Your God, my people
Why on earth did God choose Israel? Why Israel, out of all the millions of people groups across the entire expanse of the earth, did the Almighty God choose to centre His whole story on one random nomadic tribe in the Middle East?
Well, first we need to think about the words we use to describe these people. What do we even mean by “the Jews”? The word “Jew” is basically another way of saying “men of Judah” – which was one of the twelve tribes of Israel that ended up being the most dominant (both King David and Jesus were in this tribe!). Likewise “Israel” is so-called because Jacob, the Father of the Twelve Tribes, was renamed “Israel” (which means “strives with God”) after his wrestling match with God in the wilderness.
But regardless of whether we use the term “Jews” or “people of Israel”, the most important thing here is that God has always called individuals or groups of people out distinctly from other people or other nations. The most important of these individuals (sometimes called “the first Jew”) is Abraham.
When we read about Abraham it looks like there is absolutely no reason as to why God would choose him. God shows up to a seemingly random dude living in Babylon and tells him to make a long and difficult journey from his homeland – and what’s more, that through this process He will make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). This lays an important foundation – the nation, the very bloodline of Israel was one formed by God, not a pre-existing racial group that God just kind of “teamed up” with. God was in this from the very start – God himself created the people of God.
So by the time of the Exodus there was a defined group “the people of Israel” which the Bible tells us had “filled the land of Egypt”. Here is a KEY verse:
“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham Isaac and Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.”
This is so important. As before, God both initiates the relationship with His people and also sustains it on the basis of that decision to initiate. The irreversible agreement of God with His people to bless them is called His covenant. God heard and God remembered.
This is all very well, but there is still the burning question of WHY?? This is the closest we get to a direct answer in scripture:
“The Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession out of all the peoples who are on the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your Fathers…” Deuteronomy 7:6-8
So what do we have so far – a God who has chosen an individual as the beginning of a nation that will multiply across the earth, and a God who continues to act consistently with his decision to choose and bless that chosen nation. The key is this – there is no given reason for God’s choosing of Israel. It is never on the basis of something good that he sees but simply on the mysterious and powerful force of God’s covenant love. The unconditional, choosing nature of God’s love is simply inexplicable - he loves me, because he loves me, because he loves me.
By now I hope you can see how all this is so amazing for us in the Church today. The vast majority of those reading this will not be Jews, but thanks to Jesus “there is now neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The same God who shows His faithfulness in remaining with us by His Holy Spirit’s inner presence is the same God who chose to remain with the people of Israel, still blessing them, still dwelling with them, still giving them victory. It is the same God whose New covenant is pronounced over us today – to not only remain with us, but to make His home within us. Just as in the Old Testament, as Moses declared his refusal to continue without God’s living presence going with them (Exodus 33:15), it is this very presence that marks the church out from all other religions, ethnicities and nations as the ongoing people of God.
Do you belong to God?