Answered by: BibleAsk Team

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Why did God select the Israelites as His “chosen”?

Topic: God

The Chosen People/the Select

God stated to Israel, “The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:7-9).

God’s Covenant With Abraham

The Bible teaches that the Israelites were the descendant of Abraham. In his time, Abraham was a rare and faithful follower of the One true God. Because of Abraham’s love and obedience to God, he and his descendants were chosen as God’s special people (Genesis 12:1, 2). They were later called the Israelites and were to carry His truth and knowledge to the whole world (v. 3). Their message of the true God was even to go to the heathen (1 Chronicles 16: 13-26).  God’s purpose was for Israel to be a distinct people, a nation who pointed others towards God and His promised provision of the Redeemer and Savior (Exodus 19:6, Deuteronomy 14:2, Isaiah 9: 6, 8).

Although Abraham was promised to be the father of this great nation, Abraham and his wife, Sara, were without children until she was well past her child bearing years (Genesis 18:11). God came to Abraham and promised him a child through his wife Sarah when he was a hundred and Sarah was 90 years old (Genesis 17:15-17, 19). Despite how impossible the circumstances, God miraculously gave them a son. This child was named Isaac and so began the seed of Abraham.

Abraham’s Seed

While God promised Abraham a great nation through his seed, He also warned of the trial to come beforehand. After promising Abraham a child in his old age, God told Abraham that in time his lineage would suffer under bondage in a foreign land (Genesis 15:13). This happened several generations later after his son Isaac begat Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel, which is where the name of Israel came from. Jacob, or Israel, had 12 sons, one of whom was Joseph.

Although Joseph was despised by his brothers and sold as a slave by them he later became a ruler in Egypt, only second to Pharaoh (Genesis 41: 39-40). Joseph forgave his brothers and his entire family moved to Egypt (Genesis 45: 4-15, 46:1-7).  In time, Israel’s descendants became so numerous that the Egyptians worried that the Hebrews would take over (Exodus 1:8-11).

Therefore, it was in Egypt that the prophecy was fulfilled that Abraham’s lineage, known as Israel, was held in bondage for hundreds of years. “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them” (Exodus 2:24-25).

The Lord miraculously delivered His people out of Egypt and set them free from bondage (Exodus 6:6). And the Lord took them to the Promised Land of Canaan (Joshua 21:43). There, he established them as a great nation (2 Samuel 7:16).

Israel’s Rebellion

Over time, the nation of Israel fell into deep apostasy and rebellion towards God. Much of the Old Testament are warnings to Israel’s kings to put away sin and idols. Moses had warned the nation of Israel at its inception that there would be serious consequences for the nation if it rebelled (Leviticus 26).

God desired His people to serve Him from their heart and that they would always be blessed. “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29). Sadly, almost as quickly as they became a nation did Israel begin its rebellion.

The book of Judges tells of much Israel’s early history. It is mainly stories that tell how Israel rebelled so God allowed judgement to come upon them. Once Israel cried to God for help, He would deliver them. This is generally the pattern of the nation of Israel, with their rebellion and sins growing worse and worse with time.

Israel eventually elected kings, which quickly led them into worse sin. They became so rebellious and idolatrous that many followed the practices of Molech and Baal. These false gods required the sacrifice of their children, which much of Israel began to practice (Jeremiah 32:35). At this point, God’s judgement caused the first destruction of Jerusalem and captivity in Babylon.

After Exile

The nation of Israel was led captive into Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11). During that time, only a few faithful from Israel continued to serve God in this heathen land. One faithful man was Daniel. He served God in the courts of Babylon and shared the truth of the God of heaven with the king of Babylon. Through Daniel’s prayers for forgiveness for Israel, God showed Daniel the future of Israel (Daniel 9).

After the 70 years, a group of Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem by the decree of the Persian King Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:7). From that time, Israel was called to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. The nation of Israel was then called to be ready for the coming Messiah. Israel as a nation then shifted from extreme apostasy to extreme superficial religious zealousness.

The nation of Israel became occupied by the Romans shortly before the coming of Christ. As Israel looked for the coming Messiah, they looked for a conquering king to free them from Roman oppression but not from the malady of sin.

From Literal to Spiritual Israel

When the nation of Israel crucified the Son of God and completely rejected Him as Messiah, this ended their physical lineage from Abraham. The promises and covenant of God to literal Israel were then transferred to spiritual Israel or the believers in Jesus Christ. The Son of God told the leaders of Israel, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43). After the death of Christ, Abraham’s seed became all those who accept the Lord Jesus Christ (Jews or gentiles). “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

To the New Testament believers or spiritual Israel, the Lord says,  you are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

The apostle Peter says that the Lord has now given the promises and responsibilities of the Jewish nation to the Christian Church, not as a national group, but as a people called of every country into one spiritual group (Galatians 3:28). The previous unique status of literal Israel has been canceled.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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