“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV).
The Israelites were to be a “holy” people. They were God’s “treasured possession” out of all the people who lived on the earth. God had chosen them. God “set his love” on them.
But what does it mean to be holy? Someone once explained to me that the word “holy” has the idea of something that is different from what surrounds it. This is what God was calling the Israelites to be: different from all the other nations. This is why he gave them the Law and, just before they were to enter the land, Moses was emphasizing again the need to obey God’s commands.
But what made Israel so special that God would treasure them above all other people? It wasn’t because they were the largest group, because they weren’t – Moses said they were the smallest. The reason they were treasured by God was “the oath that he swore to your fathers” – it was because of the promise God made to Abraham hundreds of years earlier. That promise involved Abraham’s descendants becoming a great nation and possessing the land where Abraham lived. Ultimately, that promise involved one particular descendant who would be the Messiah, the one who would be a blessing to all people.
This is why Israel was treasured by God and why they needed to obey him. “You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today” (Deuteronomy 7:11).
This is also how God views Christians today. Notice what Peter wrote to Christians in the first century, using the same words we find about Israel.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, 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 NIV).
Some of the older English translations used the word “peculiar” in 1 Peter 2:9. This was not saying that Christians are to be a “strange” group of people, but that they are “peculiar” to God – the second definition of this word is “special, belonging exclusively to” (New Oxford English Dictionary). Christians today are God’s special people who belong exclusively to him.
It is not that God has chosen me, exclusively, to be special to him. All Christians are special to God. God chose Christians to be “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Christians today are God’s special possession. As his special possession we need to love, serve, and obey him.
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-3).
Readings for next week:
17 April – Deuteronomy 7
18 April – Deuteronomy 8
19 April – Deuteronomy 9
20 April – Deuteronomy 10
21 April – Deuteronomy 11