Monday, July 23, 2012, Part 1

"You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but, because the Lord loves you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, he is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant with those who love him and keep his commandments; and he repays those who hate him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates him; he will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them" (Deuteronomy 7:6-11).

IDEA: God deals lovingly with His people as they show their love to God by their obedience.

PURPOSE: To help listeners understand the extent and the limits of being God's chosen people.

Ciara from Redford Township in Michigan asked the question, "Why were the Jews God's chosen people?" A straightforward answer to your question, Ciara, is that God chose them because individuals chose to love God and do His will. But as we read the Bible, we see that both the question and answer are more complicated than we might think. We need to talk about that.

I. Let's begin with a prior question: Were the Jews God's chosen people?

Deuteronomy 7 gives us the answer: "You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but, because the Lord loves you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, he is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant with those who love him and keep his commandments; and he repays those who hate him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates him; he will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them" (Deuteronomy 7:6-11).

Yes, God chose the Hebrew people to be "a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth," but note the contingencies.

God keeps covenant (or keeps His promise) with those who love Him and keep His commandments.

God destroys those who hate Him.

II. Remaining "chosen" depends on obedience to God's commands.

We see this in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6): Did God place the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve? No, that tree gave Adam and Eve an opportunity every time they passed it to love God who had given them life.

All loves are voluntary. We can demand that our children obey us; we cannot demand that they love us.

God in His very nature is love (1 John 4:7-16): "The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8).

The first and greatest commandment is this: We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength.

From Genesis 3 throughout the Bible we see people turning away from God, going their own way and "doing evil continually."

This choice of evil over good led God to choose one man (Noah) and his family to save while destroying all the rest of humanity in the Great Flood (Genesis 8). The text tells us that Noah "walked with God." Thus he was chosen by God for life in the midst of destruction because he believed God and spent the next 100 years carrying out God's design (building the ark) in the face of community jeers and condemnation.

After the confusion of languages and the dispersal of people over the known world (Genesis 11), God again chose one man who would believe him and take a long journey to an unknown destination by faith: Abraham (Genesis 12). Because of his faith, Abraham received promises from God that he would father a nation more numerous than the sands on the seashore, a nation that would bring blessing to the whole world.

But not every descendant of Noah or of Abraham loved and trusted God. These people took themselves out of God's protective care and love.

Of the roughly 2 million people delivered from slavery in Egypt, an entire generation of unbelieving Jews/Hebrews wandered in a wilderness for 40 years and then died before seeing the Promised Land.

Throughout Israel's history in the Old Testament, kings, priests and people repeatedly turned away from God to worship the idols of their neighbors. In the end they were destroyed (as promised in Deuteronomy 7).

So not all ethnic Jews (born into Jewish families ) were part of the "special treasure above all the nations of the earth." The apostle Paul noted that "they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham" (Romans 9:6b-7a).

Conclusion

Throughout the Bible "chosenness" always carries reciprocal responsibilities. To answer your question, Ciara, "Why were the Jews called God's chosen people," because among the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were those who loved God and obeyed the divine commands in a pagan world.

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Technically, only Jews descended from Jacob's fourth son, Judah, are "Jews" or "Juden." But the Hebrew people were all included in God's mercy, grace, and chosenness until they removed themselves through unbelief and disobedience.