In any given circumstance, I find that I want to be part of the selected group. Not unlike choosing teams on the playground, I’ve always striven to be either the captain, picked first and at the very least, part of the best group. In order to maintain that status, there are certain things that are expected. In my adult life, a few of the worldly traits that get you into the boardroom are intelligence, influence and often status or wealth. Ironically, I have a tendency to transfer this worldly wisdom to God’s eternal kingdom. Surely, by doing these same things, I can get, earn even, God’s favor. Today’s reading sheds some light on how we get favor by God. Let’s take a look at all four of today’s chapters.
First, God’s favor was clearly on Noah. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would have been working desperately to be chosen for that 40 day voyage! How did Noah get chosen? The answer lies in Genesis 7:1, where God acknowledges the righteousness that Noah displays. Where exactly did he become righteous? Turn back for a moment to Genesis 6:9, and see that Noah, “walked with God.” What we learn from Noah is that God does not choose his people willy-nilly. He puts out the invitation, makes himself known and allows us to choose Him.
Second, Ezra was also favored by God. Check out Ezra 7:9. It says, “ The good hand of God was upon him.” Wow, when I read that, I want to have it too! As with Noah, God did not choose Ezra randomly. Verse 10 describes Ezra’s passion for God. “Ezra set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Again, God set out the invitation, with the law in this case; it was up to Ezra to respond.
Third, look back at Acts 7. Stephen was chosen to be a leader back in chapter 6. Once again, it was not a random selection but based on his heart. Acts 6:3 records that he was “of good repute [and] full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Now, We may not get a description of how Stephen achieved his wisdom and fullness, but chapter 7 definitely gives us an indication. Most of the chapter consists of him reciting scripture to the men in the synagogue. How do you suppose that information landed in his head? More importantly, the information permeated his heart resulting in transformation. This is evident by the intensity of the Holy Spirit working in his life. (Acts 6:10)
Finally, turning to Matthew 7, we hear directly from Jesus about how we can be part of his chosen. God has sent us an invitation, in his son Jesus Christ. We must now choose him, or not. Our choosing Jesus starts with seeking. Verse 7 says that we should “seek and find, knock and it will be opened.” These are the activities that lead to a renewed heart. The benefit, you ask? “The good gifts.” (v11) While I cannot quantify what they are, history says that being chosen and favored by God are among them.
Seven days into our journey, I am praying that Gods wisdom is working its way into our hearts and minds. As it does, I know that we will find opportunities to be obedient to it. Noah, Ezra and Stephen are all great examples of how God’s word, when accepted whole-heartedly and personally, transforms us. I can think of no better favor from God than seeing for myself “the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)