Israel, God’s people, God’s land

THE old man stood high on the hillside, the Israelites below him hushed and expectant as they waited for him to continue. These were his people, the flock he had shepherded for over 40 years. Moses’ voice rang clear through the desert air: “The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

The wailing wall in Jerusalem

The wailing wall in Jerusalem

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people,” he reminded them. Numbers have never mattered to God. Quality is more important than quantity, to Him. “It is because the LORD loves you,” he went on, “and is keeping the oath which he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand” (verses 7-8). How He had loved them, in spite of their rebellious spirit, their hankering after the Egypt from which He had called them out! Those decades of eating manna, enduring discipline and wandering in the wilderness had finally forged the Children of Israel into a unique nation, a people with a history and a destiny.

The Chosen Nation
Was Moses being too starry-eyed, too close to the Israelites to see things in perspective, when he spoke of them as the “chosen people”? The answer is a resounding “No”. Over 1,000 years later, even after that same rebellious spirit had driven them into captivity in Babylon, Zechariah the prophet could still write to the people of Judah: “Thus said the LORD of hosts . . . he who touches you touches the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

There is nothing we treasure more than our eyesight; to touch the eyeball causes instant pain and a violent reaction. This is how God felt when nations had oppressed the people He loved. 500 years later still, after the Jews had killed God’s Son and rejected the Gospel, the Apostle Paul asks, “Has God rejected His people?” He replies, emphatically, “By no means”. “They are beloved,” he declares, “for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:1,28,29). Like the father of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable, God’s love for His people has never changed, even though they have often made Him sad.

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