The Thomas Pages homepage
God´s Election of Isra´el
 "Now IF you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, THEN out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. 
Although the whole earth is Mine, YOU will be for Me a kingdom of PRIESTS and a holy nation."
Exodus 19:5-6 (emphasis mine)
The above are the introductory words to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai to qualify their unique covenant which follows.
This Sinai covenant ended in the crucifixion of Jesus (Hebrews 8:13).
The Purpose of Election
Election and Responsibility
The election of Israel is unique in world history,
"The election of Israel is unique in world history, and is the basic perspective ..."
and is the basic perspective of biblical history. It provided the platform on which God revealed Himself as more than Creator; the revelation of the One who is Himself salvation – YHWH-hoshua. (Or in it's eventual abbreviated and transliterated form from the Hebrew – 'Joshua', and via it's New Testament Greek equivalent in English – 'Jesus').
This election is first applied in a call by God to a specific Hebrew family (descendants of Heber). Their answer to that Call in three successive generations (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel) is the root upon which the trunk of Israel's nationhood then grows through the years to eventually spread into a canopy of Grace toward the whole world through the mercy of God demonstrated in Jesus.
See: The deliberate
of this name
2.  THE CALL OF GOD Sinai Covenant ended
but not God's promise
to Abraham
writes of Israel: "as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers" (Romans 11:28). Moses also viewed the patriarchs of Israel as the root of the nation's election. He said to them: "Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them" (Deuteronomy 4:37).
Thus it was to Abraham, the first of Israel's great fathers, that the call of God came in Ur of Chaldea. He was summoned to separate himself, "from your country ...from your relatives ...from your father's house" (Genesis 12:1), in a journey of faith ("to the land which I will show you" 12:1) to become "a great nation" in a new land (he did not know where) under the protection of God ("I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse" Genesis 12:3). The focus of this call is nationhood. Its purpose is not personal, although this element is essential to its fulfillment, but national.
Abraham's justification before God, years later in Canaan (Genesis 15:6), was not the fulfillment of his election but simply a means in its implementation. Abraham's moral qualities, which are recognized in the title "Friend of God" (Isaiah 41:8), are not the reason for his personal election to God's special strategy in history but are evidence of the wisdom of God in His sovereign choice of means.
The Means
God's choice of Abraham was of "a particularistic means towards a universalistic end" (Vos 1975:77). He is elected to become a nation under God's protection by which "all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).
is significant that the call of Abraham carries no identifying introduction such as the call of Moses does. The record presumes his acquaintance with God. Though the Scripture reports the idolatry of Abraham's father (Joshua 24:2) there is apparently no need to distinguish the Most High God from Nanar, the god of Ur. This is all the more significant when later Abraham identifies God with the Amorites' El at their sanctuaries of Shechem and Mamre, and in the incident of Melchizedec's blessing.
There is evidence of a vital family tradition of God among the Hebrew, the family of Eber, in Abraham's time. The Genesis lists of ancestors back to the beginning, apart from providing a political background to world population distribution, point to the careful safeguarding of a tradition which was later to be forged by God through Moses into that unique literary work, the Holy Scripture. For instance, the rhythmic speech parallels for memorization in 1:27 (so-called parallismus membrorum), the obvious pre-mosaic knowledge of a seven day week (29:27) and the Noahic distinction between edible ("clean") and non-edible ("unclean") animals (7:2), are a few indicators of this strong oral tradition.
If this is so, then the call of Abraham is not arbitrary but a unique step in the process of divine selection in human history.
Noah's blessing upon the "God of Shem" already points to the revelatory role of God's relationship to the Semites (Gen.9:26). The distinction of Semite Eber as a separate group from other Semites at the Babel scattering of the peoples (Genesis 11), as Hebrews, laid a historical foundation for the coming Call. From a sub-group of Eber which settled in Ur came the man whom God would use in His wonderful pre-preparation of the tools of world redemption. Thus the background to Abraham's call is no evolution of religious concepts among the Sumerians, or any other group, but the ever narrowing selection by God of the family through which He would change the world.
call of God to Abraham required a response. The faith by which Abraham answered the call was the same attitude required for the continuity of his call in the next generation. Abraham yielded to Sarah's doubts and Ishmael was born. Though the patriarch prayed earnestly for Ishmael's acceptance he was refused (Genesis 17:18).
Ishmael's rejection was not soteriological (to do with his salvation) for the Scripture says of him – "God was with the lad" (Gen.21:20) and great blessing was pronounced on him. But, as the child of doubt and reliance upon self rather than God, he could not serve Abraham as the continuance of his call. Isaac, the child of faith in God's promise, was to be the progenitor of the spiritual birth-right – "through Isaac your descendants shall be named" (Genesis 21:12).
