The Election of Israel
|By: Dr. William Varner; ©1999|
|There is no question that God “chose” the Jewish nation as His own people in the Old Testament. But haven’t they forfeited their right to any special status? Dr. Varner explains.|
The Election of Israel
Years ago, some wag waxed poetically: “How Odd of God, To Choose the Jews.” While some may agree with the sentiment expressed in this piece of doggerel, the clear fact remains that God chose Israel in a way that He did no other people in history. This is made abundantly clear, for example, in the Book of Deuteronomy. Consider carefully 7:6- 8: “ For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” This passage, along with others in Deuteronomy, bases Israel’s national election in the Divine covenant relationship with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For example: “The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day” (10:15). That this election implied an obedient response, not a passive self-satisfaction is illustrated by the implication of the very next verse: “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (10:16). The prophets later affirmed Israel’s elect role along with the responsibility attached to it. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2).
Why did the Lord choose Israel? As has been noted in Deuteronomy 7:7 above, it was not because of anything in them, but due to His sovereign choice. But for what purpose were they chosen? Here the answers are clear. Israel was chosen, first of all, to be the channel for God’s revelation to His creatures, both in word and deed. Again, the Book of Deuteronomy tells us that God said to Israel through Moses: “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?” (Deut. 4:7,8). Paul affirms the fact that Israel was chosen to give the world the Scriptures in Romans 3:1,2: “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.” All of the writers of the Bible, with the exception of one, Luke, were Jewish. Simply stated, Israel was chosen to be the human vehicle through whom the Bible would come to us. The second purpose for Israel’s election was to be a testimony to the nations of the doctrine of the One God. Isaiah describes this cosmic witness-role of Israel in these terms: “I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses, Says the LORD, that I am God” (Isa. 43:11,12). While Israel did not have the commission given to the Church to disciple all nations (cf. Matt.28:19), she was to be a light shining in the dark world of paganism. The last purpose of Israel’s election was to be the people through whom the Messiah was to come. The Lord promised, again in Deuteronomy, that a Great Prophet like Moses would arise from among the brethren of Israel (Deut. 18:15). The Apostle Paul also said that one of the privileges of Israel’s “chosenness” was that they would provide the human ancestry of the “Christ,” i.e., Messiah: “of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans (9:5). Our Scriptures, our Salvation, and our Savior–all came through the Jews (cf. John 4:22).
But, someone may ask, “Haven’t the Jewish people forfeited their role as “chosen people” due to their unbelief?” It is best to simply let the inspired apostle answer that question. “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1,2). He goes on throughout the rest of that eleventh chapter to elaborate on the continuing character of that election of Israel, in spite of their unbelief! He says that even the “fall” of Israel (i.e., their present unbelief) is a blessing to the Gentiles in allowing the Gospel to go out to the world (Rom. 11:11-18).
And even this current period of unbelief will end when they return as a people to the Messiah they have rejected. Listen to Romans 11:25-27:
- For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
- 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.”
It is clear that Israel’s election can never be canceled “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). This amazing plan to choose the Jewish people to have a special role in the Divine plan and to maintain that role, even when they failed, caused the apostle to break forth in a doxology of wonder and praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
Ought we not also to join in that paean of praise when we consider the amazing role that Israel has in the history of redemption?
(All scriptural quotations are from the New King James Version)
Dr. William Varner
Professor of Bible
The Master’s College Santa Clarita, CA 91321
For further information, you may wish to consult my book, “Jacob’s Dozen: The Tribes of Israel in History and Prophecy.”