Guests: Brant Berglin and Dave Thomas
Relevant Verses: Ezra 7:10; Nehemiah 1:1-11
Leading Question: Does God call a person because of that person’s gifts, or is it sometimes the case that God’s call empowers a person to do the God-given task?
Contrasting roles for Ezra and Nehemiah. Both in general as well as specific terms, the work which God called Ezra and Nehemiah to do differ rather dramatically: Ezra was the devout academic whose place in life made use of his careful study of the word of God; by contrast, Nehemiah was a man of action. There is no biblical record that he pored over Scripture seeking wisdom, knowledge, and guidance for the task of building the wall.
Question: Is there any way to tell whether or not God “pre-prepared” both Ezra and Nehemiah through their genes and chromosomes for the work that he “called” them to do? Is it possible that he quite suddenly gifted them with the needed capabilities, quite apart from their natural impulses?
A Question About Examples. Do any of these examples suggest a “emergency” calling that went contrary to one’s natural inclinations?
Moses: When Moses killed the Egyptian, an event that triggered his escape from Egypt, he appears quite confident, headstrong, even arrogant. So God sent him out to herd sheep for forty years, a “calling” that seemed to have unnerved him for the public ministry ahgainst Pharaoh. Exodus 3-4 records a long list of “excuses” that Moses conjured up in his attempt to evade the “call.” How does all this relate to the question of genetics, preparation, and divine calling?
Amos. In Amos 7:14-15, Amos defends himself against the attacks of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, by declaring that he wasn’t a prophet by nature or preparation. He was simply a herdsman and a “dresser of Sycamore figs” whom the Lord called to confront the people of Israel. Is this an example of a calling that goes against a person’s “natural” inclinations?
Jesus’ Disciples. A remarkable assessment of the surprising “talents” of Peter and John is recorded in Acts 4:13. When these men were taken into custody by the Jewish authorities because of the effectiveness of their ministry, the author of Acts records the reaction of the authorities as follows: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus” (NRSV). What does this narrative tell us about natural and special endowments and God’s call?
The official study guide includes this interesting comment relative to the passion common to both Ezra and Nehemiah, a passion that led both of them to volunteer, but for quite different tasks in God’s work: “Sometimes we get the idea that if we love something it must not be from God, because God will give us only difficult tasks that we might not want to do. But if we are walking with God, the desires to do something we love are often God given. God wants us to have a passion for what we do for Him.”
Predestined to be saved (or lost)? Or to serve in a particular capacity for God? Or to be transformed? Romans 8:29 sheds some tantalizing light on the question of God’s calling. Under the general heading of “predestination,” these are the words of Paul: “for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. . . .” (NRSV). Is it possible that the clearest application of the word “call” to God’s people is the call to be transformed, i.e. “conformed” to the image of God’s son?
A Question about Free Will. If humans genuinely have free will, then how can God precisely predict the future on anything? Perhaps the Adventist understanding of “conditionalism” is more important than we have realized.