"You either write your own script, or you become an actor in somebody else's script." -- John Taylor Gatto

Saturday, December 19, 2009

God's Chosen People

In the greatest movie ever made, named “Chariots of Fire”, five young British men are chronicled through their university years on their way to Olympic glory. Four of the men met and became friends at Cambridge University in post-WWI England. One of these young men, a Hebrew, won a race against an old courtyard clock that had not been won by any man in 800 years. Upon learning of the feat accomplished by this freshman Hebrew student, one University Master said to another, “perhaps they truly are God’s chosen people.” It has been said multitudes of times throughout the ages that the Hebrews are the “chosen people of God.” But why? What made them God’s chosen people, and what does it mean to be the chosen people of God?

To understand this, we must return to the days of Abram and Sarai in the Torah. In Genesis we read that Abram left the home of his father in Ur, and traveled to Canaan. Abram chose to live a righteous life among wicked and idolatrous people in this land. His new neighbors on one side, the Amorites, were a wicked people. His other neighbors, the kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah, were so wicked that not 20 righteous people could be found within the walls of these cities. Abram’s nephew, Lot, and his family went to live among them, but Abram kept himself separate in order to keep his household righteous and obedient to the commandments of God.

After being in Canaan some years, the neighboring peoples had a fight. A group of kings attacked the area near where Abram lived, and carried away many people, flocks, and riches, including Abram’s nephew. Abram went and defeated the army, but he cited his obedience to God as his reason for refusing to engage in plunder. He further displayed his decision to be righteous by paying tithing to the King of Salem on what he did keep for the sustenance of his men. These are outward displays of Abram’s righteousness. But Abram was also a wealthy man, and many people say it is easier to be righteous when one is wealthy and everything is going your way. But not everything was going well for Abram.

Abram’s wife, Sarai, was barren. As a couple, they were getting along in years, and I’m sure the lack of children weighed on them greatly. In spite of being old, childless, and stricken in years, Abram believed the Lord’s promise of seed as numerous as the stars. (Gen 15) He remained faithful to God even though it must have been difficult if not impossible to understand how this promise would be fulfilled given their age. When Isaac was finally born to Sarai and Abram, I imagine the joy was overwhelming. But then Abram – now Abraham (Gen 17) – was tested in the ultimate test a man can bear: he was commanded to sacrifice his son. Throughout all of these experiences Abraham remained righteous and obedient, and this is the reason God made His covenant with him. This is why Abraham became “chosen” of God. His son Isaac and grandson Jacob followed in his footsteps and the Lord renewed the covenant with them – also due to their righteousness and obedience.

When the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob escaped from Egypt in the 2nd book of the Torah, the covenant was renewed with them. Exodus and Deuteronomy are the most amazing books of the Torah for me because God clearly lays out the covenant, His expectations, and the blessings that will come to his chosen people if they will be righteous and obey his commands. (Exodus 20, Deut 28-29) The Lord also explains the curses that will come upon them if they do not obey Him. He then prophesies that due to unrighteousness the Hebrews will reap the curses and not the promised blessings; and that when the time finally comes around – presumably many years later because of the years of sorrow and curses will take place – when the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob returns again to God in righteousness and obedience, they will be accepted, again, as the chosen people of God. (Deut 30)

But why? Why will they still be God’s chosen people? It is because God promised in the Torah that if they will return to obedience and righteousness they can become so. So who can become the chosen people of God? Those who righteously obey His commandments. That is why Abraham was chosen. That is why the covenant was renewed with Isaac and Jacob. Disobedience and wickedness lost the children of Israel these same great blessings, and brought a calamitous curse upon their nation – and their promised blessings were given to others in stead. The founders of the United States of America believed that America is the re-incarnation of ancient Israel and that America is reaping the blessings that ancient Israel lost through disobedience. I agree with this belief, although I also believe it is not just one people or nation on earth that is somehow “chosen” of God as though it is their birthright. Rather, it is the righteous and obedient to God’s laws and commands that become His chosen people. Lest we forget, Jesus himself said that God could raise up seed unto Abraham from stones if he needed to. (Matt 3:9) This statement applies to modern Americans just as much as it did to the ancient Israelites.


d.mamma said...

You just may be right..chariots of fire is the greatest movie of all times. Loved the article.

M Diane said...

