Israel: God’s Chosen People
By Tim King
Miracle People: The state of Israel is nothing short of a miracle. Her very existence could not have come about if not for the providence of God. God chose her and has used her to demonstrate to the world who He is and what His plan for mankind is all about. It was foretold long ago that Jesus, our Savior, would come through this chosen race of people (Deut 18:18). However during modern times such errors like Replacement Theology and Preterism have sought to minimize the importance of Israel and transfer their God given eternal promises to the New Testament church.
But through careful study of Scripture and applying the common sense literal meaning to it, one must come to the conclusion that Israel and the church are separate entities. Israel has no other form of salvation than what Christ has provided for all peoples of the earth through His death on the cross. Some believe Israel does through the law and Moses, this is another error called dual covenant theology. They have been chosen for God’s special purpose to display Himself before the world through them. This is wonderfully described by Moses to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:32-35.
Part 1: Forming of a Nation for God
God calls Abram: In Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-6, 17:1-8 God makes a binding and eternal promise to Abram to make him a great nation and provide his descendants with a land of their own. This nation would have the distinction of being God’s chosen or elected people and this Promised Land is the only section of real-estate in the world with which God Himself would designate its borders. God could have chosen any people in the world to demonstrate His divine nature, but through one man of faith, Abraham, God raised up a separate and individual people who have withstood the test of time. In fact, Abraham is known as the father of those who have faith (Hebrews 11:8-12, Romans 4:1-5).
The Misery Begins: One of the worst examples of man trying to help God accomplish His plan is found in Genesis Chapter 16, the story of Hagar and her son Ishmael. Abram was 75 years old when he was given the promise by God to be a father of a great nation through his wife Sarah who was barren. At Sarah’s prompting, they chose to circumvent God by using their own resources to have a son.
This action created a fractured family and unending problems for the future nation. The fallout from taking Sarah’s Egyptian handmade as a surrogate wife for Abram is found strewn throughout the pages of Scripture and is yet today the root cause of the troubles that plague modern day Israel at the hand of her Arab neighbors (Gen.16:11-12). In this regard, the faith of both Abram and his wife in God failed as they tried on their own to fulfill God’s plan. God was still faithful and made things come out as He originally intended. This serves as a lesson for us all as we work out our lives trusting God to bring about His will in us.
God Makes Good His Promise: In the course of time God made good on His promise to Abram and Sarah and they finally had a child, Isaac, which means laughter, because Sarah laughed at the thought of God bringing a child into the world through a 90 year old woman and a 99 year old man. God gave Abram a new name, Abraham, father of many nations.
God Tests Abraham: God instructs Abraham to do the unthinkable, to sacrifice his only son that he waited for all his life (Genesis 22:1-2). Without question, Abraham takes Isaac to a distant place with the fire and wood minus the animal. Just at the last moment, God calls to Abraham, “Do not lay a hand on the boy.” This test has proved to be crucial for Abraham and the children of Israel as the place of this test, Mount Moriah, was to be the future location of the first and second Holy Temples built by King Solomon (1 Kings 6) and Zerubbabel (Ezra 3: 7-13).
The Next Generation: After Isaac had grown and married, he had 2 sons. God once again made a choice (election) between the two even before they were born. (Genesis 25: 21-23) All this serves to show us that God is sovereign over time and space and that He is in control. Scripture indicates that Esau was a careless man selling his birth right for a bowl of lentil stew (Genesis 25:27-34). Esau became the father of the Edomites who were bitter enemies of the Israelites all through Scripture. Herod, ruler of Judea at the time of Jesus birth was an Edomite. He attempted to kill the Christ child in an effort to blot out God’s promise to Abraham that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Matthew chapter 2).
The Story Continues: God continued His plan for a special nation with the life of Jacob and the story of his twelve sons who would eventually grow into the nation of Israel. While living in Egypt and nearing the time of his death, Jacob (Israel) gave the final blessings to his sons. These blessings are prophetic in nature and give indications of what each tribe would be or do in the course of time. One particular blessing is very special indeed, that given to Judah. (Genesis 49: 8-12). Judah is of course where King David and Jesus would be descended from. Israel was now planted in the womb so to speak so that it could grow into the great nation that God had promised Abraham (Genesis 15:12-16).
Part 2: The Law
Moses, the Law Giver: After the death of Joseph the children of Israel increased in number and a new ruler came to power in Egypt and placed Israel in slavery. Thus we have the story of Moses, the liberation of Israel from bondage and the giving of God’s law on Mount Sinai. This is a story filled with the supernatural display of God’s power and great glory as he raised Moses up as His chosen deliverer and placed Egypt under the “iron rod” of punishment (Genesis 12:3).
During the life of Moses, Israel experienced what it was like to live in the presence of a Holy God. Many things happened along the way. They were shown God’s great blessing and His protection and providence. They were also shown His awesome discipline for their sinful disobedience. They were given a code of laws to govern themselves with chief of which began with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).
The Law: Why did God give the Law to the Israelites? Was it not to expose their sinful natures? Paul answers this in Romans 7: 7-12. Through the law they (we) became aware of how incapable we are of pleasing God. Of course, they didn’t know this at the beginning and as time progressed God put them through many painful trials. The Law with all of its requirements for various burnt sacrifices and grain offerings was to foreshadow the need for a future better, once for all sacrifice, the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Another very important and prophet thing coming out of time of Moses was God’s commemoration of events through Jewish Feasts.