The New Testament contrasts Ishmael to Isaac as "according to the flesh" (merit) and "through the promise" (faith) respectively (Gal.4:23). This principle of faith in the divine promise as the means of election is thus established in his progeny as it was first introduced by Abraham's response to the Call.
In the terrible test of Abraham's faith concerning the sacrifice of Isaac any remaining element of reliance upon anything other than God Himself, for the fulfillment of the promise, is completely eradicated. Faith in God alone is to be the only means of this unique nation's existence and election in history.
the incident of isaac's twin sons there is a clear example of the grounding of God's choice in His sovereignty alone. Of their birth the apostle Paul writes:
"though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad,
in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand,
not because of works, but because of Him, who calls, it was said to her, 'The older will serve the younger'"
Romans 9:11-12.
The Genesis record gives the full text as:
"Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger"
Genesis 25:23.
Again, it is not the election of an individual to personal salvation that is in view (as Reformed churches generally teach) but the sovereign choice of ancestry in the building of the nation promised to Abraham. Esau, as an individual, never did serve Jacob, but Edom the nation of Esau undoubtedly served Israel under David and Solomon. Even here, with the undeserved sovereign choice of God in the foreground, the faith principle continues as the means. For Rebekah, the mother of these twins, was barren until Isaac turned to God for help, and the distress of her pregnancy was only answered in reply to her prayer.
This exclusion of Esau from the circle of election is the same as the exclusion of righteous Lot, of Melchizedec the priest of the Most High, and of Job the upright. Though these men were counted righteous by their personal faith (Heb.11:39 – justified before God) they were not elected to have a part in Israel's national calling and identity and even their mention in Scripture is largely because of their contact with the elect nation. Paul's quote, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom.9:13), from Malachi (1:2f) is not a statement of arbitrary partiality in salvation but of God's election of Israel above its brother-nation of Edom in world history, which privilege, in the Malachi message, increased Israel's responsibility accordingly.
After reviewing the majestic sovereignty of God in the election of Israel in history, in spite of their unbelief, to be a vehicle of God's grace (Rom.9-11) Paul breaks out in praise and adoration. His doxology is not for grace or love revealed but for the great wisdom and vast knowledge of God evidenced in His strategy of history (Rom.11:33-36). This wisdom of God reveals His sovereignty, the sovereignty by which He chose one family through which His lordship would be revealed in the affairs of men.
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! ...
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the Glory forever. Amen"
Romans 11:33,36.
sovereignty of God in election that Paul taught moved a critic to demand –
"Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?" (Romans 9:19).
Paul replies angrily for the objection is based upon a gross misrepresentation of his teaching and even infers the disqualification of God from judging humanity on the ground that His will is irresistible.
The apostle's answer –
"On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God" (9:20)
points to the foolishness of such misrepresentation, for the very objection of the objector is a resisting of God's will which the objector regards as impossible. God's sovereign election does not imply fatalism in the life of the nation but rather an increased responsibility from the privilege of their opportunity.
God's judgment upon Israel's responsibility is projected by the great prophet Jeremiah as that of a potter over his clay (18:6). Paul uses Jeremiah's message when he says –
"does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honourable use, and another for common use?" (Romans 9:21).
Within the elect nation (the "lump") were those who lived by their personal faith in God and those who did not. Paul uses exactly the same phrase again, to Timothy, saying –
"vessels ...some to honour and some to dishonour. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honour, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work" (II Timothy 2:20-21).
These vessels for honour are called "vessels of mercy" and the other are "vessels of wrath" (Rom.9:22- 23). Being of one "lump" of Israel did not secure a person's salvation before God but did give special opportunity for personal faith, by which means the individual national election would become personally relevant. But Israel rejected it's Messiah! Had the election of God failed? Paul answered "No!" –
"it is not as though the Word of God has failed.
For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel"
(Romans 9:6).
There is no misfire in God's strategy of history. His call and His promise have not failed, for in surnaming the nation 'Israel' the character of that name was proclaimed for the fulfillment of their national calling. Jacob became Israel through his perseverance with God. He had striven with the angel and prevailed ( 'yisra-el', to strive with God). In other words, they are not all 'perseverers with God' (Israel) who are from the 'Perseverer with God' (Jacob). But faithful Israel became the embryo Church and, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, it became the spiritual "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16).
Thus election, rather than abrogating responsibility, increases responsibility and adds the wholesome motivation of certain success in answering its call.
was elected, as Vos remarked, as a means to an end (refer). The nation was called to a service which flowed from it's special relationship to God as His elect. Not only was the nation chosen but certain individuals are described as chosen of God, such as Moses, Saul, and David (Psalm 106:23; II Samuel 21:6; Psalm 89:3). Saul's election makes it clear that his choosing by God was purely functional and that the spiritual life of that individual was a means to that end; service to the nation.
