Why did God choose Israel over all the nations of the earth to choose from? When we read about the Exodus of Israel from Egyptian oppression, the giving of the Promised Land resulting in the destruction of occupying nations, the question naturally arises “Why Israel? What was so special about Israel that they received this divine favor?”
Scripture tells us that it wasn’t because of an inherent righteousness, obedience or uprightness that existed in the nation of Israel but in God’s faithfulness and mercy.
“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you,‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you.
Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:4-5)
Israel’s redemption was an act of mercy for one and judgment for the other. The testimony of Scripture shows God telling us what will happen, it happens, and then he interprets what happened. It’s a threefold method of repetition so as to make sure the point is not missed. History is interpreted in a meaning that is two-fold for us as one group experiences mercy the other experiences judgment. First it was a fulfillment of the promises to Israel in Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob. Secondly, it was a fulfillment of the judgment of sin on the wicked nations.
The promises fulfilled are given to Abraham
Gen. 12:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
Gen. 13:15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.
Gen. 15:7 And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”
Gen. 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.
Gen. 26:4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,
Gen. 28:13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.
Gen. 35:12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”
God promises judgment on the wicked nations and it arrives directly from God to Egypt and indirectly from God through the nation of Israel. When God promised the land to Abraham in Genesis 15, he said that before Israel would inherit the Promised Land, they would be in a foreign land as “servants and sojourners” (Gen 15:13). This small nation from Abraham would experience great affliction during this time of sojourning. When their redemption arrived so did the judgment of God. God’s judgment falls on the nation of Egypt. God is the Redeemer from the perspective of Israel and Judge from the perspective of Egypt. God also says he will bring the Israel the Promised Land but only after the exodus and wilderness wanderings. When it was time for Israel to return to the land, their arrival and occupation was an act of judgment against the occupying nations.
Gen. 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
Thus we find a great mercy on display in the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. The work of God’s mercy to Israel as they inherit the promises given to Abraham, even though they weren’t upright and righteous. And mercy as God brings judgment not on Israel but on those outside of the covenant who were also not upright and righteous. For us this serves as a great encouragement as we are reminded of the great salvation we have. We too have been redeemed from sin and death by the work of Jesus. The Cross was that ultimate place where justice and mercy would meet in the history of the world. All of those who would trust in the promises of God, turn from their life without him, would find an inheritance greater than any kingdom on earth.The mercy and judgment of the nation of Israel points to the greater fulfillment that will take place at the end of the age. When that salvation comes fully manifested at the return of Christ it will be a work of mercy to the elect and judgment to everyone else.