It is common for teachers or child supervisors to select two children, who are “chosen” to be the captains of two teams. Those two children feel special at having been chosen, and then they proceed to select their teams based on what is best for them, a team they hope will be a winning team. Ultimately there are always a few children chosen last who feel unwanted.
God in his great wisdom starts by choosing those last people. In the Old Testament God chose the nation of Israel despite the fact that they were stiff necked, stubborn and rebellious. They were also not a grand big nation, but small and insignificant. God began by choosing the one that would otherwise have been last chosen.
And like a child chosen first, the nation of Israel felt a sense of privilege, as though something was good about them, but not understanding God’s back to front way of doing things. We have all heard of the Jews (meaning here the Israelites) as being God’s Chosen People. Dueteronomy 7:6-14 is one reference that gives us a sense of it. Here God sets them apart as “holy” and “chosen” and also says it was not because they were more numerous, that is great or big.
But it begs a question, what were they chosen to do?
The children in the sporting illustration above were chosen to select teams, and then to captain those teams. There was purpose in their choosing. But what was the purpose in the choosing of Israel by God?
Elsewhere in the Old Testament we also see the purpose of their choosing. Exodus 19:6 says God called them to be a nation of priests, a holy nation. So the entire nation of Israelites were to be set apart by God as priests.
This of course makes us ask another question. Who were they priests for? Today if we had an entire church of pastors with no attenders, we would ask what the purpose was in that? So what was the purpose of Israel if the entire nation were to be priests, and who were they to serve as priests?
The answer of course is the other nations. Right back at the beginning God always wanted the nations to be blessed, and he said this clearly to Abraham. God promised to bless Abraham, but it wasn’t simply for that purpose alone, but something to be shared out. So Israel was to be set apart for God for the purpose of the blessing of the nations in the earth. As a part of this Israel was to be different, so as to set a godly example, but they refused. Rather than be different they wanted to be the same as the others. So while God wanted to be their king, they wanted to have a human king like all the other nations. God was frustrated by this nation he had chosen.
Many years ago I was involved with some children’s ministry, and one day I selected a boy to help me distribute a big bag of lollies. Naturally the boy felt special at having been chosen, but then he didn’t perform his duty properly as he was mostly concerned with making sure he himself got a good amount of the lollies. He didn’t properly dish out the “blessings” but tried to keep them for himself.
Israel as a nation felt special at being chosen, but also did not give out the blessings God wanted given out. They tried to keep all of God’s goodness for themselves. The story of Jonah going to the foreign nation of Assyria is unusual in the Old Testament, and even in that story he did not want to obey. The examples of Israel actually reaching out to other nations are few. When Jesus came and mentioned the healing of Naaman the Syrian in the synagogue, this ruffled feathers. The Jewish people didn’t like the idea that God’s blessing could be for anyone other than themselves, even though this was clearly God’s plan.
In Mark 12 Jesus tells the parable of the tenants, who did not pay their share of the harvest as rent. The tenants enjoyed the blessings of the vineyard but would not give the owner what he asked for. The owner sent messengers who were beat and tortured, and finally sent his son who was killed. The owner then threw the tenant out and replaced them.
The tenants are of course unfaithful Israel, which wasn’t everyone in Israel, but Israel in general. The messengers were the prophets, and the son who the tenants killed was Jesus. The new tenants of course is spiritual Israel, the Church. It is the faithful combined of those in Israel who remained faithful, and the faithful from the Gentiles today. We the Church are the new Israel, we are the Israel of God.
God, despite the unfaithfulness of Israel, was still able to accomplish great things through them. He was able to bring his prophets, write the scriptures, establish patterns and types, and bring Christ against that backdrop. As Romans 11:12 says “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!”
Today, we as part of the Church are now God’s chosen people. We are now to fulfil the role of Israel as a holy nations and a nation of priests. Peter tells us that we are a royal priesthood to serve our God. The purpose of God hasn’t changed. It is US, the Church, as God’s people together who are to serve the nations, be an example, reflect Christ and most of all, share His blessing with others.
Do you feel special at being chosen by God? Do you feel privileged at having received his blessings? If so, then it is time to fulfil your purpose by making Christ known to others, and sharing the blessing of Heaven.