Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Chosen (Deut 7:6-14)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

We elect officials to solve problems, but sometimes a solution comes from combining problems.
Bill was lamenting to Fred, "Everyone concentrates on the problems we're having in this country lately: illegal immigration, hurricane recovery, wild animals attacking humans in Florida. Not me. I concentrate on solutions to problems, and the result is a win-win situation:
  • Dig a moat the length of the Mexican border.
  • Use the dirt to raise the levies in New Orleans.
  • Put the Florida alligators in the moat.
We elect officials to solve problems. One official who is particularly good at solving problems is God. The problem He is facing after Israel's exodus from Egypt is how to integrate this newly formed people group into a large and diverse community of nations, especially when Israel is the only member state that recognizes Him as God. The solution He chooses is to make Israel the preferred recipient of His blessing and guidance.

Before Israel enters the Promised Land, Moses gives the people a pep talk, emphasizing their unusual relationship with the one who recently freed them from slavery in Egypt. God has chosen them to represent Him among the nations. How does the Lord make this selection? Why does Israel stand out among other people groups of the world? What are God's Unique Election Criteria?

I. God uniquely values His people, Israel (Deut 7:6).
Deut 7:6 You are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Moses describes four ways in verse six that God ascribes worth to the Israelites. The first way God ascribes worth to them is that...
A. He sanctifies them beyond others: "You are holy" (v. 6).
Elsewhere, Moses tells how sinful the Canaanites are and warns the Israelites not to emulate them:
You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. (Lev 20:23)
The Israelites are to maintain a difference in their behavior that distinguishes them from these current residents of Canaan. The LORD expects the Israelites to maintain a certain degree of sanctity, and...
1. He uses Himself the exemplar of that state: "Be holy, because I am holy" (Lev 11:44,45; 19:21; 20:26).2
2. He uses Himself the facilitator of that state: "I am the LORD, who makes you holy" (Exod 31:13; Lev 20:7).
The second way God ascribes worth to the Israelites is that...
B. He distinguishes them from others: "You [belong] to the LORD." (v.6).
Although God made all peoples, only the Israelites have an exclusive relationship with Him. The LORD indicates their special status by what He and Moses say about it.
1. God confirms it saying, "You are my...people" (Exod 22:3 1; Deut 28:9). 
2. Moses affirms it saying, "You are a people [belonging] to the LORD your God (Deut 14:2, 21; 26:19; 28:9).
The third way God ascribes worth to the Israelites is that...
C. He commissions them among others: "The LORD...has chosen you out of all the peoples" (v. 6).
God directs much of His attention to Israel, but He is not oblivious to the rest of mankind, which He cites as the larger group whence Israel comes. Gentiles do not have an enviable role in God's program. He hints at their existence when He notes that Israel comes "out of all the peoples" (v. 6). Nevertheless, He will use Jews to reach gentiles: "Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn" (Isa 60:3).

Three instances have gentiles making this move with or in place of Jews, probably during the Messianic Age.
  1. Gentiles will serve alongside of Jews: "I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites," says the LORD. (Isa 66:21)
  2. Gentiles will inherit property with Jews: "In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance," declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezek 47:23)
  3. Gentiles will suffer instead of Jews: I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. (Isa 43:3-4)
The fourth way God ascribes worth to the Israelites is that...
D. He values them over others: "The LORD...has chosen you out of all the peoples" (v. 6).
We assume God looks at all His creatures the same way, that "all men are created equal" (Declaration of Independence). However true that may be in one sense, it is well within God's prerogative as creator to treat some people differently, which He does with Israel, as He says repeatedly using a special term:
Out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. (Exod 19:5)
The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be...His treasured possession. (Deut 7:6)
Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be His treasured possession. (Deut 14:2)
This term, "treasured possession," the biblical authors apply exclusively to Israel, and it marks Israel's unique status in God's program. No other nation has this designation.

Application: Gentiles, even believing gentiles, do not hold this preferential place with God, but it only applies to this life. The world to come has no divisions among the redeemed, only differences in reward, which is according to loyalty not ethnicity.
The Son of Man...will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matt 16:27)
 The Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does. (Eph 6:8)
My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Rev 22:12)
Being a Jew does have some advantage in this life. As Paul notes: "Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises" (Rom 9:4). That advantage, though, is absent later, in the next life: At that time "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). The great equalizer is the gospel, which God offers to all. Nevertheless, in this life...

