For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.(Deuteronomy 14:2)
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;(Exodus 19:5)
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.(Isaiah 41:8)
God created a new nation, in the days when all of the world’s peoples defected from Him.He started with one barren couple, late in their years, Abraham and Sarah. By a miracle of God’s power, the couple bore a son, Isaac and he,Isaac begat Jacob.
Jacob had 12 sons, by two wives and two concubines.These are the 12 tribes of Israel.
Why did God create this nation? Why did he separate them unto himself, out from a world rife with paganism, idolatry, and the sexual anarchy which always accompanies it?
It is manifest that the tribes of Israel are the chosen people of God, set apart in the dealings of God, with a completely unique beginning, history, calling and future.
It is important to note that the “chosen-ness” of Israel is not, nor has it ever been a guarantee of salvation. Rather Israel was chosen for specific tasks , which would result in blessing for all of the world.She has been chosen to be a Priest nation, and a witness to God to the rest of the world.
Consider Israel’s history. God set Israel apart, and uniquely delivered them from slavery, met with them on a Holy Mountain, equipped them with His Word, and dwelt among them in a Holy Temple, and led them through gifted Prophets, Priests and Kings which He raised up for them.
What was His purpose in doing so? Why did God raise up this nation?
I believe there have been several related tasks God had in mind for Israel;
1) Israel was chosen to be the receptacle and custodian of God’s written Word, the Torah, as well as the Prophets, Wisdom and History, which make up the scriptures.
Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you… Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?(Deuteronomy 4:1-8)
To this nation was vouchsafed the Divine Revelation the Book of the Words of God. Her Priests and scribes faithfully toiled, making sure not to add or subtract so much as a letter of the Word revealed from Heaven.
You have in your lap an intact, reliable Bible, most of it containing the “Old Testament”.The Bible is the fruit of the labor and even suffering of the scribes, Priests, and teachers of Israel. God used Israel to keep and preserve his Word in the earth, even in times of persecution.
This is one of the reasons why Israel is uniquely literate among all peoples of the earth. Though Jews count for 1 half of one percent of all the population of the earth, one fifth of all Nobel prizes ever issued have gone to Jews.
God gave the Word to Israel, in a day when most of the world worshipped, feared and served graven Images.
And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.(Deuteronomy 4:12)
People whose intellectual development is primarily shaped by Images, tend to think emotionally and are vulnerable to emotional manipulation. Abstraction is difficult to convey in Images.
On the other hand,people trained to read and think words, are able to think in abstract terms, with precision, and objectivity. Consider the difference between a child steeped in television, and one who primarily resorts to books.
2) Israel was chosen to be the custodian of the worship of the only true God. God specifically instructed Israel to build first a tent, then a temple, which He condescended to dwell in in the midst of His people.
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.(1 Kings 8:10-11)
By the very architecture and materials of the Holy House, God ingrained in the chosen people the principles of acceptable worship; Substitutionary sacrifice, propitiation, the need for a Mediator, remission of sin, Peace with God, the restoration of broken fellowship, etc.
Furthermore the LORD ordained a tribe of the twelve to serve as Priests, administering the various services of worship, sacrifice, teaching, the evaluation of Lepers, Hygiene, ritual cleanliness, etc.
In a world rife with idolatry, there was one place earth where God was to be truly worshipped and honored, at the temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was to be a worldwide outreach, God would use Israel to bless “Every family” on earth, and the ends of the earth were to come and learn from the chosen people, the Word of the Lord, and to be reconciled to and pray to the only true God.
3) Israel was chosen to be the receptacle nation of the Messiah, the God appointed Savior of the world.
From the very beginning in the garden of Eden, when man fell, God promised a Savior, the “Seed of the woman”, who would undo the destructive work of the primal serpent,Satan, and reconcile men to God.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.( Genesis 3:15)
The “seed of the woman”, i.e. the virgin born Savior, is the same person as “the seed of Abraham”. God would use the family line of Abraham,Isaac and Jacob, then Judah, to bring into the world the Messiah/Saviour. The Messiah would be of the tribe s of Israel, springing from Judah, as Jacob prophesied at the end of his life,
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:
His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.(Genesis 49:8-12)
The Messiah would come before the time that the “Scepter departed from Judah”, that is the specific tribal identity, stately sovereignty, and the power of life and death given to the tribe to enforce the law of Moses in matters of Capitol crimes.
In 70 ad the temple was destroyed, and with it all of the tribal records, therefore modern Jews rarely have any idea what tribal identity they hold, with the exception of the Levites.
Josephus tells us that in 6Ad Herod Archeleus was deposed and the Romans appointed a foreign procurator over Judea, who stripped Judea of the power of capitol punishment. This is why Jesus had to be crucified and not stoned.
Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:(John 18:31)
In 6 ad, Many who remembered the prophecy of Jacob lamented that God had forsaken Judea, because the Sceptre had indeed departed from Judea, but Messiah had not come yet.Little did they know he was a young carpenter’s assistant in Nazareth.