Behind this service lay the special covenant relationship of Israel to God; the covenant of Abraham. God was the "God of Israel". At the Exodus Israel was God's "son", and Moses even appealed for mercy upon the people to prevent their destruction by God on the ground that God's reputation was attached to the nation's fate, though God offered to fulfil Abraham's covenant through Moses instead (Ex.32:9-14). Daniel echoes this same association of God's reputation, saying –
"... take action! For thine own sake O my God, do not delay,
because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name"
Daniel 9:19.
God is married to Israel and their unfaithfulness to Him is as adultery (the theme of Hosea) for the Lord God is to be known in the earth through Israel. The nation was chosen to the highest calling - the revelation of God!
Spiritual failure in the nation thus negated the purpose of their election. The prophet Amos brings God's ominous complaint - "'Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?' declares the Lord" and then goes on to relegate the glorious deliverance and preservation of Israel in the Exodus and desert journey to merely a migration like those of other nations in significance because of their disobedience (9:6-7). Yet even this failure served to produce, through the reaction of the prophets, that unique tool of the revelation of God - the Holy Scriptures
"what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect.
First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God"
Romans 3:1-2.
The unique relationship of God with Israel eventually became defined in terms of a kingdom, and the continuing spiritual failure of the nation's kings occasioned prophecies of a divine intervention and the institution of God's Kingdom. The kingdom-concept became the framework within which the nation's future and the elective purpose were perceived.
This national expectation was personified in the Anointed or Messiah (Psalm 2) as the realization of Israel's national purpose –
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you"
Zechariah 9:9.
This climactic rule of God through the Messiah, though peculiarly belonging to Israel by divine election, would not be limited to her. In fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant "all the families of the earth" would be blessed for she would be a "light to the Gentiles" and her holy temple would be a "house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:7).
The non-national inclusivity of Israel's calling was evident from the beginning. Even the stern exclusion of certain nations was only for religious reasons (God's judgment on their moral conduct) and not by virtue of any inherent racial or group superiority in Israel. The highly infectious nature of ancient paganism was stringently guarded against. Yet, even in the birth of Israel's nationhood the inclusiveness of her calling is shown:
  • first in acceptance of the "mixed multitude" which God protected and provided for with the nation (Exodus 12:38);
  • in Caleb the Kenizzite who represented a tribe of Israel as one of the 12 spies and who alone, with Joshua, of the Exodus generation settled in the promised land (Numbers 32:12, descendant of Eliphaz from Teman, Job's 'comforter' and son of Esau, Genesis 36); and,
  • in Hobab the Midianite who led Israel through the desert from Mount Sinai (Numbers 10:29-32, Moses' Gentile brother-in-law).
Throughout Israel's history many other examples continue to show the universal scope of the ultimate purpose of her election (such as the stories of Rahab the Canaanitess, and Ruth the Moabitess).
Israel's unfaithfulness to her calling was evident from the beginning, by the remnant-principle God's purpose moved invincibly on to fulfillment. Paul quotes Isaiah, that God's purpose in the nation will be realized by a "remnant" (Romans 9:27). To Isaiah the very continued existence of the nation is by this faithful remnant (Isaiah 1:9) or Israel would have come to an end under God's judgment like Sodom. Throughout Israel's history the identity of the elect nation lay not in its numbers or political independence but in the spiritual character of this remnant.
When Israel under Aaron worshipped the golden calf the remnant had almost shrunk to Moses and alone (Ex.32:9-10). In Elijah's day God numbered it at 7 000 (I Kg.19:18). Out of this spiritual core came the prophets of God. It was these who became the embryo Church under the ministry of Jesus and who provided the core of the early Church and the completion of the Scriptures in the New Testament canon.
Isaiah prophetically named one of his sons Shar-yashuv (7:3) "a remnant shall return". Though the nation proved ultimately unfaithful in killing their Messiah and it was "broken off" (Romans 11:17) from the root of Abraham's calling this will only continue into the future "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Romans 11:25) and then "all Israel will be saved" (11:26) for although as a nation
"As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake;
but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers"
Romans 11:28.
the prophet Micah prophesies –
"Who is a God like Thee, who pardons ...the remnant of His possession? ...
Thou wilt give faithfulness to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which Thou didst swear to our forefathers from the days of old"
Micah 7:18-20.
And thus all that the Lord has prophesied will be fulfilled, for as Jesus pointed out, God "is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", not 'was'.
so, if Israel's "rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will be their acceptance be, but – life from the dead?" (Romans 11:15). The resurrection!
"Now, if their transgression – be riches for the world,
and their failure – be riches for the Gentiles,
how much more will their fulfillment be!"

Romans 11:12
Forester & Marston 1973 God's Strategy in Human History. Bromley, UK: Send the Light Trust.
Payne, J.B. 1962 The Theology of the Older Testament. Grand Rapids, USA: Zondervan.
Vos, G. 1975 Biblical Theology, Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids, USA: Eerdmans.
Copyright © Lloyd Thomas 1997-2016. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included.