I remember early in my walk struggling with the concept of Israel being the “chosen” nation. I remember thinking, “Wow, God chose Israel but left all of the other nations out in the cold? Why?” . . . Probably to judge us. Or maybe the church is the new name for Israel? Both of those seemed like potential answers.
As I studied more, I began to realize Scripture has too many references to the restoration of Israel to deem one answer true. Yet God changed His mind and opened the Gospel up to ALL the nations! Diving into the depth of the Prophets brought out the reality of Israel’s sin and the fact that not all Israel is Israel — meaning not all Israel is saved and the Israelites were in the same predicament as the nations! So I just dealt with it. Israel is God’s chosen nation who needs a Savior. Chosen for what? Why them? The second question is easier to answer: because God chose them! So I left my inquiry open thinking God held off from the nations during the OT, but now in the NT the mandate is clear.
But what purpose does Israel serve? The answer to this question reoriented my entire view of Scripture. What I learned from Scripture was an important principle that every student needs to consider. “My question was from the wrong point of view!” I assumed God abandons everyone but Israel when He chose Israel. Scripture teaches God always had a desire for the nations and Israel played a key role in reaching out to the nations.
The birth of the nation:
Abraham serves as the grandfather to Israel. God called him and made a covenant with him. Here Israel is born through the promise! Genesis 12:1-3
God said to Abram, Go forth from you country, And from your relatives and from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
There are many promises to Abraham here in this passage but two need to be highlighted. First, Abram would be the father of a great nation. Second, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” In other words, the nations will be blessed through you. The moment God called Abram to be the father of a nation, he had the other nations in mind. The other nations were a part of the design.
The purpose of Israel:
God tells His nation Israel in Exodus 19:5-6,
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
God declared Israel was “His possession” and they are to be mediators. Mediators? Exodus is a part of the entire Law (Genesis – Deuteronomy). All five books are really one book. Was every Israelite to be a priest serving in the temple? NO. God has ordained His plan for the priesthood. But the general meaning for priest is mediator. God decided among the nations, Israel should keep the covenant among all the peoples, and therefore be mediators to the world!
Deuteronomy clarifies this concept:
See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, [for the purpose] that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? (4:5-6)
Israel’s obedience and law keeping should reflect the character of God to the other nations so the other nations would see what a GREAT God Israel’s God is! Israel was chosen to display God’s Word!
From the Law (first 5 books of the Bible) God clearly indicates Israel was chosen to highlight and magnify the glory of God to the other nations. My premise was wrong. God did not change his mind or exclude the nations. He has always considered the nations and Israel played an important role. God did not change His mind after 33 AD and decide the nations were now a part of His plan. They have always been a part of His plan!
Consider the purpose of Jesus.
I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand to watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations
Here God speaks concerning Jesus. The Father tells the Son He is to be a covenant to the people — a light to the nations! From the beginning, God has sought the nations. Jesus ministry, death, resurrection, and salvation was always and is always directed to the nations. Israel is chosen and God will restore His people. But never does God’s Word or Scripture reduce the nations to step-child status. The nations did not find a glass slipper and get lucky, they were included from the beginning!
God has a heart for the nations. As someone who loves Jesus, I pray my heart for the nations grows! I pray churches take the great commission serious and be a part of world wide missions! I pray our political affiliations would not drive us to love Israel to the exclusion of Lebanon or Iran. God has a heart for all three nations!! There are believers in all three nations telling people the good news that Christ has died for them so they can be reconciled to God!
To quote (or paraphrase) my good friend, “We all have a role to play in missions work. We are either goers, senders, or disobedient Christians. Goers go into the nations and minister. Senders pray and financially support the goers.” — Good friend 🙂