One common interpretive tool to attempt to make sense of the predestining grace of God is a heavy reliance on the concept of foreknowledge. Those who would argue that God responds to the future choices of his free creatures in order to determine his decree of predestination have to argue that God, with divine foreknowledge, looks down the corridor of time and sees who will and who will not choose him.
A reformed response to this kind of thinking is to point out that God’s word regularly uses the idea of God knowing someone with a different semantic meaning than simple information. When the Lord knows a person or a nation, the Lord is expressing that he has a particular favor on them. After all, the Lord knows, intellectually, all that there is to know. But for God to know you is for him to have a particularly loving relationship with you.
Consider the words of God at the beginning of Jeremiah.
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
What is God declaring to Jeremiah? Why is it such a significant turn of phrase? God says that he knew Jeremiah even before Jeremiah was formed in the womb. If this is merely God saying that he had knowledge of Jeremiah’s existence or even Jeremiah’s future choices, that is both amazing and ordinary. It is amazing, as we know our God knows all things. But it is ordinary in that this phrase would mean nothing more to Jeremiah than the expression of the fact that God has intellectual awareness of Jeremiah in just the same way that God has intellectual awareness of all human beings.
But look at the parallel. To know Jeremiah was for God to consecrate him. For God to consecrate Jeremiah was to set him apart as a prophet. The knowledge is put in a parallel position to the consecration in the poetic lines. This is not God saying that he understood what kind of guy Jeremiah would be and so he chose to use him. No, it is God saying that, before Jeremiah was ever formed, God had already set upon Jeremiah his consecration, his sacred calling. God knew Jeremiah in a special way, not in the same, ordinary way that God has knowledge of all humanity. God chose Jeremiah before he was born so that Jeremiah would be set apart and fulfill a glorious divine purpose.