Why are Jews the Chosen People?
You are probably familiar with the phrase ‘chosen people’ when talking about the Jewish people. It has become more than just a Biblical reference. Theologians and churchgoers alike have debated its meaning and who deserves this title. It seems that everyone wants a piece of the promise…
But is there a clear answer to the question, who are the Chosen People? Before we get to that, let’s consider what this phrase means or why it’s even significant.
What does ‘chosen people’ mean?
To help with our understanding, let’s look at the difference between the western perspective and a biblical worldview. In the Western mind, the word “chosen” is often equal to “preferred.” When we go out for ice cream, we choose the flavors that we like best. When we choose something, it often means that we prefer one thing over another.
In contrast, the biblical description will often refer to a subject’s function or purpose. We are told in Romans 2 that God does not show favoritism. So the concept of being “chosen” or God liking the Jews better, is not an accurate one. Rather, when something is chosen, it was for a specific purpose.
When you chose your toothbrush rather than a wire scrub brush to clean your teeth, it is not because you love your toothbrush more. It is because it is the best choice for a specific task. If are removing rust from a piece of metal in your garage, you would reach for the wire brush, not the toothbrush. You are choosing it to complete a specific job.
Are Jews the chosen people?
The first time we see God saying that He has chosen Israel is in Deuteronomy:
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deut 7:6)
There’s an interesting note I need to add here. In Hebrew, the word “holy” does not mean “perfect” or “blameless” but “set apart for a specific purpose”. In this verse, God tells Israel they are a “holy people” or a people set apart for a specific purpose, and that He has chosen them for that purpose.
Why does God have a chosen people?
Most “Chosen People” quotes stop right here. Of all the peoples of the earth, He has called Israel alone “holy” and “His own possession.” At first glance, one might think that if God prefers them, they must be the biggest and the strongest. But let’s keep reading.
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers… (Deut 7:7-8)
God chose Israel for a specific purpose out of love and to keep His oath to their forefathers. What was His oath and what was the purpose? While He did bring them out of Egypt as promised, the connection goes back to the promise God made to Abraham. In Genesis 15 we read that God made the original covenant or oath.
God promised Abraham that He would multiply Abraham’s descendants as the stars in the sky. He would be their God and give them a specific piece of land forever. Yet even before that, God said He would bless Abraham and his descendants so that all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12).
Quite simply, God has chosen the Jewish people to demonstrate His own kind and promise-keeping character to the world. And, to bless all the families of the earth!
Why did God choose Israel?
God lovingly chose Israel and declared to keep that covenant regardless of their sin. God keeps His promises even after hundreds and thousands of years have passed. Ezekiel prophesied that God would scatter Israel to the four corners of the earth and again return them to this very same piece of land. But He made it clear that it was not due to their righteousness or for their own sake.
“Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.’” (Ezekiel 36:22-24, 32)
Even though Israel was thrown out of the Promised Land, scattered to the nations, and profaned God’s name, He is still faithful to Israel. Not because they are anyone special, but because He is special in their midst. God will prove to all the nations of the earth that He is God. He has chosen Israel for such a task.
Are Jewish people more loved or more important than everyone else?
Despite being chosen for a specific purpose, this does not make the Jewish people better or more loved by God. In the same way that you would not love or prefer your toothbrush over a wire scrub brush. You have a purpose for each.
When it comes to blessing all the nations on earth, God keeps his promise to Abraham. He uses Abraham’s family to demonstrate aspects of His character to the rest of the world. God loves His creation, which includes all of us. He does not show favoritism or prefer one people group over another.
John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world…”. Yet he chose the Jewish people for the purpose of demonstrating His loving character to said world. He did so by sending His only Son to earth, through a Jewish family from Judah, from King David’s line.
Differences between Jews & Gentiles, and Jews & Christians
The only difference between Jews and Gentiles is that God chose one of the families of the world, the Jewish people, for a specific purpose. That is also why He gave them an everlasting covenant. According to Genesis 15, this “forever promise” means that God will multiply the people, give them a particular piece of land forever and He will be God to them.