II. God uniquely favors His people, Israel (Deut 7:7-11).
Deut 7:7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. 11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.
God does not say why He chooses Israel, what qualities about them He finds attractive. He does indicate the Israelites' worth to Him, though, in at least two ways according to this and other passages:
A. They are respected by Him.
1. He made a promise to them: to your forefathers" (v. 8). "The LORD...kept the oath he swore tp your forefathers" (v. 8)
2. He made a payment for them: "The LORD...redeemed you...from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (v. 8).
These benefits from God are not without expectations from God. In granting His favor, He reacts to others (including Israel) the way they react to Him.
B. They are responsive to Him.
1. He loves those who are obedient: "He is the faithful God [to] those who....keep his commands" (v. 9).
and, by implication...
2. He hates those who are disobedient.
Application: We do not usually equate God and hate. While not as common as God and love, hate is a proper response to man's sin that we dare not ignore. It is most evident in the final punishment God metes out, punishment that has no remission and allows no mitigation: You may hear that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. Yet that is not completely true, especially in the next life, when it is not sinful deeds that suffer God's eternal wrath but the people who commit them.

As Christians we tend to emphasize eternal life and rarely consider what we will miss. John describes the fate of the wicked, cut off from the righteous and probably from other unrighteous as well. It will be the ultimate solitary confinement:
Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:14-15)
The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.... Nothing impure will ever enter [the heavenly city], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.... (Rev 21:8, 27)
Outside [the heavenly city] are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22:15)
The excuse some people give for their rejecting God's provision of a place in heaven sounds touching—"I want to be with my friends"—but it will turn out to be a great disappointment.

As you rejoice in God's sparing you from this alternate fate, consider whom you know who might not be heading in the same direction you are—"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." (Matt 7:13).

Pray for an opportunity to relate what you believe about man's final destination. You may not convince someone else to believe as you do, but you can lay out your faith and let your listener decide his fate. As Peter writes, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Pet 3:15)

Your task is to communicate the gospel not necessarily to convince a person you are right. You should of course be persuasive, supporting your effort with a clear presentation of the good news as well as with a testimony of its value to you. Realize, though, that your effort alone or a one-time conversation may not be enough to 'seal the deal' for someone else. Pray that your listener will be open to your overture.

III. God uniquely blesses His people, Israel (Deut 7:12-14).
Deut 7:12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people.
God's commitment to Israel is not without conditions but is contingent on the people's obedience to Him, and His covenant provides the particular precepts Israel must obey to receive His love and blessing. Yet Israel's obedience does not guarantee God's blessing, as if He is obligated to favor them. Nevertheless, God is 'all in,' withholding nothing from His people.
A. He is loyal to those who obey Him: "God will keep his covenant of love with you" (v. 12).
B. He is beneficent to those who obey Him: He will...increase your numbers" (v. 13).
Application: Despite the assertion in our Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal," that is not a promise God made but an assumption our founding fathers made. To the contrary, some people are better looking, or more intelligent, or more athletic than others. Moving beyond physical characteristics, some people are wealthier, or of nobler birth, or have more opportunities to succeed. You may think that, in comparison to other people, you have not gotten a fair shake, and perhaps that is true. Your life may have all the tragic elements of a really sad country song: "Things are so bad since you've been gone, it's almost as bad as when you were here." The good news is that God will correct anything...everything that might be askew when He welcomes you into glory. As John writes, "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev 21:4). The question is, will you be patient and await God's great correction, or will impatience rule the day? Are you like folks in the J.G. Wentworth commercial: "It's my money, and I need it now! Some Christians act as if, "It's my future, and I want it now!

Patience is a quality missing from many people's character, a quality the New Testament enjoins. It is particularly elusive in anticipation of Jesus' return.
  • Paul asks, "What if God...bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? (Rom 9:22)
  • James writes, "Be patient...until the Lord's coming" (5:7).
  • Peter writes, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise.... He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Pet 3:9)
  • John adds, "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus" (Rev 14:12).
Jesus' delay may actually work in your favor, if you take advantage of it, giving you more time to build up your eternal reward. He said, "Behold, I am coming soon! [How soon we are not sure. But Jesus continues] My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Rev 22:12).

When a generation of former slaves is about to enter Canaan, Moses explains how God chooses them to be His people. The Lord could select any group, even the kingdom of Egypt whence they have recently come, but He chooses Israel, so Moses explains God's Unique Election Criteria.

For the Footnotes and Bibliography see the pdf here.

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Relevant and civil comments are welcome. Whether there will be any response depends on whether Dr. Manuel notices them and has the time and inclination to respond or, if not, whether I feel competent to do so.
Jim Skaggs