God knows those people who truly belong to him. In fact, God already knew them, even before he created the world (Ephesians 1:4).
Of course, God has perfect knowledge of all things. However, we are using a special meaning of the word ‘know’. We are referring to God’s great plan to adopt his people as his own children (8:16-23). From the beginning of time, God chose those people and he loves them with a special love. That is what it means for God to ‘know’ people (8:29-30).
God does not end his relationship with the people whom he knows and loves. That is true for Israel’s people, as for people from the other nations. Israel is God’s special nation, but evil people cannot claim the benefits of God’s promises to Israel (9:6). Rather, those people in Israel whom God ‘knows’, have the benefit of those promises. They may not yet know God properly, but God already knows them (compare Galatians 1:15-16). God is working in the circumstances of their lives to bring them into a right relationship with him.
Paul next refers to Elijah’s desperate prayer in 1 Kings 19:14. In Elijah’s opinion, nobody else in Israel was still loyal to God. However, he did not realise what God was doing in Israel. God told Elijah that he had chosen 7,000 men in Israel to serve him. Elijah did not know them; but God knew them all and he was working in their lives.
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© 2018, Keith Simons.