Why Did God Select Israel as His Chosen People?
The Bible clearly states that Israel was chosen by God to be His covenant people; an eternally elect nation loved by God as the object of His unchanging purpose. “The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples” (Deuteronomy 10:15).
In fact, God Himself created the nation about 2090 BC with a man He called from Ur in southern Mesopotamia named Abram (later renamed Abraham) and then subsequently promised would become a “great nation” that He would bless and make a blessing (Genesis 12:1-2). And indeed they are a blessed and miraculous nation that exists on earth due to God's sovereign care.
For against all odds, though other nations have come and gone, Israel has survived.
Despite every evil intention of man to exterminate them, the nation continues to exist. Moreover, at the end, when the entire world seeks to annihilate them, God will defend them. “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:9).
Okay, but why did God choose Israel? Why not another nation? Why are we told that “He encircled them, He instructed them, He kept them as the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10)? Or that He would bless those who bless them and curse those who curse them (Genesis 12:3)?
Why Israel? In part, we don’t know why.
Their past and current history certainly does not present the Jews as better, more loving, intelligent, or holy than other nations. Israel regularly provoked God by their evil, and today the people are far from being a Godly nation.
So my intention is not to endorse the selection of Israel (though as a Christian I do love the nation and her people because of God’s unyielding love for them). My focus is rather upon the sovereign purpose God may have had to choose a particular nation to set His love upon in the first place.
The Purpose for Israel
Foremost, God needed a nation of people in the world to proclaim His existence. “This people I have formed for myself; they shall declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:21). Israel became “a kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6) to act as an intermediary between men and Himself. The world was introduced to the one true God by Israel because they were appointed to be the platform from which God spoke to the world.
Secondly, God needed a nation through whom He could reveal the Messiah. The purpose and intention of God from the beginning was to send His Son into the world, “That the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16). It was from the loins of Abraham and the seed of Israel that Jesus Christ came into the world as a man from the tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:1-25) to become the Savior of the world. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22).
Thirdly, God needed a nation to whom He could transmit Scripture for preservation and protection. Throughout ancient centuries the Jews meticulously recorded, maintained, and preserved the Word of God. “Because to them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 2:1). As a result, because of those faithful Jews we have the Word of God in our possession today.
Fourthly, God needed a nation whereby He could reveal and demonstrate to the world divine truth about Himself.
- His faithfulness. Israel’s history is replete with the faithfulness of God to carry out what He says He will do. When the people obeyed God, He blessed them; when they didn’t, He rebuked them. One needs only to look at the history of Israel as proof that God can be trusted to always keep His word - both for blessing and condemnation. As Paul wrote, “Now all these things happened to them as examples” (I Corinthians 10:1-11).
- His grace. God demonstrated His grace to forgive sin by the Mosaic Law of sacrificial offerings He imposed upon Israel. Of course it was all symbolic; a shadow of the definitive sacrifice and propitiation of sin, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1-18). But the system revealed God to be inherently gracious and forgiving until the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
- His judgment against sin. Israel is a perfect illustration of how God deals with unrepentant sin. Whenever there was unrepentant sin and prolonged evil, there was war, death, plague, and judgment. "If you do obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statues, if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this unto you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it" (Leviticus 26:14-16). This was true in Israel's history, and is still true even in modern times.
The Present Israel
Israel rejected her Messiah at His Coming two thousand years ago. Thus they were set aside by God and salvation came to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11), which in turn gave birth to the Church. Since then, it has been the Church (not Israel) through whom God has been speaking to the world.
But the Church is not the final Israel. Though the nation stumbled, “I say then, has God cast away His people?” the Apostle Paul argued. To which he added a resounding “Certainly not!” (Romans 11:1).
At some appointed future time God is going to deal again with Israel because God isn’t finished with His people yet.
The Future for Israel
The Jewish nation dwells in spiritual darkness because it turned away from God and will not by faith believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. But this is only a temporary condition that will ultimately change by the time Christ Returns to establish His Kingdom on earth.
“And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:26-27).
Sadly, though, the nation will not arrive at this saving faith in Christ without undergoing seven years of severe suffering and tribulation. Jeremiah calls it “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). We refer to it as the Tribulation. Daniel records it as the yet-unfulfilled allotment of years determined by God for Israel’s complete redemption and restoration (Daniel 9:24-27).
The future for Israel, therefore, is both bitter and sweet; both grim and glorious. For it is from inside the crucible of the most severe suffering the Jews have ever known that a remnant will emerge healed, holy and redeemed to God.
“I will bring one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God’” (Zechariah 13:9).
About the Author
James Kobzeff is an evangelical born-again Christian who has long had a passion for Bible prophecy as it pertains to Israel and end-time events.