I enjoyed your article -- I have thought of the Jewish people as being the chosen people of God. Had not thought about any people who are obedient to His commandments becoming the chosen. Thanks for posting. I'd read more that you might post. I enjoyed your thoughts.

M Diane

Jeffory said...

Fair enough, but I think that the Hebrews (MOT + the Lost Tribes) are the chosen people for both reasons: 1) righteousness (as you state), and 2) birthright (which you seem to reject). Righteousness makes sense, and it is clear that God made the covenant with Abram because he chose righteousness/obedience. But Israel has been 'saved' where other nations or groups that have strayed have been allowed to be destroyed (Nephites for one example, but there are others). Furthermore, it is written that those who deny further scriptural/prophetic utterance will say, "A bible, we have a bible...", and God points out that those wicked Gentiles give no thanks nor thought to the people (Jews) that brought the gospel forth. The Jews brought the gospel to the Gentiles, and as such, have a birthright so to speak. They are chosen not only for righteousness (which apparently they don't have right now), but for the contribution to the saving of mankind historically (Savior, prophets, etc.).

Merty said...

RIGHT, it's maybe not called out as clearly as it could be, but I am not rejecting God's Covenant to the Hebrews. I am rejecting "Birthright" per se, however. Birthright with no obedience doesn't get you anywhere in my opinion, using the Israelites / Hebrews as the best example, Christ's words to the Pharisees, etc.

At the beginning of the final paragraph I declare why the Hebrews will continue to be the Chosen People of God once they become righteous: Because God promised (Covenanted) it. But unless they become righteous again, they will have no claim on the Covenant.

Lindsey said...

Good article. I had never heard the opinion of the founding fathers regarding america as the re-incarnation of ancient israel. I would like to read more about this.

the mama said...

i echo lindsey, i had never heard of the USofA being the re-incarnation of ancient Israel. i too want to learn more about that.

as for the chosen people having to become righeous again, i don't think that happens until Christ appears at the Mount of Olives and shows them the scars. then they realize their folly so to speak and jump on board.

it's clear after reading this that i need to learn more about this 'chosen people' question so i can have a better grasp of why Abrams won the race in the courtyard anyway. i mean, he still wasn't eating bacon, and we all know that to be a grave mistake. so how could he be so fast?

Merty said...

YES! Now that's what I'm talkin' about..!

Jeffory said...

Abrams won in the movie, but in real life it was Lord Andrew Lindsay that beat the 700 year challenge at Caius College. He was so incensed at not getting the 'credit' in the movie that he wouldn't watch it - a tragedy since it depicts Lindsay as a great person and a true contributor to Abrams' & Liddell's - as well as to England's - efforts in the games.

But yes, Abrams was very fast.

Merty said...

Speaking historically about inaccuracies in the movie Chariots of Fire, that's not quite true Jeffory.

In "real life" there was no Lord Lindsay running around the quad. It's based on Lord David Burghley doing it. There are other factual misrepresentations in the movie Chariots of Fire, which I imagine are all taken as artistic license.

However, having Abrams win the race brings the discussion of the Hebrews as God's Chosen People to the fore. :)

Merty said...

Hey "the mama", Harold Abrams converted to Christianity later in life because the smell of bacon from Sybil's cooking was too much to bear. Some say. But he did convert.

Merty said...

It does appear that I got the 700 v 800 years thing wrong however. I went from memory - should have looked it up first.

greg said...

I know I'm a little late in this conversation, but here is a thought or two. I believe the scriptures indicate there is a chosen people because such a group was important for the reception of and promulgation of the gospel and the priesthood. This group was set up in the pre-existence. People were born into the chosen group because they committed to it while yet spirits. Because adoption is how the chosen are sustained even when the originals violate the promise, we are part of that chosen today.

Merty said...

That makes sense...and if this group committed to it in the pre-existence, is appears that they became the chosen people due to their righteousness / obedience before they were born.

I like this:
"And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out of Egypt" (Deut 4:37)

Verses like this have helped me see the love I missed in the OT in the past, and especially the love of the fathers with whom the covenant was made. Remember Abraham 3:23 when He said "These I will make my rulers; for he stood among [them] and he saw that they were good"? Going along with what you were saying, maybe the covenant was made in the 1st estate, and then re-confirmed as they were righteous / obedient in keeping their 2nd estate.