Throughout the Bible, the Israelites are referred to as God’s chosen people. You may wonder why or how a nation itself is approximately the size of New Jersey, has played and will continue to play a significant role in the history of the world? what is so special about Israel that makes them different from any other nation?
God did not choose a nation; he chose a man.
So often when you think of Israel you think in terms of a nation of people, which is what they are now, but that is not what they always were. When you read the book of Genesis one thing you will notice is that there is no nation of Israel, that is because it did not exist. The beginning of God’s promise to this nation did not start when they became a nation, it started from one man, Abraham.
Genesis 12:1-3 NIV The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “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.”
From this promise you see that God did not choose a nation, he chose a man and built a nation from this man. Israel became a great nation not from a random choice of God but as a fulfillment of a promise he made to Abraham. This doesn’t make Israel more special; it makes God more special because he keeps his promises. Take the land where the nation of Israel is today and the total land area throughout history after the conquest of the nations in Canaan, which God promised to Abraham.
Genesis 13:14-15 NIV The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.
What we see here is that God made a promise to one man, not a nation, and God keeps his word.
God needed a group of people that would represent his character in the earth.
One of the reasons why God chose Israel to be his chosen people is because he needed someone to uphold his standards in the earth.
Exodus 19:3-6 NIV Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
One of God’s purposes for Israel was that they would be a people who would obey him and keep his covenants. By doing this they would be God’s representatives in the earth. Israel would be a model of God’s way of living to the nations around them. God’s covenant with Israel was conditional on their obedience to His laws. If the decided to disobey and forsake them, which they often did, they would forfeit many of the blessings and privileges that God offered them. However, that didn't change God's objective and desire for this nation to be a holy nation set apart for his purpose.
God needed Christ to come through the lineage of Abraham and fulfill the prophecy of Genesis.
Genesis 12:3 NIV I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Emphasis mine)
The last point to answer the question of why God chose Israel, and without a doubt the most important purpose for the nation of Israel, is that God was setting up the lineage for which Jesus would come through. This is the real reason for why God chose Israel.
It is from Abraham’s lineage we get to the Messiah, Jesus. It is in Jesus that this promise is fulfilled. It is because of Jesus that the offer of salvation flows to every person and all peoples on the face of the earth
When God made the promise to Abraham this is what He had in mind.
Revelation 7:9-10 NIV After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
He didn’t just have one nation in mind, he had all the nations of the world in mind. He chose Abraham, built a nation out of him, which bridges the gap to Jesus. In Jesus, we see the fulfillment of this promise in Genesis. It is safe to say this is an example of all the people on earth, people from every nation, every tribe, every language, being blessed through the seed of Abraham.
From promise to promise, from covenant to covenant.
There is a parallel between the promise God made to Israel and the promise God makes to you and me as believers.
1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Thankfully, God’s promise did not stop with the nation of Israel. His faithfulness to keep his Word is not just true for Israel, it is true for you. If you have put your trust in Christ as savior, then you are now God’s special possession. You have been called out of darkness and God has saved you so that you could be a light to point people to Jesus.
Like Israel, we were once not a people, but now we are the people of God. It is now our responsibility to uphold God’s standard in the earth. The beautiful thing is that this promise, like the one God made to Abraham, will endure forever. Let not only the nation of Israel be a reminder but let the cross of calvary be a forever reminder that God is faithful and that he keeps his word. What he has said he will do.
Why did God choose Israel to be his chosen people? Ultimately the cross of Calvary and Jesus dying on it is why, and it is because of that same cross, why God chose you to be his special possession.