June 13, 2014.
I was listening to a couple of sermons lately and I have seen some research that says that messages that make points using lists are typically favored by audiences, as indeed I enjoy lessons as such, so I want to start incorporating this into some of my posts. I have a few posts like this, and I think they are some of the most coherent. Today I am going to talk about choices. Three choices that shaped some portion (if not all) of human history. One choice by one person can change everything.
1. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
I assume most of the audience reading this post knows the story of the fall of man. God created the universe and everything therein and He called it good. He created man and woman to live together in the garden. He put man to work in the garden. All of this was good. But there was one rule. One rule. (Or I guess you could argue there were more since man was expected to keep the garden, but there was one “do not” rule). Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was the first choice given to the human race.
Some might ask, “Why did God give man that choice? Didn’t he know they would fall? Why give them the opportunity to sin?” I believe I know the answer to this question, though I don’t claim certainty because I don’t know the mind of God. If man were given no choice, there would be no such thing as free will. Is that a problem? Some would argue no, but I would answer with a confident yes. Without free will, there is no such thing as genuine love. How can you say someone loves you if they are programmed to do so? They had no choice in the matter. Forced love is not love. Can a robot be programmed to love you? Sure. Does it actually love you? No. It was just following its code (though I did read an article yesterday that stated robots will be on the same emotional level as humans by 2029… which is scary and a different topic).
So man was given a choice in the garden, because of free will; because of love. Satan capitalized on that free will choice, at which Eve took the fruit and gave to her husband, who also took and ate. Thus we have the entrance of sin and death into the world, as we refer to as the fall of man. Would you or I be here if Adam and Eve had not taken of the fruit? It is my opinion that we would (or at least mankind would have continued to grow) because God gave the command “be fruitful and multiply” before the fall. The garden of Eden was paradise, unstained by sin and death. Now, because of the choice made, we are ever looking forward to a time when all things will be made back to that state.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
2. Old and young council.
We talked about this point in a recent post, but I think it is a good example of how deep the consequences of one choice can be. In I Kings, there is a story about King Rehoboam who was leader over all the children of Israel and a point in history we refer to as the United Kingdom (or the beginning of the divided kingdom for a reason that we will see momentarily). Rehoboam took the throne after his father Solomon who had lead Israel into its golden age, full of prosperity and peace. But it seems that this luxury came at the cost of the labor of the people. After Solomon dies, the people come to king Rehoboam and make this request:
“Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon, then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.”
(1 Kings 12:1-5)
Rehoboam was faced with a choice here, to listen to the people and possibly face some financial trouble (though it is unsure of how much) or to not listen to them and face social trouble. Seeing that it was a big decision, he did the wise thing and called council to help him decide.
“Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.”
(1 Kings 12:6-7)
But this is where his wisdom stopped. He abandoned the council of the elders and took council amongst his friends who said, in essence, “show them who’s boss! So he did not lighten the load put on the people, but made it heavier.
“So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents.”
(1 Kings 12:15-16)
Thus we have the beginning of the Divided Kingdom between the ten tribes of Israel and the two tribes with Judah. This would prove to be a nasty division at times with war between the two factions. Eventually both would go into captivity. Many Messianic prophecies are made telling of the day when Jesus would come and reunite the two, which he did by redeeming all, granted each the opportunity to be in his church. But the division of a whole kingdom boiled down to one choice. That shows a lot.
3. The plan for redemption.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Finally, we have what was perhaps the biggest decision made in the history of humanity. This was Jesus’ decision to submit to the will of His Father and carry out the redemption plan. The question might be asked, did Jesus have a choice? I believe he did. The passage above implies that it was on His own free will that he chose to humble himself, our glorious king, to obey the will of the Father, even to death on the cross. What a sacrifice. Jesus was (and is) God. The Almighty. All powerful. Murdered at the hands of men, not because he couldn’t escape, but because if he did, we would all be lost. This is what he says in the garden:
“And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
Jesus had a choice. But he prayed “Not my will, but thine.” He made the choice to save us. That’s the good news. That’s the gospel. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. And not for us only, but to all who will believe and obey.
“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
Adam made a choice. Rehoboam made a choice. Jesus made a choice. I guess I should have talked about four choices, because now we have a choice. Sin and death entered through one man, but one Man defeated sin and death for all. We have the choice of whether we are to put our faith in this Man. This man named Jesus. What will your choice be?
Suggested Daily Reading: Genesis 3, Matthew 26-27, Romans 5.
Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve.