The doctrine of Election vs Free Will is a perennial paradox, perplexing to scholars who contend with the question. Simply put,
the problem is that if called out and elected by God, your salvation is assured; you've made it to the finish line by His choice,
your free will forfeited to the fact that you have been chosen. The true answer is demonstrated in the Bible and begs confrontation.
For example, on one hand, innumerable kings of Israel, chosen by God, deliberately turned to idol worship in defiance of His blessing.
Ananias and Sapphira, members of the early Christian community, betrayed the group in willful disobedience, receiving an unpleasant
punishment on the spot. Then there was Judas Iscariot, chosen, but by his own will betrayed his master. Conversely, look at Abraham
who answered God's call, not knowing where he was being sent; Jesus Christ, tempted, said "Not my will, but thine be done", and Paul, who made a complete turnaround after his vision on the road to Damascus. |
So it was with the prophet Amos, the most ancient of the prophetic writers, at least among the writers of the Hebrew scriptural divisions labeled "the prophets". Amos says of himself in 7. 14, 15 - " ..I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herd man, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel."
Amos had a peculiar background for the role he was to play. He was from Tekoa, 6 miles west of Bethlehem. Tekoa is a town bordering on the wilderness of Tekoa stretching to the Dead Sea. He was in the highlands overlooking this wilderness, living a life of solitude and reflection. Tekoa was in the Kingdom of Judah, yet Amos prophesied principally against Israel, and the prophecies emanated from Bethel in Israel.
The message of Amos for his time is superficially uninteresting, because it was a special message to Israel and to Judah and its downfall and concerned with the cities around Damascus. He wrote about 800 BC, even before Isaiah, during the reign of Uzziah, King of Judah, and Jeroboam II, King of Israel. Both kingdoms were prospering. Uzziah was OK until old age (so it was with many, so it is today), and Jeroboam, an excellent administrator, did not, however, do right in the eyes of God. Amos could be called an Old Testament Paul,-- moralistic, brave, prophesying a bad time ahead for Israel, even in the king's court. Israel is to be punished for all its iniquities You have been elected, God says, how can you act this way? The very oracles of God were delivered to you, but you have transgressed. These things are an interesting study, but what does Amos say that is relevant to our time.
The message of Amos to us is revealed in ch. 9. 8 - 15. In God's mercy lies our destiny where, in the unanimous voice of the prophets, the re-gathering of the Jews 2700 years later is predicted. Amos sees (through a glass darkly) that salvation will include Gentiles as well as faithful Jews. Israel will be "sifted" among all the nations "wheat from chaff separated" (v. 12) and to all nations (gentiles) who are called by my name shall the reward be made, when God raises up the fallen tabernacle of David, and re-builds it as in days of old. Illuminated by James in Acts 15. 14 - 17, Simeon (Peter) declared how God visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name, illustrated in the narrative concerning himself and Cornelius (Acts 10). "What God hath cleansed that call not thou common."
Will Israel heed the terrible pronouncements and warnings of sure punishment meted out by Amos in 3. 1 - 7? The final act remains to be seen. Can we ourselves ignore the signs of the times? Can a trumpet be blown in the city and we not hear it or be afraid? Yes. If we don't listen this will happen. Are we hopeful future citizens of the kingdom of God; or are we like Gt. Britain before the war, saw it coming, but didn't prepare? Can't we see the world rushing madly toward some decisive conflict, and not arm ourselves? And with what shall we arm ourselves? The answer is in Eph 6. 13 - 17: Put on the whole armor of God, loins girt about with truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; and take the shield of faith, put on the helmet of salvation, and wield the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.
Again, in Amos 3, the prophet says, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing but He reveals His secret unto His servants, the prophets." The word translated "secret", is translated "friendship" in Ps 25. 14 (RSV): "the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him". How do we learn this secret (friendship)? We have to fear Him; we must respect Him. The time is coming and now is when we need to know the secrets of God and secure His friendship. We need to develop in whatever manner and to whatever abilities our knowledge of God. Are you really trying to know Him and give Him reverence? Israel thought so, and you may think you do, but hear what Amos says:
Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! To what end is it for you?
The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.
As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him;
Or went into a house and leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him.
Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light?
Even very dark, and no brightness in it?
Let us pray God the day of the Lord will not be a day of darkness for us