What does it mean to be God’s chosen? Much has been written on this topic. But what about the ones God does not choose? The Bible is full of stories about the chosen ones of God. What happens to those not chosen? Are the ones who are not chosen, rejected? I don’t think so. God’s choosing of some is not God’s rejecting of the other.
That is a difficult concept for us. If I choose Chocolate ice cream, I have not chosen any of the others. I have rejected them. I live here and not someplace else. I painted my house brown and no other color. For humans choosing one thing means we reject the other choices.
But God doesn’t choose in the same way we choose. The Bible is full of stories where God makes a choice. Very often the story is careful to tell us what happened to the one not chosen. Usually its a short statement, after all the story isn’t about the one who wasn’t chosen. But I find it interesting that the Bible does interrupt the story to let us know what happened to the other one.
For example, the story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4:1-22. As you remember, Cain and Abel each make sacrifices to God. Abel’s is accepted and Cain’s is not. But notice who God talks to after the sacrifices. God comes to Cain, the one whose sacrifice is rejected. Wouldn’t you expect God to speak with the one who offered the acceptable sacrifice? But God doesn’t. God goes to Cain to warn him about the danger of sin and to encourage him (” If you do well, will you not be accepted?”) The rejection of Cain’s sacrifice is not the rejection of Cain.
Later in the story Cain kills Abel and must leave his home and the presence of God. Nevertheless, God protects Cain by placing a mark on Cain so no one will kill him. Then there are several verses that tell us what happened to Cain and his family. Cain marries, has a son and builds a city. His descendants become “those who live in tents and have livestock” and “all those who play the lyre and pipe” . Cain’s descendants also make bronze and iron tools. Cain is not a part of the continuing Biblical story. Seth is the one through whom the Biblical story advances, but Cain’s family line continues and apparently thrives.
There is the story of Hagar and Ishmael later in Genesis. Genesis 21. The child Isaac is the chosen one. Hagar and Ishmael are sent away into the desert. God himself hears their cry, comes to Hagar and promises, “I will make a great nation of him [Ishmael] … and God was with the boy…”. Later in Genesis, chapter 25 we are told about Ishmael’s descendants and Ishmael’s death. God’s choosing of Isaac for a particular role did not mean the rejection of Ishmael.
In the Book of Jonah. Jonah is sent outside of Israel to Nineveh to proclaim God’s desire that they repent and be saved. They do and they are, much to Jonah’s disappointment. Here is a story of God’s mercy and care for those outside of the chosen Israel.
God’s choosing of Abraham is not God’s rejection of the rest of the world. God’s choosing of Abraham is God’s way of blessing the rest of the nations.
I’m sure you can think of other examples. They are there if we look for them.
In the Bible, God chooses particular people and communities for particular tasks. But if we read carefully, we find that those not chosen are still provided for. God’s choosing of some is not God’s rejection of others.
There is no particular reason to tell us about what happens to Cain and his descendants, or to Ishmael and his. Their story is not part of what will become the story of Israel. One could argue these stories interrupt the telling of the larger story. So why are they included?
It’s so easy for us to split the world into chosen and not chosen, favored and not favored, blessed and not blessed. But that’s not the Biblical story. That’s not God’s way. And that’s something we have to be reminded of again and again. I think we have these stories to remind us- God’s choosing of some is not God’s rejection of the other.
I’d like to know, what do you think?