Why Does God Love Israel?

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I just got back from a 11 day trip to Israel.  First of all, I absolutely fell in love with this place and the people.  If you haven't gone and can afford it, get on expedia, book your travels and get ready for the trip of a lifetime.  It's amazing to have had the opportunity to put my feet on the sames stones where Jesus walked.  I could go on and on about each magical place we visited like the cruise on the Sea of Galilea, the sanctity of the Garden Tomb, the place of the crucifixion, Bethleham, City of Dan, Temple Mount etc. but I've been talking about how incredible it was for the past 5 days so I need a break.

There was one thing that really got me thinking while in the Holy Land.  A question I'd asked myself before but kinda just mulled over since I figured there was just no answer: Why does God love this place and these people? In Psalm135:4, it says "For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure."  David calls Israel the Lord's "peculiar treasure."  I believe that's an understatement.  I liked the place as much as the next enthusastic tourist, but why God picked Israel and not China, or America, Libya or wherever to call his treasure is quite perplexing to me.  God just apparently decided he loved this place more than any other.

I have always been a major opponent of predestination and limited atonement.  The idea that God chooses some people to be his people "just because".  "Not my Jesus" I'd say. My God is just.  Picking some as a special people doesn't sound very just to me. It doesn't make any logical sense how God could choose some and then not choose others.  However, I've got quite the question now that I never really considered before.  Why Israel?  Why did God choose these people to be set apart as holy to the Lord?

I should probably know the answer to such a question but I really have no clue.  And does God still choose Israel and it's people or was that done away with when Christ came?  It seems illogical to me that there's a specific geographical place in the world that God just likes a whole lot.  But when reading the Bible, that certainly seems like the case, right?  That doesn't seem fair.  Which leads me to question a concept I thought I had checked off my list as "figured out."

If God can choose a people in the Old Testament and make them "his" for no other reason than they were born in a certain place, at a certain time, by certain parents.  All of which God decided before the world even began....then isn't Calvin's idea of predestination really just as plausible?  How appalled can I get at the idea that God chooses us and we don't choose him if history shows that it happened in the past and God never changes? (Malachi 3:6)

And while I'm on the subject; Did the Jews have free will?  Or were they just God's people because God decided so based on demographics? In the words of C+C Music Factory. "Things that make me go hmmmmmm..."


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

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Psalm 33:12


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15 Comments

  • Judy

    Judy April 06, 2011

    Hi, Jessica. If you do an in-depth text comparison, you’ll see that in the New Testament, Paul tells us that anyone who accepts the Savior and decides to live for Him is the “new” Israel.  The nation of Israel rejected Jesus, and He said to them (the nation) “Your house is left desolate.”  Bible scholars years ago agreed that literal Israel fell out of favor when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. Now some new unBiblical teachings have replaced that teaching. However, they forget the preponderance of the evidence, which is the first step in letting the Bible interpret itself. According to the Apostle Paul, literal Israel was replaced by spiritual Israel (you and me).

  • Jessica

    Jessica April 06, 2011

    Thanks for the comment, Judy.  So from that premise, can we assume then that the people before 70AD were “predestined” for heaven simply because they were “literal Israel”?

  • Scott

    Scott April 08, 2011

    Deuteronomy 7:7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
    Deu 9:4-6 Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.  (5)  Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  (6)  Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people

    Physical Israel has not been replaced by “spiritual” Israel. Read the prophets Ezekiel and Hosea and you will see that Israel has not been replaced by Christians, but that there will be a double wedding in the end.

    When we do decide to let the bible interpret itself, we see in the Book of Revelation that Israel will have a role in the end and will be restored and follow God again.

    Nobody is predestined for Heaven. Just because the Israelites are God’s chosen people does not mean that they automatically went to Heaven. They still needed to believe in the Saviour (see Job).

    John Calvin arranged for people to die because they were his enemies—why would anyone follow his teachings?

  • dave VT

    dave VT April 09, 2011

    If you can’t follow Calvin b/c he was a sinner then who is the sinless EARTHLY pastor one should follow to better understand the gospel & get to heaven. I’m sure Calvin thought he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. In fact, I heard a comentator just the other day say that despite thousands of pages he wrote he never once admitted an error.

    Since all men are sinners what level of sin disqualifies them from meriting a following?  Do they have to kill somebody?  What if they steal money?  What dollar value of theft crosses the line?  What if he doesn’t steal from the Church but just cheates on his taxes?

  • Scott

    Scott April 10, 2011

    In one sense it is ironic that you are defending Calvin.

    How about if I point out that Calvin was unrepentant about the arranging the deaths of his enemies, thus his wisdom and understanding was flawed?

    As for your first question: for what level of sin?

    Probably when that man decides that he is the Vicar of Christ. When that man lives at a level of opulence that most of his followers could never attain and many of his dioceses have to declare bankruptcy. When a statement like the following is made about a man: The New York Catechism says: “The pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth ... By divine right the pope has supreme and full power in faith and morals over each and every pastor and his flock. He is the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by no one, God himself on earth” (Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, p. 127).

    I would say that man does not merit a following.

  • Jess

    Jess April 10, 2011

    Dave, I have to admit; when he puts it like that, that whole pope thing sounds creepy.

    I desperately want to be open minded about the Catholic tradition, but please tell me Scott has taken this blurb out of context.  The description of the pope sounds an awful like the one that should be attributed to Christ.

    Scott, Does it ever bother you that Christians who are equally seeking to be obedient Christ followers can all interpret the Bible differently?  You say so matter of factly that there is no replacement of “spiritual Israel” but someone of equal Bible knowledge and love for Christ can with Scripture argue otherwise.  I find the doctrinal differences frustrating. No wonder the subject of Christian doubt has become so trendy. I don’t know what to believe.

  • Dave VT

    Dave VT April 10, 2011

    How come you never quote a Catholic about Catholicism to me?


    From Wikipedia: Boettner received a Th.B. (1928) and Th.M. (1929) from Princeton Theological Seminary, and he received the honorary degrees of Doctor of Divinity (1933) and Doctor of Letters (1957). He was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.


    And you avoided the question.  Who is the perfect sinless earthly pastor that can definitively interpret the bible for you Scott?  Is it you?  Are your the pastor of your Church?  Are you perfect?  If the Holy Spirit is guiding your interpretation of the scriptures how come it differs from mine?  How come in differs from the other “inspired” pastor down the street.  When Christ taught the scripture in the temple as a boy and on the road to Emmaus, the listeners were amazed and their hearts burned!  Seldom do you quotes of scripture make my heart burn.  Usually they are accusatory, to me and others.


    Yes the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. 


    from dictionary.com - Vicar: a person who is AUTHORIZED to perform the functions of another; deputy.


    After the resurrection, Christ breathed on the Apostles and imbued them with the holy spirit.  Just as the soul is infused into man by the breath of God and inspiration is infused into the bible, thus so Christ gave the HOLY SPIRIT to his Apostles.  Christ told the Apostles that they had authority - what they bind on earth is BOUND IN HEAVEN.  We see from scripture that an Apostle that dies (Judas) his office (or “place”) still exists and can be passed on (Mathias).  We see that new Apostles can be added (Paul, et al) - but even though Paul is called directly by Christ, his authority still must be confirmed.  He still must be baptized, he still has hands laid on him, he still goes to Jerusalem to confirm with the Apostles that he is teaching the true gospel.   


    So we see from the scripture authority to teach the Gospel is given to the Apostles.  That authority can and is passed on.  Two of those Apostles wrote 2 of the Gospels through the process of divine inspiration.  We learn from the Church that the priest and bishops stand “in persona Christi”.  What does this mean?  It is similar to the inspired writing of the Bible.  God did not dictate the written Gospel to the authors.  Rather, he inspired them.  And then, those individuals, UNITING THEIR WILL WITH GOD, they recorded the Gospel.  So it is with the Sacraments and the teaching of the Church.  For example, Priests do not have the individual power to forgive sins.  But a priest, with authority passed on from the Apostles can unite his will to Christ and by the Authority of Christ, as his Vicar (AUTHORIZED to perform the functions of another; deputy) forgive sins.  (by the way in Leviticus, after the animal sacrifice the Priest forgive sins).  So it is with the Pope, defining the infallibly the meaning of the Gospel by the authority of Christ, passed down for 2,000 years.

