“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 14:2).
How did the nation of Israel become the chosen people? Are they still the chosen people today, or have they been replaced by the Christian Church? Why is the land of Israel itself so very important?
The history of Israel, and their unique relationship with God, is a rich and fascinating one that began in the Garden of Eden and continues to this very day. God is certainly not done with Israel!
The coming of the Messiah and the birth of the Church did not end this relationship, but allowed all people from all the earth to enter into it in a way that had never been possible before. From the earliest chapter of Genesis to the end of Revelation, we read how God planned to work through one family, one nation, from which the Messiah would emerge and all humanity could be restored to Him.
How Do Both the Old and New Testaments Relate to the Nation of Israel?
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
What Christians refer to as the “Old Testament,” Jews refer to as “The Bible.” We must also remember that when Jesus, Paul and others quote Scripture, they were quoting the Jewish Bible. The prophets were Jews, and the Apostles were practicing Jews, as was Jesus himself. It may be a strange thought to us, but Jesus the Messiah is still alive, is still acting on our behalf, and he is still Jewish. The tie between Judaism and the Church is undeniable, and historical attempts to make Jews out to be anything other than the chosen people through whom the Messiah came to earth is at best misguided, and at worst satanic.
The New Testament, then, is a fulfillment of the Old, and should be thought of as one consistent and related account of God’s covenant relationship with the Jewish people, and how that relationship grew to include all people.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).
Jesus stated himself that his mission on earth was not to destroy Judaism or replace the Jewish people. His mission was to take that which had been promised for so long and bring it to fruition through the promises that had been given to Israel.
So, does a Jew need to accept Christ to be saved? The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Just as it is possible for a messenger to deliver a message they personally do not accept, so the Jewish people must make the same decision as every other human to walk the earth – to accept Christ as the promised Messiah. God entrusted to Israel the message of salvation, and the eternal truth that he alone is God. While many throughout Israel believed in Jesus during his lifetime, many did not, and Jesus made clear that those who did not believe, even the priests and leaders of the people, would not see the Kingdom of Heaven.
Yet Peter’s sermon at Pentecost showed us that the Word of God which saved him was more than capable of bringing his fellow Israelis to faith and salvation in Christ: “‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:36-39).
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What Does the Bible Say Will Happen to Israel?
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zechariah 12:10).
There is every indication that all of Israel, as a nation, is still important to God. Does this verse mean that all of the nation of Israel will be saved? We can’t definitively know. We do know that Israel remains part of God’s redemptive plan, and that many Jews continue to accept Christ as Messiah today.
There have been teachings that the Church has replaced Israel, or that the Church is the “new Israel” and the former Israel is lost and no longer relevant. The truth is that the Church includes people of every nation, and is merely the continuation and fulfillment of what God started through Israel. Although there are members of Israel in the Church, and members of the Church “grafted in” to Israel, The Church and Israel remain separate, and God has a plan and a purpose for each.
As to the land itself, God has given the people of Israel a special connection with the land of Israel. Since his promise to Abraham, God repeatedly promises the people of Israel to inhabit the land that is now known as Israel. This promise of land was reaffirmed to Moses, Joshua, and throughout the Old Testament as a sign of their special relationship with God. For several centuries, the people and the land were separated, but now there are more Jewish people in Israel than anywhere else in the world, and the “dry bones” prophecy given to Ezekiel is being fulfilled (Ezekiel 37).
Why Did God Choose Israel over Other Nations?
Was there something special about Israel? No. Does Scripture ever give a reason why Israel was chosen and not another nation? Again, no. In fact, it can be argued that from a worldly perspective, Israel was the last nation one would choose to be around through the entirety of history. This was relatively transitory sheepherding group, not an empire. God simply chose Israel because that is what he chose to do as part of his divine plan.
When we think of “being chosen,” it may bring to mind an idea of privilege or special treatment. Historically, this has not been the case for the Jewish people, who have endured persecution after persecution. The Holocaust is perhaps the most familiar, but this is just one example.
Throughout history, the nation of Israel has suffered the loss of her autonomy and authority, and her people have found themselves dispersed, living among other nations and cultures. In spite of this, they never fully assimilated to any of them, and have regularly been persecuted for it. The mere existence of the nation of Israel, and the prophesied return to their land, is a stunning blow to those who would claim that God never had a chosen people, set apart for his will and his work.
How Does God’s Plan for Israel Impact Us Today?
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
We who believe in Christ believe because of God’s working in and through Israel. It is through God’s covenant and promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and so many others that the groundwork was laid for the Messiah who would bring a new covenant that merely expanded the previous to include the whole earth, and fulfill that which we never could on our own. Israel is God’s chosen instrument through which we receive the Word of God and the Messiah, and learn the ways God has worked through his people since the beginning.
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Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.