Did God Choose Israel and Not the Other Nations? 

By Dr. Mark Bailey – BSF Board Member

One of my greatest joys during the past 35 years has been leading Bible study tours to Israel. Each group is unique. Some are students, others are professors, many have been BSF members. However, one common thread links them all — their deep emotional response.  

There is a profound spiritual impact that comes from standing on the sites where Scripture took place. Passages once read in black and white become full-color memories. Israel is the land where God commissioned a small, insignificant group of people to change the world for eternity. 

God referred to Israel as “His people” (Deuteronomy 7:6); His “treasured possession” (Psalm 135:4), and even the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). 

From Deuteronomy 7:6-10, we know that God did not choose Israel because they were strong or mighty. In fact, God chose Israel when they were small and weak, a people without a land.  

Beginning with a single man, Abraham, God built a powerful nation. In Genesis 12:2-3, God promised, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 

They were chosen and blessed by God, not only for their own sake, but to be a blessing to all nations, for all time. God’s plan for Israel stretched beyond their borders. Let me highlight three major ways God has blessed the world through His people Israel.

Light to the nations

In a world darkened by sin and chaos, God chose Israel to be a light to the nations. They were called to be a kingdom of priests who were to reflect God’s character to all nations. Through Israel, neighboring peoples or nations discovered what obedience to God would bring and also what would follow as a result of their disobedience. God chose Israel to be a people who would showcase both His redeeming grace and righteous judgment. 

In Isaiah 42:6-7, God revealed His character in this declaration to Israel: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” 

And again, in Isaiah 49:6, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

For generations, Israel recognized this burden and prayed accordingly. 

Solomon petitioned God to hear the prayers of immigrants within Israel’s border so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel” (1 Kings 8:43). 

The Psalm writers prayed that: 

“… all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD” (22:27). 

 “… your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (67:2). 

“… all nations be blessed” (72:17).  

God implemented His saving activity through Israel to transform them. They became His servants to deliver Good News to the world for the salvation of all. The mission of God has always been for the world to know Him as God.  

One commentator writes, “God wanted a ‘flagship’ nation that was an example to the world – not of how they behave, but of how He behaves.” 

Stewards of God’s Truth

As part of His blessing, God gave Israel a gift. They were “entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:2). 

The Psalmist wrote, God “has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation” (Psalm 147:19-20).  

Highlighting God’s blessing for Israel, Paul wrote, ““Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:4-5). 

But once again, this gift was not for Israel alone. 

As stewards of God’s Truth, Israel was given the privilege of guarding God’s Word and sharing it with the nations. 

The blessing extends to us today. Through the Jewish Scriptures — the law, the promises, and the patriarchs — God pointed the world to Jesus the Messiah (Luke 24:44). God entrusted Israel with the very foundation of Christianity. 

Line of the Messiah

As the ultimate mark of His blessing, God chose Israel to be the human line of the Messiah. Through the Old Testament, we read detailed prophecy, down to the Messiah’s birthplace and gender, that confirm Jesus as the promised Savior. Beginning with Abraham, Jesus’ genealogy can be traced through the Jewish nation, the tribe of Judah, and narrowed to the family of David. 

Through the miracle of the virgin birth, God fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23). At just the right time, He delivered humanity from the curse of sin though Jesus’ substitutionary death (Galatians 4:4).   

Once more, the world was blessed through God’s blessing to Israel. While salvation comes through a Jewish Messiah, the Bible makes it clear He is also the Savior for the whole world (John 4:42).  

Starting back in Genesis 12:2-3, we see how God kept His promise to Abraham. Throughout their history, Israel did not earn God’s favor; they certainly did not always deserve it. God bestowed His blessing freely, and through that blessing we are blessed.  

When we wonder, “Did God choose Israel and not the other nations?” we can answer that God chose Israel “for” the other nations. Through a single people, God reflected His character and delivered His Word to the world. And by keeping an ancient promise, He extended salvation to all people for all time.  

When I travel to Israel with a group, I know they will feel deeply connected to the land of Abraham’s promise, because through that promise, we discover eternal hope in Jesus. 

More in this series: 

Why Does God Judge People He Loves?

New vs. Old Testament: Is God the Same?

Coming Soon

Dr. Mark L. Bailey

BSF Board Member

Dr. Mark L. Bailey is the Chancellor and Senior Professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, He has served at DTS for 37 years. Prior to assuming the seminary’s presidency, Dr. Bailey served as professor of Bible Exposition and vice president of academic affairs. He pastored churches in Arizona and Texas. He was seminar instructor for the Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 20 years and is in currently in demand for Bible conferences and other preaching engagements. He is married to his wife, Barby, and they have two married sons and six grandchildren.

 

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96 Comments

  1. Nice, article but can it be in audible forms to listen to please, Kate

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    • Kate – we would love to offer in an audible version! Unfortunately, we don’t have the staffing resources yet to offer multiple versions. Thank you for the suggestion. We will look into options

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  2. These blogs on hard questions are so very helpful to me and to my ladies. Thank you to our board members and other participants for making the effort to educate us more completely.

