July 29

July 29
by Pastor Jim

And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation
      Exodus 19:6

So why did God choose Israel?  British journalist William Norman Ewer (1885-1976) is credited with the famous couplet, tinged with perhaps a hint of WASPish snark:

      How odd of God
         to choose the Jews.

To which Leo Rosten — using the Hebrew word "Goyim," meaning "Gentiles,"– tersely replied:

      Not odd of God.
         The Goyim annoy 'im

Which I absolutely love … but both Ewer and Rosten miss the point.

So why did God choose the Jews?  Actually he didn't; he created them … and with a purpose.  It all starts in Genesis 12:1-3, of course, where, after humanity's abject failures in Genesis 1-11, God calls Abraham to leave his homeland to go to what we today know as the land of Israel.  And why?  So that God could form a new nation from Abraham's descendants and that, ultimately

     "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3b).

Blessed because through Israel God would send a witness to the world and, finally, a Messiah, Jesus, through whom salvation would come.

We find this reviewed again when, under Moses, the "children of Israel" (read: "the children of Abraham's grandson, Jacob, renamed Israel") are rescued from slavery in Egypt and brought to Mt Sinai.  In Exodus 19, we read

[1] On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. [2] And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. [3] And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: [4] You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself."

Yes, that had indeed been impressive.  Cecil B DeMille's classic "The Ten Commandments" is, in many ways, still unsurpassed in terms of portraying the drama of the plagues and that final dark night when the firstborn of Egypt were stricken.

But, in spite of DeMille's awesome portrayal of that deliverance, he, like Ewer and Rosten, misses the point of it all … a point God makes in the very next verses:

[5] Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, [6] and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.

Yes, that promise given to Abraham is starting to get legs.  His people are to become "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation;" and, if they are to become "priests," who then is envisioned as the "congregation"?  The world, of course.  Goyim like you and me.
 

[7] So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. [8] And all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

Well, intentions were good right from the beginning.  But, as we are hearing in our sermon series on Acts, God's people, over the years, got rather turned in upon themselves and away from God's concern for "all people's on earth."  And, although the word "holiness" focuses both upon "set apart from the world" as well as then "set apart for the world," and although Israel was to maintain both focuses — over time they rather forget the second one.

Well, all this being said, it wasn't at all "odd" for God to "choose [or create] the Jews" … since, indeed, the Goyim didn't "annoy 'im" but were also the focus of his great concern.  We can give thanks to God for that.

But what about you and me? … fellow Goyim who have now also been tasked with seeing to it that "all peoples on earth will be blessed."  We are well aware of Jesus' last words to his disciples and to us, at the end of Matthew, to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."

And Peter is clearly very aware of Exodus 19 when he writes to early Christians

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 
1 Peter 2:9

"Chosen … that you may declare the wonderful deeds of God."  Clearly, God's purpose in "choosing" the Jews was not "odd."  And his purpose for his people — who now include you and me — remains the same to this day.  People with a purpose … blessed to be a blessing.  Both "set apart from" the dehumanizing and God-denying elements of our culture but, at the same time, then "set apart for" that very culture because of God's great love for its people.  That all people might know God in Christ as well as recognize one another as equally loved by God.

 
And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation
      Exodus 19:6
 
So why did God choose Israel?  British journalist William Norman Ewer (1885-1976) is credited with the famous couplet, tinged with perhaps a hint of WASPish snark:
 
      How odd of God
         to choose the Jews.
 
To which Leo Rosten — using the Hebrew word “Goyim,” meaning “Gentiles,”– tersely replied:
 
      Not odd of God.
         The Goyim annoy ‘im
 
Which I absolutely love … but both Ewer and Rosten miss the point.
 
So why did God choose the Jews?  Actually he didn’t; he created them … and with a purpose.  It all starts in Genesis 12:1-3, of course, where, after humanity’s abject failures in Genesis 1-11, God calls Abraham to leave his homeland to go to what we today know as the land of Israel.  And why?  So that God could form a new nation from Abraham’s descendants and that, ultimately
 
     “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3b).
 
Blessed because through Israel God would send a witness to the world and, finally, a Messiah, Jesus, through whom salvation would come.
 
We find this reviewed again when, under Moses, the “children of Israel” (read: “the children of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, renamed Israel”) are rescued from slavery in Egypt and brought to Mt Sinai.  In Exodus 19, we read
 
[1] On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. [2] And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. [3] And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: [4] You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
 
Yes, that had indeed been impressive.  Cecil B DeMille’s classic “The Ten Commandments” is, in many ways, still unsurpassed in terms of portraying the drama of the plagues and that final dark night when the firstborn of Egypt were stricken.
 
But, in spite of DeMille’s awesome portrayal of that deliverance, he, like Ewer and Rosten, misses the point of it all … a point God makes in the very next verses:
 
[5] Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, [6] and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
 
Yes, that promise given to Abraham is starting to get legs.  His people are to become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation;” and, if they are to become “priests,” who then is envisioned as the “congregation”?  The world, of course.  Goyim like you and me.
 
[7] So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. [8] And all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.
 

Well, intentions were good right from the beginning.  But, as we are hearing in our sermon series on Acts, God’s people, over the years, got rather turned in upon themselves and away from God’s concern for “all people’s on earth.”  And, although the word “holiness” focuses both upon “set apart from the world” as well as then “set apart for the world,” and although Israel was to maintain both focuses — over time they rather forget the second one.

 
Well, all this being said, it wasn’t at all “odd” for God to “choose [or create] the Jews” … since, indeed, the Goyim didn’t “annoy ‘im” but were also the focus of his great concern.  We can give thanks to God for that.
 
But what about you and me? … fellow Goyim who have now also been tasked with seeing to it that “all peoples on earth will be blessed.”  We are well aware of Jesus’ last words to his disciples and to us, at the end of Matthew, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
 
And Peter is clearly very aware of Exodus 19 when he writes to early Christians

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 
1 Peter 2:9

“Chosen … that you may declare the wonderful deeds of God.”  Clearly, God’s purpose in “choosing” the Jews was not “odd.”  And his purpose for his people — who now include you and me — remains the same to this day.  People with a purpose … blessed to be a blessing.  Both “set apart from” the dehumanizing and God-denying elements of our culture but, at the same time, then “set apart for” that very culture because of God’s great love for its people.  That all people might know God in Christ as well as recognize one another as equally loved by God.

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