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A Chosen People

Posted by Mobile Bible Monday, 28 May 2012
As we've seen in previous lessons, God has a plan for bringing mankind to salvation in His Kingdom. Since His creation of Adam and Eve, God has worked with people in various ways but always with the same goal in mind.
Before Christ came, God called only a few people out of their societies to serve Him and further His work. Many of them are mentioned by name in Hebrews 11, a chapter in the Bible we could call the faith hall of fame.
Even as He called and worked through individual leaders and prophets to do a spiritual work, God established a physical nation to help fulfill His plan. This nation, the descendants of Abraham through his grandson Israel, was also known as God's congregation (Acts 7:38) or "church," as it is translated in the King James Version. Understanding how God worked through people in the Old Testament is important background for understanding why and how God established the Church in the New Testament.

Has God worked with people in different ways?

"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made theworlds" (Hebrews 1:1-2).
God spoke to Adam and Eve directly, as He later communicated with Moses. However, He often conveyed His message in other ways—through dreams and visions, through prophets and priests, and through His inspired written Word, the Holy Scriptures. But the message always fit into the same overall mission.

Why did God call Abraham?

"Now the LORD had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed'" (Genesis 12:1-3).
God had a plan for Abraham. In His mission to extend His love to all humanity, God chose a man who was faithful and obedient to serve as a physical and spiritual role model. Abraham set an example of obedience in leaving his home country at God's command, not even knowing the final destination (Hebrews 11:8). He believed God would fulfill His promises, in spite of the seeming impossibilities involved. He was even willing to give up his own son (Genesis 22), prefiguring the sacrifice of Christ. Why was Abraham willing to do this? In faith he knew that God could raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Why is Abraham so important?

"For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness'... that he might be the father of all those who believe ... [and] that righteousness might be imputed to them also" (Romans 4:3, 11, emphasis added throughout).
"And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; ... and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Genesis 26:4-5).
"Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).
Not only did Abraham become the father of many nations, including those that descended from Israel, but his example of faithfulness to God led God to call him the father of the spiritually faithful. Over the years God extended the promises He made to Abraham not only to his physical descendants (Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 17:3-6) but to the whole world through the promised Seed, Jesus Christ.
The faithful—all those called and chosen for a relationship with God in the past, present and future—are Abraham's spiritual descendants. But God also worked through Abraham's physical descendants.

What was the nation of Israel called to do?

"Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?" (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
One of the responsibilities God gave to the physical nation of Israel was to represent Him, to show by example that God's way works. The nations around should have seen the beauty of God's laws at work in the lives of the Israelites.

Did the Israelites fulfill the mission God called them to do?

"But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went" (Ezekiel 36:21).
"Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets, who testified against them to turn them to Yourself; and they worked great provocations" (Nehemiah 9:26).
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke ..." (Jeremiah 31:31-32).
Israel not only failed to set a good example for its neighboring nations, but the Israelites also broke their agreement with God and even caused God's name to be blasphemed (Romans 2:24).

Why did Israel fail?

"... They did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart ..." (Jeremiah 11:8).
"You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51).
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Jeremiah 31:33).
The Israelites didn't have the heart needed to fully accomplish God's will (Deuteronomy 5:29). They resisted the Holy Spirit, as does all of mankind without the special calling of God. But God has a plan to make a new heart available to us all and to write His laws in our minds.

What role did Israel's failure play in setting the stage for the New Testament Church?

"What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: 'God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.' And David says: 'Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always.' I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!" (Romans 11:7-12).
Paul explains that Israel, not having the Holy Spirit, was unsuccessful in becoming a righteous nation before God, but that God has not deserted the Israelites. They are temporarily blinded, and during this time God is calling people from other nations. But, says Paul, the time is coming when the people of Israel will all be saved (Romans 11:25-27). As a result of Christ's sacrifice, God's Spirit now is available to individuals of any nation or race who genuinely repent.
God's ultimate purpose is salvation for all people, both Israelite and gentile (non-Israelite). Yet now only "the elect" are being transformed into the righteous servants of God, and both Israelites and gentiles can become part of His spiritually transformed people, His elect. This step, of course, historically required the next step in God's plan, the founding of the Church.

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