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  3. I wish I have known BSF long as the teachings are profound in the way they study the Bible. Analysis of characters and relating to personal life. Step by step I get to understand who God is. I desire that more people should get these teachings and be saved.

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  4. Is the New Testament’s Great Commission, then, an extension of Israel’s light to the world?

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  5. I really needed to hear this about God’s judgment seeming so harsh at times. I needed to read this and understand it. I’m thinking of myniece who has a teminal disease and is in extreme pain all the time–partially medicated, but it boggles her mind with extreme meds so she takes a lot of the pain rather than having her mind muddled. Extremely bright and funny to others as she hides her pain. She is a somewhat Christian and not a total believer. She questions “why God has let her suffer all these past 14 years. She is in her 50’s. I try to explain God’s plan for her but am woefully inadequate. Her mother is a believer, he brother agnostic.

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  6. It should be noted that “Israel” is a covenant God created with His people. We should not confuse the current 1948 political state that is today’s Israel with God’s promises to His people.

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    • Katherine, I do not understand. Can you or HQ explain?

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      • Hi Sylvia, we encourage you to speak with your group leader or teaching leader about these questions. Here, Katherine is referring to the difference between the biblical world of Israel and the modern political state of Israel. Again, we encourage you to reach out to your BSF class with any and all questions you may have about the study. Thank you!

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  7. Why don’t the Jewish people believe that Jesus is the Messiah?

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  8. I’m reminded of the truth(s) of both judgement and mercy in pratical ways daily.
    One such way comes by way of the daily routine of driving. Most of those hours and miles spent getting to and from are quite routine. But there are times when that routine is interrupted by the human operators of those moving vehicles; it becomes me/’them’. I want the law enforcement/judgement present when it’s ‘them’. When the red & blue lights are in my rear view mirror, I am not hoping for judgement, but mercy. There is need in daily human endeavours for each. Having a learner’s mindset helps me benefit from both. Thank you BSF for speaking truth from God’s ‘instruction manual’ to guide the day!

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  9. It has been a real joy for me to have been part of BSF for about 15 years. It requires some discipline to study every week, but the rewards are great. It’s amazing that there is so much to learn from these weekly assignments. I have been a Christian from a young age, lived in a God fearing home where Bible reading and prayer was a must everyday. Taught Sunday school for years, etc, and yet I find myself learning something new every week. Unending are the mysteries of God’s leading in the lives of His chosen people, but also of us/me as Gentiles.
    Thank you for the many years of study and effort the leaders of BSF Head Offices have put into preparing all these studies. Without you this would not have been our pleasure to study. I m so glad God has chosen all you you to make this possible. May God reward you richly.

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  10. BSF was such a huge blessing to me and my 2 adult children after coming out of a lengthy abusive marriage. I can’t put into words the blessings I received by getting into HIS WORD.. Those lessons have lasting impact on my life and the lives of my family members and those I live near. The JOY of knowing HIM deeper is indescribable. So very thankful for those years of study in BSF…..so very blessed.

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  11. The Three Wise men from the East came before the Holy Family at Jesus Birth. They presented Him with expensive Gifts…Gold, Incense and Myrr. Question: what happened to this lotto which the Holy Family Received??? Suddenly, they became the first known recorded Refugees….

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  12. The story of Isreal is interesting, but how does it compare/contrast to 1 Chronicles 5.10
    Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.

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    • Thank you so much for your question! We will pass it along.

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  13. Who are we mere mortals, even seminary professors, to clearly understand the full nature of God?

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  14. Thank you so much for helping me see and understand the Bible more clearly. I consider myself a new Christian too learning God’s word. I’m so thankful for BSF in my life. I have been in church for many years but never could understand what I was reading. I didn’t want too read the Old Testament because it was hard too understand and seemed so harsh. Now because of BSF I love reading it and get excited when I recognize the stories. I am so grateful and blessed too be a part of BSF and thank each one who gives so much too help us understand. I am so excited too keep learning.

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  15. So very excellent & clear teaching. We hope to share it w/ my husbands Oncologist who questions why God allowed the persecution of the Jewish people by Hitler.

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  16. Dear Dr. Bailey,

    That is a question that I have often asked. Thank you for your insightful answer. I would also like to know the answer to a question that many of my unsaved relatives/friends would like to know: “Why does God allow bad things to happen to innocent children?”

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    • Thank you for your question. We will pass it along and consider it for future blog posts.

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  17. Thank u so much for explaining why God chose Israel, it makes perfect sense to me now, I knew that it would, I just didn’t know when.

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  18. Thank you for clarifying this point. What a privilege for the Israelites and what a great blessing for those of us who have adopted into the family!!

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  19. I LOVE the history of Israel. I am always in AWE of GOD’s chosen people and how HE consistently reveals HIS deep love this unique nation and fir us as well. Thank you for this interesting information which deepens my understanding of God’s purpose and persistent love for Israel.

