By establishing a special covenant relationship with Israel, the Lord set them apart from all other nations as his people.
God’s choice is not based on their special quality - it is not due to their righteousness.
God’s intention is that they should be a light to other nations.
Thus, it is a privilege and a responsibility.
Due to the covenant with God, Israel enjoys a relationship with the Lord that differs from the experience of other nations.
But why Israel?
Why did the Lord choose Israel and deliver its people from Egypt?
Did the Lord display favouritism in wiping out the nations of Canaan in order to give their land to the Israelites?
Did Israel, as a result of its special relationship with God, have an unfair advantage over all the other nations of the earth?
The Book of Deuteronomy wants to answer these questions.
The election of Israel
Deut 7:6; Ex 19:4-6
1. Deut 14:2 - God has chosen Israel “out of all the people on the face of the earth”, not Israel who chose the Lord.
2. The Israelites are to be His people (Deut 4:20) - no other nation can claim such a statues. They are God’s “treasured possession” (Deut 7:6).
“Segulla” - “treasured possession” - the jewels and valuable objects in a king’s treasury (1 Chron 29:3; Ecclesiastes 2:8).
3. “Holy nation” (Ex 19:6; Deut 7:6) - they should exhibit the holiness of God’s nature.
Deut 32:8-15 shows how God has acted in the past on behalf of His people.
There is also a promise for the future (Deut 26:19).
Why was Israel chosen?
Deut 9:4-6 - not because of their righteousness.
(Deut 8:2-5; cf. Deut 1:26-46; 9:7-24).
They are “stiff-necked people (Deut 9:4-6,13; 10:16; 31:27).
Rebellious (Deut 9:24; cf. Deut 31:27).
Deut 31:16-18; 32:15-35 - unable to fulfil the obligations placed on them.
Deut 7:7 - the fewest of all people. God started with Abraham - one man only.
God’s love and faithfulness to the oath he swore to their ancestors (Deut 7:8-9).
The election resulted from the Lord’s unmerited love for them.
The purpose of their election
Deut 4:6-8 - Israel was divinely chosen to be an example for others to emulate.
No other gods are so near like God of Israel to their people;
No other nation possesses such righteous decrees and laws like the Torah.
But, to be an example Israel has obligation to live up to their calling (Deut 7:7-11).
The Torah was made for the purpose to make them more righteous than the other nations.
The Torah creates a sense of community (Deut 17:15).
Kings (Deut 17:14-20) - from among them and not considering himself better than others (Deut 17:15,20).
The weaker member in society - the fatherless, the widow, the slave, the poor, the alien (Deut 10:18; 14:19)
Generous spirit (Deut 10:18-19; 15:12-14) - they must reflect the Lord’s generosity toward them.
The call to be a righteous nations (Deut 13:5; 17:7) - no evil should be among them.
Jeshurun = “the upright one” (Deut 32:15; 33:5,26; Is 44:2);
But even Israel’s failure will be a witness to God’s righteousness (Deut 29:24-28).
Being God’s “treasured possession” does not guarantee that they will always enjoy divine favour.
If they do not meet the obligations of the covenant, the curses will follow.
Israel and the Nations
There is an important distinction between the nations living in Canaan and those living elsewhere.
Deut 7:1 - there are seven nations in the land of Canaan and they had to be driven out.
1. The expulsion of these nations is an act of divine punishment (Gen 15:16; Lev 18:25; Deut 9:4-6).
2. They need to be removed so as not to tempt Israel to idolatry (Deut 20:18; cf. Deut 7:5, 25-26).
Deut 7:1 - although the seven nations are larger and stronger God will help Israel to win (Deut 7:16-24; cf. Gen 14 - Abraham rescuing Lot).
But, it will also be a gradual process (Deut 7:22).
And their success is linked to their obedience to God’s decrees and laws (Deut 11:22-23).
Nations outside of Canaan
Deut 2:1-23 - Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites - they are not allowed to attack them. God granted them their land - Israel has not right to take it from them.
Before fighting the war with others nations the Israelites should first make an offer of peace (Deut 20:10). If it is accepted, then no death follows. But if it is not accepted, men should be killed, “women, children” should be spared (Deut 20:13-14).
But, they should not despise the Egyptians despite all that they did to them (Deut 23:7-8).
Election and Responsibility
Elected by the Lord, they were never forced into the covenant.
At Sinai and on the plains of Moab, they are invited to freely enter into a covenant relationship with the Lord.
However, once the covenant was made they are obliged to be loyal to the Lord.
Despite, all exhortations to obedience and threats for disobedience, Deut conveys an idea that Israel will fail in its commitment (Deut 4:25-31; 29:23; 30:1-4).
The land will be devastated and the people exiled.
Deut 31:16-17 - the prediction of idolatry and its consequence.
Deut 31:27-29 - Moses is sure that they will fail based on knowing their character.
The nations will ask - why such disaster have come upon them (Deut 29:22-24), the answer is in Deut 29:25-28.
Notice the phrase “as it is now”.
But, they will not be abandon completely.
Deut 30:1-10 - their repentance will lead to God’s compassion.
Israel needs a heart surgery to fulfil their obligation (Deut 30:6).
New Testament Connections
The Israel’s election is prominent in Romans.
Rom 2:20 - Torah as the embodiment of “knowledge and truth”.
Rom 2:24; Is 52:5; Ezek 36:22 - the inability to keep the Torah.
Rom 3:20-22 - God deals with the inability to fulfil God’s law - the “righteousness of God”.
The “righteousness of God” can be linked to the “circumcision of heart” (2:29) without which it is impossible to keep the obligation of the covenant.
Rom 9:4-5 - the benefits that belong to Israel.
But, some failed to achieve the righteousness because they tried to gain it by keeping the law. Only those who, like Paul, accepted it by faith, succeeded (Rom 9:30).
Rom 11:26 - the Lord, however, did not reject His people - “all Israel will be saved”.