18 November 2006

Why Favor (or Even Have) Israel?

Why does Israel seem so favored by the Lord? We are all God's children, so he should love us (ie. treat us) all the same, right? Then why do we find promises like this one throughout the scriptures:

"Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." (Exodus 19:5-6)
The answer is also found in the scriptures:
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.

"Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

"I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." (Isaiah 41:10...20, emphasis added)
Israel is a special witness of or example before the Lord. That means they are greatly blessed and sorely cursed:
"Even all nations shall say, 'Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?'

"Then men shall say, 'Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.'" (Deuteronomy 29:24-28)
The House of Israel is a light to the Gentiles. Many, of course, do not recognize that light and persecute the Jews and pay no attention to the covenants God has made with them. Others, however, will be introduced to Jehovah through the witness of the Jews in Jerusalem:
"Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, 'We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.'" (Zechariah 8:22-23)
I like how Max I. Reich puts it:
"The nation of Israel was chosen to be the trustee of the divine self-revelation, culminating in the Messiah." (The Messianic Hope of Israel)

(As a side note: a Jewish friend commented on the difficulty of becoming a Jew. They don't seek converts and they make it very difficult to convert---the process may take years. My friend summed up by saying, "You'd have to be crazy to want to be a Jew anyway. Life is so much easier not being a Jew and you can still get all of the same blessings in the afterlife.")


Robert C. said...

This is a question I come back to frequently. I'm convinced there's something deeply important about your question (why God seems to favor Israel) which helps explain the importance of a lot of scriptures dealing with the scattering and gathering of Israel, and the parable of the vineyard (Jacob 5 esp.), etc. I don't feel I understand very well, but I do think there's something about the interconnectedness of our salvation that I tend to miss in our individual-focused society....

In passing, I recently noticed this JST passage which casts the Abrahamic Covenant in much more explicit "because you are righteous and others are unrighteous" terms than in the un-edited version of the OT....

(OK, I'm done overwhelming you with reponses for a while--thanks again for al these great posts!)

Eric Nielson said...

Ok, I'm going to say something that might get me thrown under the bus....

Is there not a type of continuum between the pre-existence and mortal life. Is God not in control of where his spirit children end up, and what circumstances they may be in. Are those who have the gospel available to them insome way the 'elect' because they merit it?

I'b be interested to hear your take on this.

Todd Wood said...

Brian, thanks for the Scripture on Israel. I have been in Ezekiel lately, and have been thinking much of the Jews and what awaits them yet in the future. God's plan is rooted in an unchanging, steadfast love. I am a premillennialist. I await the future fulfilment of the powerful passage you typed in Zechariah.

Robert C, we meet again. Isn't there land promises to Israel that are unconditional, which we also await the dimensions yet to be possessed?

As I read in Ezekiel, God blesses Israel, not because they deserve it, but for the sake of His own holy name before the nations . . . that all will know that He is the LORD God.

Thanks for letting me pop in.

BrianJ said...

Robert C: I always appreciate your comments.

Eric: I don't know about any kind of continuum. Certainly our pre-Earth decisions have some kind of influence on our lives here, but I personally doubt that any of could elucidate any kind of pattern. For example, Abraham was "noble and great" before coming to this earth, but so were a lot of people. What did they all have in common? Well, they were all righteous in this life (at least the ones mentioned by name in D&C), but beyond that I'd say they had nothing in common.

Short of someone being named in the D&C, I don't believe there is any evidence at all that person X in this life was righteous/valiant or not in the pre-Earth life. If only the elect were given access to the Gospel in this life, that would also seem contrary to the whole purpose of missionary work, finding lost sheep, etc., not to mention the problems I see in the belief that one needs the Gospel (ie. Bible) in order to draw near to God. I can't look it up right now, but I'm thinking of the scripture that says roughly, "I manifest myself unto all people..."

Todd: Yes, that is a beautiful passage. I should note that God has elsewhere made it clear that "[his] thoughts are not [our] thoughts..." So we can answer part of the question; Why does God favor Israel?, but we can't answer all of it.