    I would be interested in receiving information about the trips you may lead to Israel in the future. Have been there once but long to return now that I have matured more in the WORD and have a deeper understanding of Israel’s future and Christ’s Return. Thank you

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  20. So many today are getting into the teaching or Replacement Theology. Can you shed some light on this?

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    • Hi DeLane, thanks for your question. We will pass it along to Dr. bailey and consider it for future blog posts.

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  21. blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

    Are we hesitant to bless by giving them Jesus?

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  22. “Beginning with a single man, Abraham, God built a powerful nation. In Genesis 12:2-3, God promised, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ”

    Apparently, it looks like God didn’t “choose” a nation at all, but created one to suit His purposes. Historically, Israel as a nation, fell away from God like all the other nations, so in essence, He could have “chosen” any nation. By building His own nation, God was able build a family tree that would be important in identifying the Messiah, which is one of many reasons that makes the OT crucial to us.

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  23. I so enjoyed the excerpt that God chose Israel for other nations. And…..how God reflects HIS character. See it’s not about us, it’s about God’s character. A PROMISE KEEPER and SALVATION giver as seen over and over again.

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  24. Absolutely no way to say that God shows favouritism when His only Beloved Son is sacrificed for ‘the world’, not just Israel. Praise The Lord.

    Israel was chosen as the nation to show God’s grace but clearly it’s was disappointing and disastrous not because of God’s fault but of men’s own problem (it’s again because of the their wrongly use of the freewill given by God). How could Israelite ancestors say so proudly to guarantee they could obey God’s commandments when they didn’t even know the contents (Exodus 19:8) and repeated again after the law was given by Moses (Exodus 24:7)? Wasn’t this a clear sign of men’s pride, which is a symbol of men’s failure starting from Genesis 3 down to Revelations 20? And this pride always marks a separation between God and His beloved chosen people (this is the case when we think clearly of why God implemented such measures in Exodus 19:12-13, 16-22 as separation from His chosen people), otherwise they could at least see God’s face freely without being struck death (actually no such Bible record, by God’s grace). Is that favouritism? Never! But it’s rather God’s judgments according to His law given by Moses (who put themselves under ‘The Law’ by their ancestral pride.

    And The Israelite religious leaders never learnt the painful lesson. They made the same mistake again before Pilate, inviting curses on themselves and all their descendants (Matthew 27:25), which will not disappear until The Second Coming of Our Lord with us. Continuous disasters occurred again and again over Israel. If these are God’s favouritism, that would obviously be the opposite.

    Apostle Paul is the one who knows God’s way : first to Jews and then to Gentiles. Praise The Lord that we are never forgotten and is now under His grace, not law any more because He personally fulfilled the law on The Cross. If favouritism is mentioned again, that seems applying to new covenant believers. Hallelujah.

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  25. Thank you, Dr. Bailey, for answering this question with such clarity. Your post was a blessing!

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  26. I’d love to know when Dr. Bailey takes a group to the holy land.

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    • Same!

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  27. God chose one faithful person , and from him, He chose one person at a time from each generation with a purpose to build a nation , so that the Redeemer of this world can arrive . And all the nations in the world will be blessed and benefitted. He doesn’t want any one to perish , and He kept his promises and covenants. Most of it is fulfilled. What is spoken in Revelation is yet to fulfill , then His plan and purpose for humanity will be fulfilled.

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  28. Thank you so very much for my emails! I learn so much and enjoy reading them, Please continue sending them.

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  29. This was very interesting and helpful. Thankyou!

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  30. When believers die our souls immediately go to live with Christ. Why when Christ return our bones rise from the grave and what about those that are cremated or those that die at sea?

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    • Hi Thelma! Thank you for this great question. We will pass it along and consider it for future blog posts.

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    • Thank you, Dr. Bailey, for your Holy Spirit led discernment in answering questions that have been on people’s minds for a long time.
      I am eager to encourage my group members to read Holly’s blog and yours to glean from this insiteful information. I have been a group leader for almost 30 years and still learning so much from God’s Word thru the BSF studies over that period of time. Every chapter and verse reveals new truths of His Word.
      I am looking forward to reading more from you, Dr. Bailey, as God speaks through you.
      Thank you, from a very grateful BSF 80 yr.old “student.”

      Reply
  31. Such a wonderful Study and I give thanks first to God for provide YOU as a faithful servant to continue
    with such a mission!
    Thank You for provide for so many that are anxious to study, The History of Israel is not the best example
    of faithfulness! But show all of us the Faithfulness OF GOD. How much He has love them and forgive them all
    Such a wonderful study!
    I appreciate Your effort and dedication to keep available this study for so many that has been called!

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  32. I did the Camino, when I finished ended in Santiago, Spain . . . I was told James is buried in the Catholic Cathedral is this true.

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    • Hi Margie! Thanks for your question. We will pass it along.

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  33. Thank you Dr. Bailey.
    Yes. God did not choose a nation, He chose a man.
    The beginning of God’s promise to this nation did not start when they became a nation, it started from one man – Abraham.

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  34. I’m learning so much about the OT

    Reply

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