The Chosen People of God
Since the return of Israel to its traditional land in the Middle East in 1947 an interesting attitude has sprung up in America, particularly among conservative Christians. This attitude is that the secular state of Israel holds a favored place with God as His chosen people, and therefore America will only be blessed if it sides with Israel. This attitude has borne out a number of foreign policy effects, not the least of which is to make Israel the largest recipient of U.S. military aid (and until 2003 Israel was the largest foreign recipient of US economic aid). The U.S. contributes over $3 billion in military aid to Israel annually, larger than the FBI’s entire counter-terrorism budget.
In this post I’m going to examine the roots for such an attitude from multiple perspectives and determine whether this position is valid in any way.
Generally the entire premise for support of the state of Israel can be traced to the original promise in Scripture to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”, as was first spoken to Abram in Genesis 12:3. It was then passed on to his seed in the person of Jacob by Isaac in Genesis 27:29. The next time this blessing appears is in Numbers 24:9 as Balaam, under the influence of the Spirit of God, pronounces this blessing as applicable to the entire nation. These are the only three times this promise appears in Scripture.
Interestingly enough, the promise of “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” never appears in the New Testament. Even more interesting is the fact that this promise never occurs after Deuteronomy 11:26, when God offers Israel a conditional choice to be blessed or cursed by Him. The blessing was only offered as long as Israel stayed within God’s will; the curse carries with it God’s removal of His protection. This means that either this protective umbrella of blessing over Israel was withdrawn when they withdrew from Him, or that it still exists and God curses Himself because He is actively cursing Israel to this day (they have not yet returned to Him). Yes, there is a remnant, but it is not reflective of the nation of Israel as a corporate body and therefore the state of Israel (or any individual Jew) is no different from any Gentile state or individual Gentile. Romans 10:12: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”
By any standard the “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” statement is a promise; we find clarification on how this applies in the New Testament (and therefore now) in Galatians 3:16: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” We find that the promise given to Christ extends to those who belong to him just a few verses later in Galatians 3:29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” This means that the extension of this promise (“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”) belongs solely to Christ and those who belong to him, which is not the secular state of Israel. Indeed, Paul states in Romans 9:6-8 (immediately after explicitly outlining all of the specific blessings which belong to the nation of Israel): “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”
The attitude that all people everywhere need to respect, protect, and honor Jews because they are the chosen people of God is based upon ignorance of the Scripture. Not only is Scripture extremely explicit in stating that these promises were given specifically to Christ by way of Israel (and therefore Israel had no claim to the promises after Christ), but Paul is very clear in stating that the benefits of these promises extend not to the “natural” children of Israel but rather to the “children of the promise,” who he clearly states in Galatians are those who belong to Christ.
Let’s go back to Galatians 3:16 and examine this verse in-depth for a moment. The verse states that “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” The three times where this promise is recorded was first to Abraham, second to Jacob, and then third to the corporate body of Israel; never is this promise explicitly made to the person of Christ.
To understand this we must do so in context and not pick just a section of the promise; this means we must go back to the very first time in Scripture that this promise we’ve been discussing was made; these are the words of God Himself speaking to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” The last phrase in that sentence reveals the purpose for which Abraham was chosen: to bless the entire world by eventually bringing forth the person of the Messiah through his line. Psalms 72 is an expose on the Messiah and in verse 17 David writes: “May His name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed.” Galatians 3:8 states: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” Abraham was blessed because his line would eventually birth Jesus; through Jesus the entire world would be blessed by His gospel. What we see here is that a blessing is given to an ancestor with the blessing actually belonging to a descendant multiple generations down the line. While this seems foreign to Western minds, it is a precedent cited elsewhere in Scripture.
In Hebrews 7 the author reminds us of the story of Abraham and Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God. After Abraham has defeated a coalition of kings in order to free his nephew he is blessed by Melchizedek, and Abraham gives the king a tenth of his plunder. Verses 5, 9, and 10 reveal why this is essential to understand: “Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people – that is, their brothers – even though their brothers are descended from Abraham… One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” Levi, someone who wouldn’t be born for another three generations, paid the tenth to a priest and thereby created the precedent by which God required all other Israelites to pay Levi, the priest, a tenth. This Scripture allows us to understand that when God spoke in Genesis 12:3, He wasn’t actually speaking to Abraham… He was speaking to Christ! This blessing truly, solely, and eventually belonged to Christ; the only reason it belonged to Abraham, Jacob, and the line of Israel at all was that they were carrying the body of Christ within their own!
Since this blessing belonged to Christ, the Jews had no claim on it after Christ was born because the blessing was a promise that was fulfilled in Him. There is a strict physical line from Abraham to Jesus; Jesus had no physical descendents, so His lineage passed on as a spiritual one. Let’s revisit Galatians 3:29: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The lineage continues, but it continues to all believers, who are heirs according to the promise.
Interestingly enough the New Testament doesn’t describe the Jews or Israel as God’s chosen people a single time. Not once. Over the course of 27 books dealing with such related topics as election, the relationship between Jews & Gentiles, the role of Israel in Jesus’ kingdom, etc, it seems to be a rather glaring omission. Conversely, Christians are repeatedly and explicitly stated to be God’s chosen people in the New Testament. Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience.” 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” In fact, every single specific role originally given to the Israelites in the OT was explicitly passed on to Christians in general in 1 Peter 2:9.
Nowhere in Scripture (OT or NT) does it state that there are two chosen peoples. There is only one; in fact, a regular them in the NT is the contrast between children born “in the natural way” and “children of the promise” (this theme is seen most clearly in Romans). Throughout the New Testament it is clearly explained that the mantle of spiritual blessing the physical nation of Israel used to enjoy has been passed to the spiritual nation of Israel: believers. It isn’t as if there is a broken lineage, or that the secular state of Israel now enjoys some sort of “half-chosen” rights while believers have a sort of “half-chosen” position themselves. It is a clear, unbroken, singular chain beginning with Abraham and continuing through his physical line straight to Jesus, at which point it’s physical nature is stopped (Jesus had no physical descendants) and is very clearly transferred to a clear, unbroken chain of spiritual believers. We are Abraham’s seed, not Israel.
This is where an understanding of the purpose and clear line of delineation between Old Testament and New Testament must come into play for the Christian. “Testament” means “covenant,” and the rules, regulations, promises, blessings, and curses that were a part of the old covenant between God and a physical race have now been fulfilled or accomplished through Christ, who has instituted a “new covenant,” or a “New Testament.” We must be very careful when we read the Old Testament; it is certainly Scripture that was every bit as inspired by the Holy Spirit as the New Testament, but it is highly contextual. If we assume that the OT holds as much weight as the NT, then we have to assume that the all of the unfulfilled promises and prophecies in the OT are still unfulfilled, meaning Messiah hasn’t come and Jesus wasn’t the Christ. To assume that Jesus was the Christ and the New Testament is actually in effect, we have to see that some OT Scriptures are fulfilled, which means that they no longer apply in the same way they did when they were first written.
Paul discusses in Romans 11:11-24 how the branches of Israel were broken off so that others could be grafted in; here he is painting a clear picture of the lineage that grew up like an olive tree to bring forth Christ, a tree that found its roots in Israel but was brought to fruition through the spiritual heritage of all humans through Christ. The tree is and always has been the tree of Israel; however the trunk was the physical Israel composed of Hebrews and the branches are now the spiritual Israel composed of believers. Paul makes very clear that God does not engage in wholesale rejection of Jews; he immediately begins the chapter by emphasizing that he himself is a Jew and is saved by belief in Christ. His primary focus is to emphasize that there is no difference between Jews & Gentiles; the only thing that matters is belief. This is a theme he stated just a few verses earlier in Romans 10:12: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” For our purposes, what must be emphasized is this: there is absolutely no difference in any way between Jew & Gentile; the only thing that matters is faith in Christ Jesus. Paul states this again in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” and in multiple other places in the New Testament.
The Cursing of the Nation of Israel
We’ve seen that this promise was made to Christ and that it extends to believers regardless of racial heritage. What we must also examine, as unpleasant a topic as it will be, is the current status of the nation of Israel.
Not only is the current state of Israel not blessed, it is under a curse; God states in Malachi 3:9: “You are under a curse – the whole nation of you”. God charges the priests in Malachi 2, stating that if they do not listen and set their hearts to honor His name then He will send a curse on them and curse their blessings. While God is specifically talking to the formal priesthood here, He is also talking to the nation of Israel in general. We know this because of what God states in Exodus 19:6 when He tells Israel: “you will be for me a kingdom of priests…” God expounds upon His statement in Malachi 2:2-3: “If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me. Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.”
To the Jews belong the responsibility for the murder of God’s Son (Matt 27:25), the first persecution of Christ (John 5:16, John 15:25), the first persecution of the Christians (Acts 8:1, Acts 13:50), and the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:60). In fact no positive words are spoken about the nation of Israel in the New Testament, but only lament, and the only positive words spoken about individual Jews are those Jews who believe in Christ. Any positive mention of “Israel” in the New Testament, upon examination, reveals a reference to spiritual Israel, which is composed solely of Christians.
God is explicitly clear on how we will know when this curse is lifted; He writes in Malachi 3:12, immediately after stating that the nation of Israel is cursed and outlining their action for repentance: “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.” It is instantly obvious that the nation of Israel is still under a curse. Israel is definitely the most hated state in the Middle East and an argument could be convincingly made for it being the most hated state in the entire world. The only one clearly in competition for “the most hated state in the world” crown would be the United States, Israel’s protector. The state of Israel is hardly blessed by all nations, and it is a land torn by conflict, strife, warfare, and hatred.
A promise of “blessing to those who bless you and curses to those who curse you” can only logically only stand up to a promise made by God to a covenant group pursuing Him. Suppose the nation of Israel engaged in genocide (let’s briefly consider the Palestinian perspective); would God bless those who bless Israel’s pursuit of this? By doing so God would have to disavow foundational principles in His word, all for the sake of blindly protecting a people group that denies Christ.
What of the historic persecution of Christians by Jews which continues even to this day? The Associated Press covered a story in May of 2008 where Orthodox Jews burned hundreds of copies of the New Testament. There are two forms of the Word of God: the Living Word and the Written Word; Jesus being the former and the Bible being the latter. God obviously views His Scripture with the utmost respect as we see in the final words of Revelation: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” While the Jews mentioned weren’t editing the Bible, I would hardly say that burning it is more respectful. Will God bless or curse them for this?
The logic of God blindly and unconditionally protecting a people group who are diametrically opposed to his rule escapes me. God is a triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you deny any part of God’s being you deny Him as Lord. Jews, to this day, deny that Jesus is the Son of God, despite Christ’s statement in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” To deny Christ is to deny God, but according to the common American interpretation of Scripture to deny God is to be unconditionally blessed by him, as long as one possesses the correct racial bloodlines.
This brings us to one of the most ironic aspects of this issue: the fact that an unknown portion of the population of Israel isn’t even composed of Hebrews, but rather traces their roots from Eastern Europe and was never Jewish at all!
The nation of Khazaria was founded in the 7th century AD between the Black and Caspian Seas, earning them a strategic place as a trade route between the East and the West. It also sandwiched them between conflicting religious interests: the Christian nations in Europe and Islamic nations in the East. As tensions grew between the two religious groups late in the 8th century the merchant-nation of Khazaria decided that it was politically beneficial to convert en masse to Judaism under the presumption that both religions saw Judaism as a forebear and therefore worthy of some respect. The ploy worked and the nation continued to exist in prosperity for several hundred years. It worked so well, in fact, that a Persian historian reported in the 10th century that “all the Khazars are Jews.”
