Jeremiah 4. If you return to me, says the Lord, if you return to me, if you remove your abominations from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives’ in truth, in justice, and in uprightness, then the nations shall be blessed in him, and by him they shall boast.
Chosenness in the Hebrew scriptures is always purposeful, it is never, ever, an indication of favouritism. God, the creator is intimately aware of the human condition and knows the risk of choice. Look at the patriarchs and see a highly dysfunctional family. So, if choice is purposeful, what’s the plan?
God’s final word in his call to Abram is “in you all the families (or peoples) of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12). Abraham is told he will be ‘ancestor of a multitude of nations’ (Gen. 17) with the implication of blessing the nations which we see in practice in Genesis 14 and in prayer in Genesis 18. The blessing to ‘all the nations of the earth’ is repeated in Genesis 22 while the concept of a multitude or company of nations makes a frequent appearance. What’s going on, what does it mean?
The promise made to Abraham and Jacob especially includes doubled references to countless offspring. They are like the ‘stars in the heaven’ and the ‘sand on the sea shore’, which is to say they are numberless.
There is one passage where these themes are drawn together, compressed. Escaping from Esau’s anger Jacob comes to Bethel and rests for the night. During his dream God speaks, “I am the Lord… The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and all the families of the Earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring” (Genesis 28:12-17). Perhaps at this point a warning to literalists is helpful, strictly speaking ‘the land on which you lie’ would be the size of a coffin.
The text clearly involves land but it is primarily about people. It is about Jacob’s offspring spreading abroad and, presumably, filling the Earth, since it’s impossible to count the dust of the Earth (although scientists have attempted to calculate its weight…) And in this way to bring about blessing for all the peoples of the Earth. God’s people on a mission. God’s plan right from the beginning to bless all people, to redeem his creation.
How do God’s people bless the nations? Back to Abraham. God says “walk before me and be blameless” and if Abraham wants a little more content, who can blame him, and God gives it. “Why” God asks himself, “did I choose Abraham?”. Actually God gives us the answer without the question. In exactly the context we have been considering, of blessing the nations, God says, “I have chosen him… To keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice,” and it is only on that basis that God can fulfil the promises that he has made to Abraham, (Genesis 18:17-19).
But, as is the way with humanity, things didn’t work out well, and that brings me to Jeremiah. “If you return to me says the Lord”… “Then the nations shall be blessed in him”. Keep the faith, remove false gods, live in truth, justice and uprightness. But Israel did not, would not, and does not. Only in the one true Israelite do we find truth, justice and righteousness and that is the messianic reality. As Paul puts it ‘in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself’, (2 Corinthians 5).
To sum up, nothing in Scripture justifies the idea of chosenness without righteousness, chosenness without purpose. Nothing in Scripture entitles Jews, or anyone else, to focus on one small piece of land as special to God. God made it, and us, all. God loves it, and us, all and God wants to and will redeem all. The only serious question is, are we on God’s side, that of truth, justice and righteousness or are we, intentionally or not, on the side of injustice, destruction and evil.