We Jews did not invent the idea that we are God’s chosen people.” The statement is found in Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:6; 10:15 and throughout Scripture. Yet some contend that we Jews are no longer chosen.
Maybe some honestly think that God has changed His mind. Maybe, like children in a human family, everyone wants to be the Father’s favorite. Maybe some prefer to think that because the Church is newer than Israel, it has now become the “only” chosen of God.
Some see the teaching that the Jews are God’s “chosen people” as a form of self-serving bias. Yet in saying that, they exercise bias against the very people they accuse of this fault. Worse yet, the position that the Church is God’s newly and only chosen shows disdain for scriptural truth. It questions the veracity of the Bible and the character of God.
Scripture teaches that God is unchangeable. He cannot change His mind or His purpose. He can never discover things. He knows everything because He is not bound by time. The very name, I AM, by which God identified Himself to Moses, indicates that He is eternal, infinite—beyond the confines of time, space and all human logic.
Proper comprehension of Israel’s chosenness depends on understanding this eternal nature of God and on what Scripture means by the term chosen.
God’s choice of the Jews does not entail partiality or favoritism. (Nor does it grant salvation apart from faith in the atoning work of Christ.) God’s choosing does, however, entail His love. God is love. He loves the whole world, not merely the Jews. Yet His love is not the human emotion we would recognize.
God, the Creator, is perfect. To be true to Himself He must value His creation and redeem what He loves. This love that God has for the world might be described as His zeal to restore what Satan tried to destroy. That divine fervor contains no partiality, whether it involves the choice of one person or a group of people for one small task or for some monumental purpose.
God does not have one “pet” group. Nevertheless, He decrees special categories and purposes for those He chooses to use. God chose the Jewish nation for one specific role in His plan of world redemption. God chose the Church for another role to accomplish another part of that plan.
Through faith in Christ, both Jews and non-Jews become part of the Church. Yet the Church, though it is sometimes called “the Israel of God,” is not the same as temporal Israel. God chose temporal Israel to bring forth the Redeemer for all people. God chose the Church to preach that redemption in Christ to all people.
Scripture describes the chosenness of the Church:
- Ephesians 1:4 indicates that God chose the Church (all believers in Christ) to be “holy and without blame before Him in love.”
- 2 Thessalonians 2:13 states that God chose all believers in Christ “for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
- 1 Peter 2:4 says all believers in Christ are God’s “chosen” and “precious.”
- 1 Peter 2:9-10 calls all believers “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people,” and concludes that all who believe in Christ “who once were not a people…are now the people of God.”
The fact that the Church contains both Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ does not negate the prior—and still valid—chosenness of the Jews. Yet it seems that some Gentile members of the Church cannot fully enjoy their heavenly status in Christ unless they first depose the Jews as God’s earthly people.
Not only that, the concept of Israel’s chosenness” does not even rest well with some Jewish people. Some consider it a burden that has caused us much persecution and suffering. This sentiment is echoed in a line from the musical Fiddler on the Roof where Tevya prays, “Please, Lord, couldn’t You choose someone else for a while?” Some Jewish people with a less religious bent say they do not believe that we are “chosen.” Still others find the idea an embarrassing detriment to the furtherance of Jewish/Gentile relations. Perhaps some of these Jewish reactions stem from rabbinic failure to distinguish between Judaism’s traditional claim to chosenness and Bible statements about the reality and purpose of this classification.
Certainly we Jews ought to be uneasy with the idea of our chosenness if there were no God or if the Scriptures and biblical Judaism were merely our own tribal creation! If either of those factors existed, any claim to chosenness would merely be an assertion of ethnic superiority. But the Bible is true, and God did choose the Jews as His earthly people. (Of course, this does not change the fact that He also chose the Church as His heavenly people.)
In any case, God selects according to His pleasure and purpose, and ironically, He often chooses neither the strong nor the superior. He often chooses the weak and humble through whom He desires to show His power and grace. We see this throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.
