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!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)
God is following a pattern He established long ago in performing His creative efforts. He reveals it in His dealings with Israel, and He is still following it to this day.
Nothing in Deuteronomy 7:6-8 would give the average Israelite a puffed-up mind on the subject of God's calling of them to work in and through them for His creative purposes. He makes it plain that He did not deliver them or work with them because of anything they had already accomplished as a nation. They had been a bunch of slaves!
Through the apostle Paul, God exposes a humbling yet accurate truth about those He has called into His church. We must come to grips with it because a humble recognition and acceptance of this reality is necessary for His purposes. We can compare what God says about us with what He said about Israel in Deuteronomy 7. I Corinthians 1:26-31 describes us in this way:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
God is following the same pattern in calling Christians into the church. We are described as “foolish,” “weak,” “base,” and “despised.” It sounds a great deal like lowly Israel. The only major difference is that He called Israel as an entire nation at once, but He calls Christians into His church one at a time. Incidentally, when He calls us, we, too, are a slave people—unwitting slaves in most cases, living under Satan's thumb and taking orders from him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)
That Israel was a holy nation is far more important than is generally realized, and it affects our understanding of wavesheaf requirements. As a prelude to better understanding and properly appreciating many aspects of waving the sheaf, it is helpful to know that God specifically designated Israel a sanctified people. He set the entire nation apart as distinctive from the rest of the world's nations. As such, He gave them responsibilities to perform before the rest of the world as a testimony of their obedient service to God.
God's declaration of certain things as "clean" and others as "unclean" helped to define this holiness to them. Some things declared unclean could not even be touched without making a person ceremonially defiled until he performed the prescribed rituals. Among the things declared polluted or unclean were the Gentiles, whose uncleanness was not inherent but lay in their idolatry: They did not worship the God of Creation who set the Israelites apart. As such, even a marriage between an Israelite and a Gentile was forbidden except within very narrow parameters.
The ceremonial aspects of the Israelites' responsibilities are quite detailed, and God expected them to be followed exactly as instructed because each detail fits precisely within His purposes for His relationship with His sanctified people. Are we wiser than He is? God is not the author of meaningless regulations. Waving the sheaf of grain is one of these ceremonial duties, containing explicit instructions with spiritual ramifications.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5
God succinctly expresses that the basis of His and Israel's relationship is found in His faithfulness to His promises. At the same time, He openly declares His love for her, adding that she could add nothing to Him. In other words, He did not seek her out to "get" something from her as humans do. This passage also stipulates that Israel's responsibility in the relationship was to be faithful to Him by keeping His commandments, statutes, and judgments.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Deuteronomy 7:6: