Since God is holy, the people He chooses for Himself must also be holy, a principle that continues under the New Covenant. As God lives by high standards, so must His people keep those same high standards as an example to the rest of the world. Just as a human government sends out ambassadors to other nations to represent it in its affairs within those nations, God chose Israel to represent Him. What were His reasons?
» He chose Israel to be His own people, a special treasure for His own purposes.
» He chose them to demonstrate His love for them. He simply loved them. When God loves someone, He puts a great deal of responsibility on him.
» He chose them to keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with whom He also had a special relationship.
» He chose them to make a covenant with them, under which they were to keep His commandments and obey Him in everything. In return, He would bless them immensely.
God’s choice of Israel was an act of love for them, even though He knew from the start that they would ultimately fail. God knew from the foundation of the world that all mankind would need a Savior (I Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8), including Israelites. Yet, if any people were to succeed as God’s model nation, it would be the children of Abraham. This is not because they were better, but because they of all people had a relationship with God, which had begun with Abraham. They had examples in their own ancestry that they could study to see that it could be done if they remained close to God.
To help them to succeed, God gave them His laws, another act of love. Moses writes:
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
Even in their laws they were to be a model nation for the rest of the world, not just for the Gentiles to notice, but to emulate. The Israelites should have made a great impression on the Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, and all the nearby nations. This respect and admiration should have then spread beyond them to other nations.
Yet, because they failed to live by those good and righteous laws and to take advantage of God’s nearness to them – in reality, they failed in just about everything He asked of them – their influence as a model nation rarely stretched beyond their borders. Too often, Israel was instead outright pagan!