God chose Abraham, a “majority of one,” from whom He would bring forth His special earthly people, the Jews. God chose Jacob, Isaac’s younger son, to sire that nation. God chose Moses, an exiled, slow-of-speech prince-turned-shepherd, to lead them. God chose the young, inexpenenced David to be Israel’s king. God chose Rahab, a converted harlot, and Ruth, both non-Jews from idolatrous nations, to contribute to the bloodline of the Savior.
Isaiah put it well: “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). Throughout Scripture we see that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and…the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
We Jews can take no credit for our chosenness. Humanly speaking, we are not that special. We are certainly not nobler, kinder, stronger or more handsome than others. We have the same failings as the rest of the human family. No, God did not choose us for our merits.
For reasons of His own, God as sovereign set apart the physical seed of our ancestor Abraham to serve Him and proclaim Him to a pagan, idolatrous world. And for reasons of His own, God promised Abraham “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). That is, from the Jewish people, the Redeemer would come (Isaiah 41:8; 44:1; 49:6).
A Prepared People
We Jews, the physical seed of Abraham, are a prepared people, precious in God’s sight. Deuteronomy 7:6-7 tells us that God chose Israel to be His special treasure. It was not because she was a great nation, for she was “the least of all peoples.” God chose Israel because of His promise to Abraham. God loved Israel then—and loves her still—because He loves to keep His word. He loves and values Israel because she is His instrument to manifest His consistency and prove His faithfulness.
We Jews are who we are because God is who He is. We blood-bought believers in Yeshua (Jesus) also are who we are because God is who He is. So then Israel’s position as God’s chosen people should no more foster pride or boasting than should the sinner’s salvation obtained at Calvary. Both Israel and the Church are the undeserving recipients of God’s grace!
A Prophetic People
God intended that Israel would be His servant to tell the other nations about Him and His ways. Romans 3:1-2 asks the rhetorical question, “What advantage then has the Jew…?” It then answers, “Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” Through the Jews came the Scriptures. The Jews are the people of prophecy. Aware or unaware of this, reluctant or not to proclaim it, my people are, nevertheless, witnesses to the Living God. Every Jew, no matter what he believes or how she conducts herself, by his or her very existence bears evidence that the God of the Bible exists and that He keeps His word.
Sadly, however, most modern Jews, whose ancestors once brought the knowledge of God’s salvation to the world, are themselves outside of Christ. This is an ironic twist. Yet the Bible says that God’s calling is without repentance. God will have the final victory. Not only will He redeem His lost creation, but the specific people He chose to bring forth the Redeemer and proclaim Him to the nations will also turn to Him and be saved as predicted in Zechariah 12:10.
What About the Church?
In the meantime, the Bible warns, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). The Gentile Church has received much. The Gentile Church enjoys the blessings of salvation because of the Jews from whom Jesus came. Indeed, as Paul wrote, by Israel’s failure as a nation to receive the mercies of Christ, many wild olive branches—the Gentile nations—have been grafted into the vine of faith. What if the Jewish prophets had decided that the blessings of salvation were only for them? What if the Jewish apostles had decided to keep the good news of Messiah to themselves? But, praise God, they did not keep it to themselves.
No, one group is not more chosen or more loved by God than another, and most of you, our ministry friends, know that. You know that God has not substituted the Church for the Jews. You know that God still loves the Jews and longs to see Abraham’s physical seed serve Him and proclaim His salvation. You also realize that without Messiah Yeshua, my Jewish people have no message, and that, apart from Him, Israel’s chosenness cannot bring her salvation.
If you are reading this Newsletter, you probably share our burden for Jewish evangelism. You know that the Church is also chosen for a purpose. You can help us inform more Christians about the Church’s own chosenness. Won’t you help us tell the rest of the Church about her holy obligation and privilege to proclaim Christ to the Jews, from whom she first received the good news?