From the Bible we know that God will shape human history around this family. He will use them to show the rest of the world that He keeps promises, that He is loving and kind, and He wants all to join His family. Quite plainly, the difference between Jews and Gentiles (or the nations) is that God has chosen one for a specific task, and not the others.
Most Christians today are not Jewish and by birth are not part of the Jewish family. However, the Scriptures say something interesting about the aspect of faith. By faith, Christians become part of the promises and destiny of Israel, to show the world what God is like.
Sons and Heirs and People of the Covenant
In Ephesians 2, Paul says that before faith in Jesus, we were “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Ephesian 2:12). What are the “covenants of promise” that Paul, a Jewish Rabbi, is suggesting they we are not a part of? They are the promises to Israel, God’s choosing of this people and their place in God’s plan for the world.
Yet, by faith, Christians are now brought into that story, not as second-class citizens but full heirs with Christ. Likewise, Romans 11 says that by faith, Christians are now grafted into the “olive tree” (referring to Israel) and her promises.
Furthermore, Romans 11 continues and says that the calling of God is irrevocable, referring to Israel. As noted above, God promises to Israel do not depend on their obedience but on God’s faithfulness.
Regardless of Israel’s obedience or disobedience, God has not changed his mind or replaced them with a “new Israel”. Christians are simply brought into the family. God brought us into the promises to Abraham and the calling to bless all the families of the earth. We are to demonstrate what the God of Israel is like.
Yeah, but why is Israel chosen people?
Ironically, the scriptures repeatedly tell us that God viewed Israel as an obstinate, stiff-necked, and stubborn people. If God was choosing a people for himself, He certainly knew what kind of people they would be.
Why wouldn’t He choose an obedient and humble people, ready to listen and serve him wholeheartedly? (Are there any out there? – that’s a whole other question.) Perhaps, God chose the nation of Israel precisely because of how they were? Because they were an arrogant, stiff-necked people who constantly turned from the Lord. But why?
What if God chose the Jewish people to demonstrate the His character and bless the families of the earth? How else would we know of God’s enduring love, patience, forgiveness, grace and long-suffering? Maybe He wanted a family in covenant with Him who tested those limits throughout their generations.
Thanks to this obstinate and stiff-necked people, we find that there still no limit to God’s love and forgiveness. He is forever faithful to His promises. Jeremiah states that:
“If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:37)
God’s Infinite Wisdom
Even with all our modern human space exploration technology, we have not found the edge of the heavens to measure it. With all the world’s research tech in oceanography, it is reported that only 5% of the oceans have been explored or mapped.
According to Jeremiah, it is only when these things happen will God reject Israel for all they have done. The vastness of the heavens and the depths of the earth are far greater than what we’ve realized. Perhaps God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness are far greater than what we’ve ever realized as well!
The only way we know the depth of these characteristics of God (in theory) is because, in His infinite wisdom, He has chosen Israel.
It was through this family that the Creator chose to reveal Himself and His Son to the world. If He can show His glory and character through such a people, then there is still hope. Even for our arrogant hearts and our wayward world.
God’s Promise to Israel
The Bible teaches us that in the end, the Almighty still has a plan for Israel. He will take this stiff-necked nation of Israel and changed her heart. What is more, He will dwell in Jerusalem, in the midst of Israel, for the nations to see.
If we are believers in the Lord Jesus, He will take our hard hearts and do the same in us. And for all to see. You are invited that party in Jerusalem!
He has chosen Israel for a purpose — to reveal His power, His faithfulness, and loving-kindness to all the earth. We who believe in Jesus are joined with Israel that believes into the same “olive tree” (Romans 11:17). God will have His way with Israel as He will with you. In the meantime, consider yourself in good company.
Bring Good News & Transform Lives in Israel
Do you want to help bring hope to the nation of Israel, and help bring the Good News about Jesus’ resurrection? You’re invited to join in God’s plan for his people!
The Tribe is a passionate and faithful group of monthly donors on a mission to transform lives in Israel through the love of Jesus. Join the Tribe today: firmisrael.org/thetribe