Israel: chosen or rejected? Refs
Who are the heirs to the promises God made to Abraham? Did the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob inherit a birthright to the promises? Israel is known as “the chosen people” but does their rejection of Jesus Christ disqualify them? This chapter
considers the position of Israel as God’s chosen people.

Romans 9:1-16

Paul yearned for the Jews to be converted, just as he had been converted. He was dismayed that they could be the recipients of such blessings and yet not respond favourably to God. Paul could not understand why they did not believe God and follow him faithfully when he offered them such glories.

1. What were the notable events which Paul felt should convince the Jews to respond to God?
2. What does he mean when he writes “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”?
3. Why does Paul refer to the words spoken to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”?

Family Tree

        Jacob (Israel) Reuben
The nation of Israel
    Isaac     Simeon
        Esau   Levi
Abraham         Judah
    Ishmael       Zebulun

Hebrew: A term originally applied to the descendants of Abraham before the nation of Israel was formed. Later it came to mean Israelite. It may be derived from “Eber” (an ancestor of Abraham).

Israelite: A descendant of Jacob. Jacob had his name changed by God to Israel (Genesis 32:28; 35:10).

Jew: Originally a person from the southern kingdom of Judah. It gradually became used to describe anyone of Israelite nationality.

Gentile: Any person who is not an Israelite by birth.

God’s chosen people
The Jews have a natural heritage through their patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

• These men were given promises by God which are described in the New Testament as “very great and precious promises”. These promises formed the basis of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:4

• It was through Israel that God made himself and his plan known to mankind-by revelation to the prophets and other leaders of the nation.

• Israel were chosen by God to be his witnesses. Isaiah says

“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen. . . ” (Isaiah 43:10)

The other nations were to see the nation of Israel and observe a model population-living as a community which observed God’s laws. Unfortunately the majority often did not live up to their calling.

• Jesus is descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Matthew 1; Luke 3

John wrote “salvation is from the Jews”. That is, the door to John 4:22
salvation is opened through what God revealed and promised to the Jews in Old Testament times and through Jesus being a Jew.

Rejection of Jesus
There were many individual Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah. The book of Acts describes a large congregation of believers in Jerusalem and many of the early believers in other places were Jews also. However, the majority of Jews denied
Jesus’ authority. Despite their special place as God’s chosen people, the nation rejected Jesus, and thus rejected his Father. Luke 10:16

The same is true today. In Israel, neither the Government nor the orthodox Jewish religious leaders nor the majority of people
acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

“They are not all Israel”
The apostle Paul explains an important point in Romans 9. He wrote that not all those who were natural descendants of Jacob
(Israel) were necessarily heirs to the promises. Conversely, he also wrote in Galatians 3 that those who were not descendants
of Israel but who obeyed in faith could become heirs.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

So true Israelites are those who would inherit the promises, not because of their race but because of their faith. Peter wrote

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

The parable of the olive tree
Romans 11:17-24 contains a parable about an olive tree. In the parable, the nation of Israel is represented by an olive tree. Some of the branches of the olive tree have been broken off. These branches represent those Jews who do not believe God, and are consequently excluded from his plan of salvation. Shoots from wild olive trees can be grafted in to the olive tree. These shoots represent Gentile believers being grafted into the family of God because of their faith. Eventually, some of the original branches are grafted back into the olive tree.

These branches represent Jews who turn back to God and believe.

Paul writes

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. (Romans 11:1-2)

God has not rejected his chosen people Israel, even though as a nation they rejected the prophets he sent to them and then rejected his son. God provided the opportunity for some Jews, like Paul, to be grafted back into the “olive tree” because of their

• The descendants of Jacob became the nation of Israel. Through them God made his laws and commandments and prophecies known to mankind.
• They were chosen by God to be his witnesses. They were to be an example of godly living to the other nations. Unfortunately they rarely lived up to this calling.
• Their rejection of Jesus Christ was a tragedy which led to the crucifixion.
• Jews and Gentiles can be heirs to the promises God made to the patriarchs of Israel, if they are faithful.

1. Read Romans 11:2 and Romans 11:20. How can you explain this apparent contradiction?
2. What provision was there in the Old Testament for Gentiles to become part of God’s chosen people? See Exodus 12:48; Leviticus 22:18-19; Numbers 15:14-16; Deuteronomy 31:12-13; Ruth 1:16-18; Isaiah 14:1; 56:6- 8; Jeremiah 12:14-17.
3. Read Romans 9:16 again. Then read Proverbs 16:9 and 21:31. What are these verses teaching us?

1. Find other references to the olive tree in Scripture. Is it used to represent Israel elsewhere?
2. Ezekiel 20:40-43 says that the Jews would turn back to God when they return from captivity.

(a) Follow the cross-references to these verses to find other passages with a similar prediction.
(b) Currently, the majority of Jews are atheists. How might this change of heart come about? (Hint: read Zechariah 12:9-10; 14:1-3 and Malachi 4:5-6. Do any of these passages provide a clue?)

• The Christadelphians: what they believe and preach by Harry Tennant (published by The Christadelphian, 1986), Chapter 25: “The Enigma of Israel”. 18 pages. This chapter covers prophecy concerning Israel as well as the role of Israel as God’s chosen people.
• Balancing the book: a study of biblical paradoxes by Len Richardson (published by the author, 1990), Chapter 15:“Are the Jews a special people”. 6 pages. This chapter explores the apparent contradiction between Romans 11:20 and Romans 11:2.

3. Prophecy concerning Israel
40. God’s promises to Abraham and David