  • Dave VT

    Dave VT April 10, 2011

    Defend Calvin?  Hardly, I merely point out Calvin had no authority and ... you have no authority.  You say you can’t follow the doctrine of Calvin b/c he was a sinner.  Who then can you learn from?  Someone has to be the pastor on earth.  As Catholics, we do not “follow” the Pope.  We follow Christ.  But we also know Christ has a deputy.  An authorized representative who - despite any sins he might personally commit - Christ works THROUGH THEM to make salvation effective for the people.  We don’t try to define our own authority and start our own churches b/c we know where authority is:


    From - How John Calvin Made me a Catholic (http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/06/how-john-calvin-made-me-a-catholic/ )
    It eventually occurred to me that Calvin’s attitude contrasted sharply with what I had found in the greatest Catholic theologians. Many of them were saints, recognized for their heroic charity and humility. Furthermore, I knew from reading them, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales, that they denied any personal authority to define doctrine. They deferred willingly, even joyfully, to the authority of Pope and council. They could maintain the biblical ideal of doctrinal unity (1 Corinthians 1:10), without claiming to be the source of that unity.


    Does the Pope have a nice house?  No, he lives in a small apartment on the grounds of the Vatican.  What is the Vatican?  It is a place for the Church, built by the people, FOR CHRIST, b/c we love him.  It has a great cathedral, to perform the Mass, that Christ instituted, so we can pray together.  (There are a billion + of us, i guess we are all wrong).  It has museums, to store and display the great works that great artists have done over the centuries b/c they loved God.  Is the Vatican beautiful?  Yes, b/c like the women who adorned Christ’s feet with oil, it is appropriate to give beautiful things to God.  And w/ the other hand, the Church does more for charity than any organization in the world.


    You Scott it is simple.  Luther was a sinner.  Calvin was a sinner.  You are a sinner.  And I am a sinner.  How than can any of us speak of Christ?  Who can proclaim what the true Gospel is? 


    The answer is that Christ gave to the Apostles authority to act as his representatives.  We see in the bible, that even Peter, fumbled and had to be corrected by Paul.  But when he did, he didn’t stop being an Apostle.  Mistakes don’t make Christ’s ministers invalid.  The authority, given to the Catholic Church by Christ, passed down form bishop to bishop, is how we can know WHO HERE ON EARTH WE CAN TRUST TO BE OUR TEACHERS.
     

    With your method it a wild guess.  Maybe Scott has Gospel, maybe Pastor Yahoo down the street does.  With your method, we are worse off than that Hebrews, who had to sacrifice animals.  Christ did not leave us so lost.


    Here is a book for you - What’s Your Authority by Mark Shea.  Will you read it?  Or are you like Calvin, incapable on conceiving you might be wrong…...

  • Scott

    Scott April 10, 2011

    Dave: Vatican 2

    “The Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as
    Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered” (Vatican Council II—The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, 1975, p. 344).

    “This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention” (Ibid., p. 348).

    “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of
    bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office,when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful ... he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. For that very reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church ... as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church’s charism of infallibility is present in a singular way” (Ibid.,p. 349).
    We see in these Vatican II proclamations that the
    pope of Rome retains his supreme position to this very day. In fact, the Vatican II gave to the pope even more power and authority than many previous Catholic documents. It would be hard to imagine a more exalted position than that described above. No other man on earth makes such claims as this.

    I understand Catholicism better than you seem to think, Dave. I am somewhat familiar with “What’s your Authority” and have listened to Catholic Answers Live on many occasions. And my knowledge of Catholicism goes much beyond that. And my goal is not to hijack Jessica’s site.

