God’s Election of Israel with His Eye on the Nations

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After the account of God’s judgement of the nations which is so graphically described in the passage of Genesis 12 about the Tower of Babel,[1] the scripture shifts its focus to God’s call of Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldeans. The ‘God of the whole earth’ seems at first glance to narrow His interests to the private history of one family and tribe, but in actuality nothing could be farther from the truth.[2] That Israel is the opening word in God’s proclaiming salvation, not the end. For a time Israel, the people of Abraham, is separated from the other nations (Ex 19,3ff; Deut 7,14ff), but it is done so that through Israel God can pave the way toward achieving His world-embracing goals.[3] In choosing Israel as segment of all humanity, God never took His eye off the other nations; Israel was the pars pro toto, a minority called to serve the majority.[4]

God’s election of Abraham and Israel concerns the whole world. He deals so intensely with Israel precisely because He is maintaining His personal claim on the whole world.[5] To speak to this world in the fullness of time He needed a people. God’s choice of Israel was in preparation for the complete unwrapping and disclosure of His universal intentions.[6] Whenever Israel forgot that God chose her with a view to speaking to the other nations and turned away from them in introverted pride, prophets like Amos, Jeremiah and Isaiah lashed out at the people’s ethnocentric pretension and charged them with subverting God’s actual intentions[7] (Amos 7,9-10).

[1] Cf. A. J. Kostenberger, “Mission,” in T. D. Alexander and B. S. Rosner (eds.), New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, (2006), 663-668.
[2] J. Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, (E. Tr. and ed. by D. Cooper), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan, (1978), 91.
[3] Cf. J. Kattackal, “The Call of Abraham and Faith-formation in the Book of Genesis,” BB, Vol. XVI, no. 2,  Bible Bhashyam Trust, Kottayam, (1990), 69-78, 70-71.
[4] J. Verkuyl, Break Down the Walls, (E. Tr. and ed. by L. B. Smedes), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan, (1973), 40.
[5] J. Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, (E. Tr. and ed. by D. Cooper), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan, (1978), 92.
[6] Cf. W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, (E. Tr. J. A. Baker), Vol. II, Westminister John Knox Press, Philadelphia, (1967), 373-374.
[7] J. Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, (E. Tr. and ed. by D. Cooper), William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan, (1978), 92.

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