God Respects Our Choices

road sign with choices of right or wrong

The Choice is Yours (pic' by Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos)

Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15)

To understand God’s heart toward mankind, we must understand His deep respect for human choices.  Throughout scripture, we can see a general principle of God treating human free will as sacred.  As the objects of His love, He constantly pursues our hearts, but never forces Himself on us.  Though the consequences of a wrong choice is utter destruction, and though He loves us deeply and wants the best for us, He still allows us to make our own decisions.

Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

Here, Joshua, speaking God’s word to the Israelites, exhorts them to put away their false gods and serve only the Lord, the one true God, who redeemed them from their covenant of bondage to Pharaoh and delivered them from Egypt. 

Is this an exhortation, or is it a command?  Is this a “thou shalt” or a strong recommendation?  Is there even a difference between a commandment and a strong exhortation?

I recall once, when my children were much younger, telling my two-year-old child, “Yes, you will pick up that mess you made!”  This edict eventually led to a scene in which my child’s hands were held in mine, as each scrap of shredded paper was retrieved from the carpet and deposited in the trash.  As a young father, I understood the importance of teaching a child to obey their parents, and was determined not to overlook my child’s defiance.

Whether or not this was a wise parenting tactic can be discussed another time.  My point, now, is that this is NOT a good picture of how God interacts with us.  Yes, God speaks instruction…call it an exhortation, an edict, a commandment, an order, a directive…whatever we call it God has told us what we must do.  However, the choice of whether or not to do it, is up to us.  God does not force our following His exhortation, nor our obedience to His commandment.

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living…

The choice is ours.  Yes, there is a very clear-cut right choice and wrong choices.  God, in His grace, uses His written word, examples and advice of others, and even our own consciences to help us see the difference between the right choice and a wrong choice.  Yet, He still leaves the choice up to us.  He really does respect our right to choose.

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18)

Here, we see that God clearly defined, for the Israelites, not only their choices, but also the consequences of their choices.  As the consequences of a wrong choice are devastating, it is important for them to understand, so God laid it our very clearly.  Yet, He still left them the right to choose.  Even when the very lives of His children are at stake, He still honors the sacredness of our free will.

We see the same principle in how God dealt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”  (Genesis 2:15-17)

God gave Adam clear instruction of what he should and should not do, as well as a clear explanation of consequences of choosing the wrong course of action.  Yet, God still allowed Adam the right to choose.  Knowing that a wrong choice would result in Adam and all of Adam’s descendants being separated from God and the whole Earth being placed under the dominion of Satan; knowing that redemption from a covenant with evil would necessitate the death of Christ on the cross, God still honored Adam’s free will.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)

Today, God still honors our free will.  Even with our eternal souls at stake, to be either eternally in relationship with our loving God or eternally separated from His presence, still God honors our free will and allows us the right to choose.

What tremendous respect God shows toward us, His creation!  And what an awesome responsibility we carry in making our choices!

…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!

Comments?  Reactions?

What would life be like if God removed our free will?

 

 [This post linked to God-Bumps , Beholding Glory , Graceful , Seedlings , Wellspring ]

 

12 thoughts on “God Respects Our Choices

  1. hi Joseph,

    it is amazing how much freedom God gives us in our choices even as He lays out the choices and the consequences…I am always grateful and humbled at the freedom He gives us…wonderful post 🙂 Like the new look? of your blog.

    • Yes, it is very humbling, isn’t it? …and a bit scary to realize the trust that God places in us to make right choices.

      Thank you for the insight, Dolly!

      Yes, the blog design seems to be a never-ending project. I never have much time to spend on it, and am still learning my way around. So, I do a little here and there as opportunity permits…

      Thanks for noticing!

    • Isn’t it amazing that the Creator of everything would show us such honor, rather than simply imposing His will on us?

      Thank you, Jennifer! Have a blessed day!

  2. He is so incredible! Allowing us to choose exposes that we can’t do something out of reach of Him to pick up the prices. And it shows how highly He cares about His glory. If we didn’t have free will, we would reflect Him in a distorted way.

    Thanks for sharing Joe. Another great post.

    • Yes, it would be a very distorted love, indeed, which had no choice. I heard it said, once, in regard to marital relations, that if we don’t feel we can ever say “no,” then we can never completely say, “yes.”

      God seems to recognize this as truth in His position toward us.

      Thanks for the insight!

  3. First time finding your blog through Seedlings in Stone. A friend told me recently that I needed to choose between the common belief systems about Christianity. I was intrigued. The choices were either Armenian or Calvinistic thought. I did some reading and replied that I refused to take a label with this the same way I refuse to be labeled by political party, but that certainly Calvinism would not line my brain because of lack of choice. If there had been no choice, then Jesus took me by force, and I distinctly remember Him scooping me up in joy when I said “yes.”

    • I smiled all the way thru this comment, Robin!

      “…I distinctly remember Him scooping me up in joy when I said ‘yes.'”

      What a joy! 🙂

  4. If God had wanted robots, He’d have made us to obey automatically. And yet, as you say, He respects our choices. This is such a beautiful reminder here. Every choice we make either results in blessing or cursing. Deuteronomy 28 is a relevant message for our country at this time. It begins with an “if and “then” scenario. “If” we will hear God’s commandments and do them, “then” all these blessings will come upon us (Vs 1-2). If we do not hear and obey we will be under the curses listed in this chapter (Vs 15).

    • Yes, blessings and curses, not just for ourselves, but for our children, families, and communities.

      I feel honored, humbled and intimidated, all at the same time, when I realize how greatly God respects our free will.

      However, I also see His redemptive grace, offering yet another chance to make the right choice.

      Thank you, Debra, for pointing that out.

    • Laura, your comments always make me smile.

      He’s just incredible, isn’t He? The all-powerful God, creator of heaven and earth, loves us, His created beings, so much that He shows us the respect of allowing us to FREELY choose Him.

      Yes, very beautiful!

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