The Holy Feasts: Feasts were established by God to provide remembrance of events that God performed in the past and are highly prophetic in nature. When Jesus came to earth the first time in the form of a man, he fulfilled the spring feasts by acting as the sacrificial Passover Lamb on the exact dates on the calendar that the actual feast was scheduled to occur. In this way God really revealed the way in which He is sovereign over time and events. Jesus is the final fulfillment of the Jewish feasts. When he returns at the end of the seven year tribulation to rule the world during the Millennium all of His promises to the Jewish people will be fulfilled.
Passover/Pesach: (Nissan 14/normally in April, Ex:12:1-8/Lev 23: 4-8) Passover lamb sacrificed/Jesus crucified.
Unleavened Bread/Matzah: (Nissan 15) (Ex.12:17-20/Deut 16:1-8) Jesus burial (John 19: 38-42).
First Fruits/Omer or Barley Harvest: (Nissan 17/1st Sunday after Passover) (Lev 23: 9-14) Jesus rises and appears to the disciples, (John chapter 20).
Pentecost/Feast of Weeks/ Shavo’ut: (50 days later) (Lev 23: 15-22) Commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, Old Covenant begins. Holy Spirit rests on the gathered believers, beginning of New Covenant (Acts 2:1-13).
Trumpets/Rosh Hashanah: (Tishrei 1 around mid-September) Jewish New Year/High Holy Days. Jesus second coming at the end of the Tribulation (Rev: 19: 11-16, Zech 14: 1-1-5)
Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur: (Tishrei 10 or around Sept/Oct) (Lev. 23: 26-32) Jesus enters the Millennial Temple (Zech 14: 9-11).
Tabernacles/Sukkot: (Tishrei 15 or around Sept./Oct.) The beginning of Jesus’ 1000-year reign on earth as King of kings (Rev. 20: 4-6, Joel 3:18-21, Micah 4: 1-3, Amos 9:11-15) . This is also the possible date which baby Jesus was born, not Dec 25th although December 25th may have been the date of the annunciation of Jesus birth (Luke 1:26-38).
Other Days of Remembrance: Tisha B’Av (9th day of the 5th month Av). A day of mourning and fasting in remembrance of the destruction of the first and second temples on this date. This day stands out as the day the Israelites rebelled against Moses after the twelve spies came back from Canaan and ten of them gave a bad report to the people (Numbers 13, 14).
Purim (13th day of 12th month Adar) is the story of the Jewish Queen Esther and wicked Haman who sought to destroy all the Jews in the Persian empire. Esther saved her people by appealing to the King. (book of Esther) Hanukkah - This remembers the events of 167BC when Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) invaded Jerusalem and set up a pagan idol to be worshipped in the Temple where he also commanded pigs and other unclean animals to be sacrificed. Commemorates the purification of the Temple (Daniel 11: 30-32; 1 Maccabees 1:54).
Part 3: Judges, Kings and Prophets
Israel’s relationship to their God has been a rocky one. Joshua with the strong arm of God eventually took Israel into the land. After him a long series of judges lead the Israelites but they always failed to keep God’s law (Judges 2:17-19). Finally at the end of Samuel’s life, Israel asked for a king like other nations (1 Samuel 8: 4-5). The first King, Saul was rejected by God for his unfaithfulness and God raised up David son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:1).
King David became a mighty warrior and gained control of the entire land God promised to Israel but even though it was in his heart to build a Holy Temple in Jerusalem for God, that task was left to his son Solomon (1 Kings 5:3-5, 8:17-19). This Holy Temple would be built in the same location where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:1-2). Solomon was the riches and wisest man to ever have lived before or after but he failed before God in one great way, he had an insatiable appetite for women. Those women he married, 700 wives and 300 concubines, were from other nations and they drove Solomon into idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-8).
Two Nation Solution: It was because of Solomon’s idolatry with foreign women that caused God to rip Israel into two kingdoms (1 Kings 11: 9-13) The Southern Kingdom was made up of Judah with Jerusalem as its capitol with Levites ministering at the Temple. The Northern Kingdom was comprised of the rest of the tribes of Israel.
The long slide down: Solomon’s son Rehoboam became ruler of Judah and Jeroboam son of Nebat became the ruler of the Northern Kingdom. Jeroboam setup two golden calve idols, one at Bethel and one at Dan which Israel (Northern Kingdom) were instructed to worship so they wouldn’t go back to worship at Jerusalem.
This became a great snare for Israel as every king thereafter worshipped these and many other idols. Finally after much great wickedness occurred at the hand of the Kings of Israel, God sent the Assyrians in 722BC to carry Israel away and they replaced the Israelites with people from many other lands to inhabit Samaria (2 Kings 17:5-8, 14-17, 24). The few Israelites that were left inbred with these people and adopted their customs and this is why the Jews of Jesus day hated the Samaritans so much.
Jerusalem exiled: Not all the kings of Judah were bad, some were very good. But the bad ones like Manasseh sealed the fate of Judah (2 Kings 21:7). The Lord pronounced judgment against the people of Judah (2 Kings 21:10-12) and in 586BC, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon invaded Judah and destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem then they exiled the Jews for a period of 70 years (Jeremiah 25: 8-14, 2 Chronicles 36: 15-16). Thus, the prophecy given by God to Moses was, in the course of time, fulfilled (Deut 31: 15-18). The Jews were allowed back into the land to rebuild the Temple and city walls however Jerusalem was never a sovereign nation until it’s rebirth in 1948 under United Nations Mandate following World War II and the Nazi Holocaust.
What does all of this history show us about God? Israel’s history is much more complex than this thumbnail sketch covers but it all shows that the God of the universe, the creator of all things, maintains an intimate caring relationship with His creation. If you really want to know how God feels about Israel, read Ezekiel Chapter 16, an allegory of unfaithful Israel. God’s relationship to Israel serves to show us who God is and how our own actions and the way we conduct our lives may effect our own relationship with Him.