As His chosen, He has expectations of us—we have serious responsibilities to be holy, to be set apart.
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Israel, the Jewish people, are chosen by God. Why would He choose such a nation? They turned their backs on Him again and again. Why in fact would He choose any nation of sinful mortals? We’re all messed up.
Moses goes on to explain in the next verses: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery.” (verses 7-8)
Why would God choose any nation of sinful mortals
He loves them. And, He was so pleased by the faithfulness of Abraham, that He made an everlasting covenant with Abraham, his son Isaac, his son Jacob (who was renamed Israel), and the nation that emerged from Jacob’s offspring. But this selection, this choosing, carried with it a responsibility: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deut 14:2) They were to be holy, that is, set apart, reserved, devoted.
We know how they did with that. Abysmal. So, did God toss them? No way! His covenant (He declared Himself) is an everlasting covenant.
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:35-36; see the whole of chapters 30, 31, 33)
The Old Testament prophets are filled with rebuke and the dire consequences of Israel’s failures to be holy, to be God’s people. And yet all through those same prophets are declarations like this:
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:8-10)
These passages don’t even scratch the surface of the subject. There are well over 100 mentions of God choosing Abraham, choosing, Israel, choosing Jerusalem as the place where His Name dwells, choosing the line of David to be progenitors of His own Son, who will be King. This would be a worthy topic for your regular Bible study group. Make sure you set aside several weeks for it!
Here’s why we should care: In Christ, God now looks on us as part of the chosen heirs of Abraham. (Romans 4) God’s dealings with Israel, His chosen people, are a microcosm of His dealings with all of us. All mankind falls short, but thanks be to God, He doesn’t just toss us! He keeps on working with us.
We, like Israel, falter. But like Israel, those who are in Christ are chosen. (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, and more) As His chosen, He has expectations of us—we have serious responsibilities to be holy, to be set apart. Like Israel, we repeatedly fail Him. Yet in spite of our failures, God doesn’t give up on us, keeps working in us.
And ultimately, He will fulfill all His promises. He will redeem and transform His people Israel. Likewise He will redeem and transform those who have become His people by faith in Jesus Christ. In the meantime, our God has serious expectations of us, that we act like what we are—His chosen:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14)