and over? Five times in three sentences we have some variation of bless.
This is what God does. God blesses. As far as we know, Abram hadn’t done anything to earn this blessing. And the grammatical structure doesn’t tie the blessing to Abram’s obedience. There’s no condition. The word “if” does not appear at the beginning of the pronouncement.
Abram is later held up as a paragon of faith (cf. Hebrews 11; Romans 4; Galatians 3). We’re told to learn from him how we might also take this journey of faith to which God calls us. Before we learn from or about Abram, though, we must learn this from and about God:
God does not start out angry.
God does not need you to appease him.
God’s not looking for a reason to kill you.
You don’t have to convince God to be kind to you or talk him into being generous. God has nothing but your best interests at heart. He likes to bless people. He wants to bless you.
That’s his default setting.
Now, he doesn't want to bless just you. That may be where it begins for you, but that's not where he wants it to end. God wants to bless everyone. And here's how he intends to do it: God chooses people in the world through whom he can bless everyone else. This is what it means to be God's "Chosen People."
When most of us hear the phrase “Chosen People” we automatically think of the Jewish people — particularly in the Old Testament. And we mostly think it means “God’s Preferred People.”
There have been a lot of folks throughout history who have believed this to be the case. But ask a Jewish person about being God's Preferred People. Remember Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof? He looks to the sky and says, "I know. I know. We are your chosen people. But everyone once in a while can't You choose someone else?"
Go back to the text and look at what the descendants of Abraham were chosen for.
When God first appeared to Abraham, here’s what he said, “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).
A very quick, surface-level reading of this text reveals two things.
First, Abraham was chosen to be the father of a great nation. Say what you will, the Jewish nation is a great nation now. From one man and his wife have come millions and millions of descendants. At various times in history they have been great militarily and monetarily. Abraham’s name has become great. People who have blessed Israel have typically been blessed, and people who have treated Israel with contempt have typically been cursed.
If you want to include The Church in this now, I won’t quibble. The Church is also a great nation, a multitude of people no one could ever count — like the stars in the night sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. People who bless the church find blessing, and people who treat the church with contempt find trouble.
Second, Abraham was chosen to be a way through which God could bless everyone. As we said earlier, this is God’s deep desire: to bless everyone. It’s his default setting. It’s what God loves and longs to do. Sometimes he does that directly. Most times he chooses to bless people through other people. This is precisely what Abraham’s descendants are supposed to be: a blessing to the rest of the world.
God wasn’t just choosing to bless Israel; he was choosing to bless the world through Israel. Being one of the “chosen people” should never lead to a sense of entitlement. It should lead to a sense of duty.
Again, I say we should include The Church in this. The Church is a vessel through which God has chosen to bless the world. Being part of The Church shouldn’t cause you to feel any sense of entitlement or superiority. Being part of The Church means you have been chosen to bless the world around you. It's not about gathering together and reveling in how saved we are. It's about getting being the conduits of God's blessing to the rest of the world.
And we don’t do that by complaining all the time or acting like bullies on social media. We don’t do that by living in isolation, withdrawing from society and condemning the world for acting like the world. We don't do that by calling people names or refusing to serve people with whom we disagree.
We will bless the world when we get out into it and take the redeeming love of Jesus with us -- a love that has no other agenda but to serve. When we get out into the world and rub shoulders with others, they get to see God's love, God's joy, God's peace, God's patience, God's kindness, God's goodness, God's faithfulness, God's gentleness, and God's self-control -- manifested through us.
They may want to join us. They may choose not to. Either way, they'll be blessed by our presence.
It’s that kind of action that will truly mark us as “Chosen People”.
Photo Credit: Ta-Ching Chen