  • Scott

    Scott April 10, 2011

    Jessica,
    No, I did not quote out of context. Nor do I claim infallibility. smile

    You asked: Does it ever bother you that Christians who are equally seeking to be obedient Christ followers can all interpret the Bible differently? Yes, it greatly bothers me. Yes, Christian doubt is very trendy. An Episcopalian pastor recently wrote a series of articles about something (I am really not sure what), telling people to embrace mystery, he mentioned the “Divine” once, and never mentioned the name of Jesus Christ. Rob Bell’s books and his theology is ambiguous—sometimes he makes a definite statement and then he makes not-so definitive statement.

    All lot of it boils down to how the Bible is viewed. Can I read the Bible or do I need extra books and people to tell me what it says? The SDAs, Mormons, and JWs will tell you that you need the writings of their founders in order to understand the Bible. With some of their writings they declare them to be on par with the Bible. Note that each of these have a singular leadership who is not to be questioned. They also teach replacement theology.

    The aforementioned groups will teach that you need the traditions of others in the past and their writings and that you must follow their teachings even when they are contradictory or retract what their predecessors taught.

    And there are those that allegorize the Bible rather than let the Bible speak for itself. The Book shows you what is to be taken literally and what is a parable. For example, The Book of Revelation is taught as an allegory rather than prophecy. Why? One reason is because chapter 17 is a troublesome chapter if it is looked at literally.

    I try to stick to what the Bible says and I try to spend more time reading it than reading other sources.

    Jessica, have you read the Bible straight through once? From “In” to “Amen?” I wonder how many others that post on your site have read the Bible straight through at least once.

    Sadly, there are those that work very hard to cast doubt on the Bible’s authority. Often, they say things like: “This could have been translated better here” or “The Greek word here means.” Why do I use the AV? Because I have looked at the scholarship of the translators and trust that they got the job right. The other translations leave words out. As far as I know, every other translation is shorter overall than the AV.

    http://www.catholic.com/library/What_Your_Authority.asp

    Note the arguments and they ignore that Bible believing Christians got along fine with the Scriptures and the 66 books before the RCC decided to give it their stamp of approval. Funny how they gave it a stamp of approval AND outlawed the reading of it.

    I provided a Catholic link and here is a Baptist link: http://wayoflife.org/database/bibleproof.html

  • Dave VT

    Dave VT April 10, 2011

    You finally quote Church documents, but you don’t listen to what they say.  They prove my points and not yours.  If you read them closely, every passage you quote above is self limiting.


    The first says the Pope’s power is limited to the Church.  The second paragraph is limited to the teaching authority and the 3rd to “faith and morals”.  These are not the broad sweeping statements you want to imply.  These confirm exactly what I stated.  That the Church, with the Pope as it head, has authority to preach the Gospel.  Vatican II actually stands for exact opposite of what you imply.  Vatican II empowered the laity to become more active participants in the theological life of the Church.  Hence the growth of things like Catholic Answers Live since the council. 


    Let us allow the bible speak for itself:


    The Ethiopian eunuch (we all need teachers):  ‘Do you understand what you are reading?  How can I unless SOMEONE INSTRUCTS me?  So he invited Paul to get in and sit w/ him.”  Acts 9: 31-32


    Paul tells the leaders to watch over the church (faithful): “Keep watch over your selves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit HAS APPOINTED YOU OVERSEERS in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own blood.”  Acts 20:28


    Paul says to imitate the leaders of the Church: “Remember your prelates who have spoken the word of God to you: whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their way of life and imitate their life.  8 Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today: and the same forever.”  Hebrews 13: 7


    Paul warns of people who claim to preach the Gospel but do not come from the line of Apostolic succession: “But I fear lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted and fall from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he that comes preaches another Christ, WHOME WE HAVE NOT PREACHED; or if you receive another Spirit, whom you have not received; or another gospel, which you have not received: you might well bear with him. 5 For I suppose that I have done nothing less than the great apostles. 6 For although I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge: but in all things we have been made manifest to you. ... 13 For such false apostles are deceitful workmen, TRANSFORMING THEMSELVES into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder: for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers MASQUERADE as the ministers of justice, whose end shall be according to their works.  2 Corinthians 11:3-13


    Paul reminds us that the Gospel is written and spoken and in tradition: 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.  2 Thessalonians 15


    The only time the words “faith” and “alone” appear together in the bible…“see how a person is justified by works and NOT by faith alone” James 3:24


    .... But I’m sure I took all those verses out of context!!!

