Given to us by God:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” – NIV Genesis 2:15-17
God gave Adam responsibility for the garden and told him not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Rather than physically preventing him from eating, God gave Adam a choice, and thus the possibility of choosing wrongly. God still gives us choices, and we, too, often choose wrongly. These wrong choices may cause us pain, but they can help us learn and grow and make better choices in the future. Living with the consequences of our choices teaches us to think and choose more carefully.
Why God gives us the freedom to choose:
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” – NIV Genesis 2:16-17
Why would God place a tree in the garden and then forbid Adam to eat from it? God wanted Adam to obey, but God gave Adam the freedom to choose. Without choice, Adam would have been like a prisoner, and his obedience would have been hollow. The two trees provided an exercise in choice, with rewards for choosing to obey and sad consequences for choosing to disobey. When you are faced with the choice, always choose to obey God.
What seems wise vs. what is wise:
Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. – Genesis 13:12
Good pasture and available water seemed like a wise choice to Lot at first. But he failed to recognise that wicked Sodom could provide temptations strong enough to destroy his family. Have you chosen to live or work in a “Sodom”? Even though you may be strong enough to resist the temptations, other members of your family may not. While God commands us to reach people in the “Sodom” near us, we must be careful not to become like the very people we are trying to reach.
(Abraham made a good one, see Abraham’s Profile.)
Why God Chose Israel as a special nation:
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine – NIV Exodus 19:5
Why did God choose Israel as his nation? God knew that no nation on earth was good enough to deserve to be called his people, his “treasured possession”. He chose Israel, not because of anything they had done, but in his love and mercy he chose Israel in spite of the wrong the nation had done and would do. Why did he want to have a special nation on earth? To represent his way of life, to teach his word, and to be an agent of salvation to the world.
“All nations on earth” would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 18:18). Gentiles and kings would come to the Lord through Israel, predicted Isaiah (Isaiah 60:3). Through the nation of Israel, the Messiah, God’s chosen Son, would be born. God chose one nation and put it through a rigorous training programme, so that one day it could be a channel for his blessings to the whole.
Disobedience a foolish choice:
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – NIV Deuteronomy 11:26
It is amazing that God set before the Israelites a choice between blessings and curses. It is even more amazing that most of them, through their disobedience, chose the curses. We have the same fundamental choice today. We can live for ourselves or live in service to God. To choose our own way is to travel on a deadened road, but to choose God’s way is to receive eternal life (John 5:24).
(Making right daily choices, see Boaz’s Profile.)
May need to seek more options:
In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so that he will be struck down and die.” – NIV 2 Samuel 11:15
David put both Bathsheba and Joab in difficult situations. Bathsheba knew it was wrong to commit adultery, but to refuse a king’s request could mean punishment or death. Joab did not know why Uriah had to die, but it was obvious the king wanted him killed. We sometimes face situations with only two apparent choices, and both seem wrong. When that happens, we must not lose sight of what God wants. The answer may be to seek out more choices. By doing this, we are likely to find a choice that honours God.
(The day to day choices we make are important, see Bathsheba’s Profile.)
Consider long-term effects of:
My son, if sinners entice you,
do not give in to them,
If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood,
let’s waylay some harmless soul;
let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse” –
my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
for their feet rush into sin,
they are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net
in full view of all the birds!
These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they waylay only themselves!
Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the lives of those who get it. – NIV Proverbs 1:10-19
Sin is enticing because it offers a quick route to prosperity and makes us feel like one of the crowd. But when we go along with others and refuse to listen to the truth, our own appetites become our masters, and we’ll do anything to satisfy them. Sin even when attractive, is deadly. We must learn to make choices, not on the basis of flashy appeal or short-term pleasure, but in view of the long-term effects. Sometimes this means steering clear of people who want to entice us into activities that we know are wrong. We can’t be friendly with sin and expect our lives to remain unaffected.
Benefits of good ones:
Righteousness guards the man of integrity,
but wickedness overthrows the sinner. – NIV Proverbs 13:6
Living in the right way is like posting a guard on your life. Every choice for good sets into motion other opportunities for good. Evil choices follow the same pattern, but in the opposite direction. Each decision you make to obey God’s word will bring a greater sense of order to your life, while each decision to disobey will bring confusion and destruction. The right choices you make reflect your integrity. Obedience brings the greatest safety and security.
Questions to ask to help us choose rightly:
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no-one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him. – NIV John 5:19-23
Because of his unity with God, Jesus lived as God wanted him to live. Because of our identification with Jesus, we must honour him and live as he wants us to live. The questions “What would Jesus do?” and “What would Jesus have me do?” may help us make the right choices.
Following Christ means making difficult choices:
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. – NIV Matthew 9:9
When Jesus called Matthew to be one of his disciples, Matthew got up and followed, leaving a lucrative career. When God calls you to follow or obey him, do you do it with as much abandon as Matthew? Sometimes the decision to follow Christ requires difficult or painful choices. Like Matthew, we must decide to leave behind those things that would keep us from following Christ.
Maintain an eternal perspective in:
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? – NIV Matthew 16:26
When we don’t know Christ, we make choices as though this life is all we have. In reality, this life is just the introduction to eternity. How we live this brief span, however, determines our eternal state. What we accumulate on earth has no value in purchasing eternal life. Even the highest social or civic honours cannot earn us entrance into heaven. Evaluate all that happens from an eternal perspective, and you will find your values and decisions changing.
God allows us to make them:
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them. – Romans 1:24-32
These people chose to reject God, and God allowed them to do it. God does not usually stop us from making choices that are against his will. He lets us declare our supposed independence from him, even though he knows that in time we will become slaves to our own rebellious choices – we will lose our freedom not to sin. Does life without God look like freedom to you? Look more closely. There is no worse slavery than slavery to sin.
Trusting in God’s choices for you:
not by works but by him who calls – she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! – NIV Romans 9:12-14
Was it right for God to choose Jacob, the younger, to be over Esau? In Malachi 1:2, 3, the statement “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” refers to the nations of Israel and Edom rather than to the individual brothers. God chose Jacob to continue the family line of the faithful because he knew his heart was for God. But he did not exclude Esau from knowing and loving him. Keep in mind the kind of God we worship: he is sovereign; he is not arbitrary; in all things he works for our good; he is trustworthy; he will save all who believe in him. When we understand these qualities of God, we know that his choices are good even if we don’t understand all his reasons.
©Kingsway International 1973.