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?
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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