  • Dave VT

    Dave VT April 11, 2011

    I’m still trying to pin down exactly how authority works under the elusive theology of Scott.


    Apparently it involves reading the bible - a lot. (and admitedly you can never read it to much but..) Once you have read the bible sufficiently you can then pass judgment on others like Calvin, anyone that has ever been Pope, JW’s, SDA’s or Mormons, etc.


    According to the theology of Scott if you read the Bible enough the Holy Spirit will inspire your understanding of it. Of course if (like Aquinas or Augustine) you spend your whole life reading the bible & come to the conclusion the Catholic Church is the one true Church well then you are just a soft headed papist incapable of any deep thought, duped by tradition and a slave to a self appointed king of Rome.  Of course, despite that apparently the Holy Spirit regularly intervenes to protect the personal interpretations of fallible “bible alone” believing Christians the idea that the Holy Spirit might protect the interpretation of the Pope (who does read the bible everyday and has published 20 or so books on scripture) is anathema. This is b/c when Christ breathed on the Apostles and said “receive the Holy Spirit” he was just being “symbolic”. 


    It seems also that despite the Holy Spirit protecting everyone from error He also causes everyone to believe something different about what the bible means.  However, this is b/c people might be reading other books besides the bible.  See Jess, you got involved in the SDA b/c you had the nerve to ask questions!  You should have just read the bible and figured it out on your own.  It’s obvious!  Just read the 2,000+ pages and BOOM the answers will pop into your brain.  Now, if you didn’t get the same answers that Scott did that is b/c you didn’t read the Bible straight threw.  Skipping around!  What were you thinking?  Get your coffee & Red Bull - no sleeping.  Scott’s going to get back to us on what to do if you still get a different answer but you can be confident it will be something you did wrong.  Scott will let you know what it is.


    But whatever you figure out - DON’T tell anyone. Someone might get the idea you know something. They might one day say, “Jess told me X” and then they will go straight to hell for following a person. You don’t want that on your conscience.


    Contrast that with the teaching of the Catholic Church.


    The Church, whose authority can be recognized, in that it has taught the same Gospel for 2,000 years. 


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in that its Priests are ordained with authority from Christ when He said, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you.”  (But again, he was just being symbolic.)


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in that theology does not rise and fall on anyone individual except Christ. 


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in that official teaching is that the Sacraments are effective even if the priest (or Pope) is sinful b/c in reality it is Christ himself that effects the sacraments for the faithful.


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in that it has been persecuted down through the centuries as Christ said it would be, yet still endures.  The Church which Jesus said was the manifestation of himself on earth. (“Saul, Saul why do you persecute ME”).


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in the thousands of Martyrs it lead to Christ and who were willing to die for Christ.


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in that through the thousands of Saints who have achieved true objective earthly holiness.


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in its miracles. Proving the existence of God in the world by making the blind see and the sick well.


    The Church whose authority can be recognized in that when the secular pagan world wants to know what to think about stem cells or euthanasia or abortion do they call 51 different religions and take a poll?  No, the call a bishop of the Catholic Church b/c deep down, reluctantly, grudgingly they know where authority lies.

  • Scott

    Scott April 11, 2011

    Jessica:
    Continuing the thought from last night.
    Jesus Christ said: Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  (22)  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  (23)  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Just because someone claims to be a Christian does
    not mean they are. People will flock to listen to false teachers and false prophets while those that speak the truth from the Word of God will be ignored. A majority does not always guarantee superiority.

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