There is an ancient city in modern day Turkey (used to be called Asia Minor) named Ephesus. This ancient city had a hill just outside of it. Here are a couple pictures to help you see it:
Notice that the theater is dug into the hill. This hill has a story (pun intended). In ancient times, this hill was the home for many children. You see, there used to be a society that would tell people what was beautiful, what was smart, what was strong, and what it meant to be a contributive part of society. Of course, we don’t know anything about this today (sarcasm). The whole of the Ephesian culture was based around a Greek mode of thinking. They decided that if there are defects, the child is a hinderance to society. If the infant doesn’t show any defects, then the child will grow a bit. But, if the child shows defects over time, it is deemed unfit for society.
What might these defects be? If you simply aren’t beautiful enough, you are unfit for society. If you can’t contribute into the “strength” category of society, then you better be good at math and science, because that is what it takes to be “smart”. We know what it means to be “beautiful”. Hollywood tells us all the time. So, if you were found to not be beautiful enough, you weren’t in shape, you had a mental handicap, you weren’t able to build muscle, you weren’t athletic, you weren’t good with your hands, you couldn’t play music or act, anything that would set you apart from the rest of the kids was sufficient reason to dump you off on this hill.
The infants would regularly die.
The kids that are no longer infants could somewhat be taken care of by those who were older, but even then it is still unlikely that you will survive.
The older kids would spend the rest of their lives in exile from their family.
And when the people of Ephesus decided that they needed slaves, they went onto this hill. They found boys and girls who weren’t “too” useless for slave labor.
There is a reason I say all of this. The New Testament has a lot to do with this city. There are stories in the book of Acts from Ephesus. There is a letter that was written to Ephesus that shows up in the New Testament. The last book, the book of Revelations, writes another letter to this church and sends them the visions of John for what is about to take place. This city is one of the key cities in the New Testament times.
I’d like to share what Paul had to write to them:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
The very first thing Paul does is he points out that hill where all the children are, and he says, “That was you. And God is the guy who goes onto the hill and sees all of the children and says, ‘I want them all’. God is not content to simply gather you as slaves, but rather adopts us as sons and daughters.”
Then, we have taken this text to ask questions about whether humanity really has the option of choosing or if God is so sovereign that humanity has no free-will. But that isn’t the point of the text. How many of you have felt abandoned by your friends and family? How many of you feel like you are on this hill in life – outside of the rest of society like an outcast and “undesirable”? How many of you feel like you aren’t good enough?
Our God is the one who goes to you and says, “Forget all the people who have everything together. I want you. I love you.” For any and all of my readers who might find that they don’t feel of worth – you don’t feel loved – you are deeply loved and deeply treasured. There is this parable that Jesus even told about a “pearl of great price”. The story goes that a man was walking through the market – it’s like a modern day outdoor mall or flea market – and finds a pearl of great price. So, he goes home and sells everything he owns in order to buy this pearl. I’ve often heard it preached and taught that this is what we’re supposed to do when we come to Christ – sell everything and follow him. But I’m not sure that is what Jesus is saying. I think that he is saying you, and me, and your friends who also feel this way, we are that pearl, and God gave everything – even His own Son – to be able to purchase you to himself, to adopt you into freedom and love and holiness and blamelessness.
So the question comes down to this: are you willing to give yourself to this God? Or are you more inclined to stay on the hill? As always, the choice is your, because we really do get to choose.