Khazarian influence extended throughout Europe and the Middle East until they were finally defeated by Rus (the founding tribe of Russia) in the late 10th century. The survivors were scattered and it is unknown to what extent those who identify as Jews today actually trace their ancestry to the kingdom of Khazaria. This is instantly apparent when you look at many folks who claim Jewish heritage but are obviously of European, rather than Middle Eastern, descent (e.g., Alicia Silverstone, Amanda Bynes, Harrison Ford).
Converts to Judaism after Christ came on earth carry the same spiritual legitimacy as do Muslims: both worship the God of Abraham and neither accepts Jesus as Savior. This is incredibly ironic in light of the claim that Jews are currently God’s chosen people purely based on racial bloodlines, when there’s no way to actually tell who has true Jewish blood and who doesn’t. Consequently, Jews have been intermarrying with other cultures for years… how do we know that all of the rest of us aren’t just as worthy of being called God’s chosen racial set? In fact, there are only three ways you can go with a racial argument: the first two are to argue that only 100% pure Jews are actually Jews (in which case it’s likely no one is actually a 100% pure Jew anymore) or to say anyone with any amount of Jewish blood is part of the chosen (in which case it’s likely almost everyone in the world is chosen). The third option is to say that those who convert to Judaism are suddenly part of the chosen, but then you run into the logical quandary that in order to be part of God’s chosen you have to convert to a religion which doesn’t claim Christ as God.
America’s Foreign Policy
Many American evangelical Christians suppose that the nation of Israel is a direct manifestation of God’s presence on this earth (i.e., “God’s chosen people”) and should be protected and supported unquestionably at all costs. The last nation in the world we would ever consider actually attacking is Israel; this, despite such false flag attacks by Israel against the United States as the U.S.S. Liberty incident and the Lavon Affair. These are deliberate, planned attacks against American citizens that have been openly admitted to by the Israeli government and, in the case of the Lavon Affair, the Israeli government actually gave medals to those involved with bombing US embassies. You may wonder why America hasn’t responded in force; certainly we’ve used far less as an excuse to invade and overthrow other nations within the past twenty years. I’m convinced that the reason lies solely with the belief that Jews are the chosen people of God; I belief that I hope you now see is without justification from any angle.
The ironic thing about the premise that we must defend and ally with Israel by conservative Christian Americans is that it is based on these two premises:
1. They’re God’s chosen people.
2. If America doesn’t defend them, they’re toast.
This is inconsistent with logic and Scripture. If they are indeed under God’s protection then why do they need another nation to protect them? If they are indeed toast without America, then that seems to communicate that they’re not really enjoying that level of protection anymore.
It’s also inconsistent in light of Scripture. Throughout history God has consistently used foreign nations to invade, defeat, and destroy Israel whenever they strayed from Him (a status which they currently still hold). Historically and Scripturally, the protection that Israel enjoys comes from God and God alone; in the same way, the only time they are ever defeated by foreign powers is when God is disciplining them for the purpose of bringing them to repentance. If Christians attempt to adopt the posture that we’ll do whatever is necessary to keep Israel from being destroyed (knowing that the state of Israel is currently not in right relationship with God) then we could be found in the awful position of actually fighting against God as He disciplines them. That’s a position in which I never want to be found.
Some may see this note as anti-Semitic. It’s not. It simply demonstrates from a Scriptural perspective that Jews and Gentiles are no different; neither enjoys a more privileged status with God. It also demonstrates that the nation of Israel is hardly an ally and I, personally, don’t think we should be involved with them in any way. I’m not advocating that we attack, destroy, or punish them; I’m simply advocating that we (the US and Israel) part ways as two sovereign nations who can independently choose which road to travel.