The Bible’s Viewpoint
Are the Jews God’s Chosen People?
THE establishment of a Jewish homeland in 1948 was a traumatic event for Christendom’s theologians. For centuries many had taught that Jews were doomed to wander the earth because of their sin against Christ, and now the “wandering Jew” would wander no more.
As current events in the Middle East continue to focus attention on the Jewish people, questions on issues long thought settled are now being raised. Are the Jews still God’s chosen people? Is God now showing special favor to the Jews?
Centuries ago, God told the Israelites: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) All nations belonged to God, but the Israelites could become his special property, eventually serving as priests in behalf of all mankind.
But was this special relationship with God unconditional? No! God had said: “If you will strictly obey my voice . . . then you will certainly become my special property.” So their continuing in a chosen relationship with God was conditional, dependent upon their continued faithfulness to him.
A Forceful Illustration
This was underscored by events of the eighth century B.C.E., during the days of the prophet Hosea. Despite having received special favor as God’s chosen people, the majority of the Israelites abandoned the true worship of Jehovah. What was Jehovah’s reaction? “I shall no more show mercy again to the house of Israel, because I shall positively take them away. . . . You men are not my people and I myself shall prove to be not yours.” (Hosea 1:6, 9) Thus, those apostate Israelites would not remain in God’s favor. Only a faithful remnant would one day be privileged to be restored and again experience divine blessings.—Hosea 1:10.
True to this prophecy, God allowed the Israelites to be taken captive by their enemies and their temple to be destroyed, forcefully demonstrating the loss of their approved relationship with him. Only a faithful remnant of Israelites (by then known as Jews) returned from captivity in 537 B.C.E. and rebuilt Jehovah’s temple, once again enjoying Jehovah’s favor as his chosen people.
Only “a Remnant” Remains Faithful
Nevertheless, in the centuries that followed, Jews were besieged by the influence of Greek philosophy—such as the Platonic doctrine of the immortal soul—with catastrophic effects on their worship. That worship would never again be based simply on the teachings of Moses and the Hebrew prophets.
Would Jehovah continue to view the Jews as his chosen people? Recognizing that many had once again apostatized from the unadulterated worship of Jehovah, Jesus said: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) Failing to heed that warning, the majority continued in their apostate course and rejected Jesus as Jehovah’s anointed one. Hence, it was not long afterward that God allowed the rebuilt temple to be destroyed, in 70 C.E. (Matthew 23:37, 38) Did this mean that God was now rejecting all Jews?
As Paul, a Jewish apostle of Christ, explained: “God did not reject his people, whom he first recognized. . . . At the present season also a remnant has turned up according to a choosing due to undeserved kindness.” (Romans 11:2, 5) Just as many might be invited to a wedding ceremony but only a few might attend, God had invited the entire Jewish nation into a special relationship with him, but only a remnant of these maintained that special closeness by their faithfulness. God’s forbearance was indeed a display of undeserved kindness!
“Those Not My People” Become “My People”
This faithful Jewish remnant was soon joined by non-Jews who also desired to serve God. Even though their ancestors had not been in a special relationship with him, Jehovah was now willing to accept these faithful non-Jews as his people. Noting this, Paul wrote: “If, now, God . . . called [us] not only from among Jews but also from among [non-Jewish] nations, what of it? It is as he says also in Hosea: ‘Those not my people I will call “my people.”’”—Romans 9:22-25.
Thus, both Jews and non-Jews could be God’s chosen people, with the prospect of serving as priests in behalf of the rest of mankind. Speaking to faithful worshipers of various national backgrounds, the Christian apostle Peter, a Jew from birth, wrote: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession’ . . . For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10) This was the “nation,” people with godly qualities, that Jesus said would produce the ‘fruits of God’s kingdom’ and that would therefore enjoy a special relationship with Jehovah.—Matthew 21:43.
God was looking for faith and righteous conduct in his selection of these prospective priests, not some special ancestry. As Peter had noted: “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
Thus, God no longer grants special favor to any person on the basis of birth. He affords people of all national backgrounds the opportunity to build a relationship with him. May we show that we are desirous of being God’s people by our faith and conduct.