In this article, I will consider the following: Firstly, I will explore what it means to be Chosen from a biblical perspective. Secondly, I will examine the concept of being Chosen and Predestination through the eyes of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Thirdly, I will address whether there is a cost to being Chosen? Lastly, I will give you my understanding of God’s Purpose behind the Chosen concept in the Bible. We need to ponder this last aspect carefully because misunderstanding it can lead to pride, a sense of entitlement and unnecessary suffering for those we consider Unchosen.
What does it mean to be Chosen?
The concept of being chosen in a physical and spiritual sense is throughout the Bible. But what does it mean to be chosen? After reading many dictionary definitions of what chosen means, I arrived at this standard explanation. Chosen means that a group or individuals were handpicked or selected not necessarily because they were the best but because they were the most appropriate for the task ahead. What task you may ask? According to the Bible, the task to advance God’s Kingdom and be A Light to the Nations. That is the task ─ it is the thread that runs from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) through to the Christian New Testament.
From the Hebrew Scriptures we know that Ancient Israel accepted their Covenant at Mount Sinai and thus became the Chosen People. Apart from the national (corporate) choosing many individuals were also chosen for specific tasks. Moses and Aron were chosen, David, Solomon, Ezekiel, Elijah, and the list goes on and on. Others were chosen at the expense of still others being Unchosen, Jacob and Esau for example. Although with Jacob and Esau, we have the choosing but Jacob still had to wrestle with God to get his blessing. Which for me is reminiscent of what Jesus said, “Many are Called but few are Chosen.” (Matthew 22:14).
Being chosen requires some effort on our part. Action or a commission always follows a choosing. Action needs obedience, and there lies God’s Justification (Justice) for choosing. God chooses and commissions, if we obey, we stay chosen, if we don’t, we are rejected. As harsh as that sounds, it is the only way for God to remain fair and just to all humankind.
Chosen ─ A Jewish and Christian perspective.
The term Chosen/Chosen Ones is highly favoured by the biblical authors and therefore is an essential element in both religions. Although, the term may be more significant to Jewish people than it is to Christians. Being The Chosen People is undoubtedly the most essential element in Judaism, it is a core tenet. Being chosen, covenant, promises, purpose are the key elements of their Mount Sinai experience.
Jewish literature affirms that everything including creation was for the Chosen People. Louis Ginzberg in Legends of the Jews informs us that the other nations became curious as to why God had chosen the Israelites. To which God replied, “Bring me the records” … and in doing so God was able to prove that Ancient Israel was pure and without blemish. The Nations applauded and the Torah was then handed to Israel.
We also need to include the biblical commentary of such a significant calling, and who better to quote than the Israelite Prophets. The Prophets were never very flattering with their assessments on anything, and it’s no wonder people called Elijah “The Troubler of Israel.” (1 Kings 18:17). It is so much better to appreciate the specialness of being chosen, rather than be faced with the brutal honesty of the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel, in the most offensive language to any Israelite tells them your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. That they were like an unwanted child, whose cord wasn’t cut, nor were they cleansed after their birth. There was no one to wrap them in swaddling garments, they were loathed and thrown into an open field to die.
Here were a people rejected, so, God took compassion on them and said to them, “Live, yes, I said to you Live!” And with that, Israel the people of God lived and still live today as a testament to God’s mercy (Ezekiel Ch.16). But no Covenant is ever one sided, it takes Two to Tango and two to Cut Covenant. Israel’s response to being Chosen was firstly to obey God’s voice (Exodus 19:5) and accept the Commandments (Exodus 19:8), “All that the Lord has spoken WE WILL DO.” There were consequences if they did not obey.
Transitioning from the Hebrew Scriptures to the Christian Scriptures we see a clear change in focus as the word Chosen is used to describe Christians. For Christians however, the focus of being A Chosen People is not a high priority. We are aware of the New Testament passages, but in all fairness most Christians are still caught up with the Jews being the Chosen People. That aside, for the Christian, being chosen should be all about Purpose. Christians are Called and Chosen for the single Purpose of Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven to every Tongue and Nation. Something the majority of them Do NOT DO. Recent statistics show that six out of every ten Christians do not share their faith and worse still do not know how to share their faith. Christians who do not share their faith are in direct disobedience to God’s Commission.
Here are some examples in the New Testament that call the followers of Jesus Christ, The Chosen Ones:
1 Peter 2: 9-10.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” There is no doubt Peter is referring to the followers of Jesus Christ.
“But you are a CHOSEN people, a royal priesthood, a holy NATION, God’s special possession, that you may declare (The Great Commission) 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.” This cannot mean the Jewish people because the entire premise of Judaism from the very beginning is that they were ‘A People’ (One People!). Christians however were not ‘A People’, we come from the four corners of the earth and are formed into ‘A People’, a Spiritual National Entity for God’s Kingdom.
Ephesians 1:1-5, Paul is writing to the saints at Ephesus, would you agree?
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus”:
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
“Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
I’m going to deviate here a little and say that I find it fascinating that Paul uses almost the exact inference as Louis Ginzberg, that “Choosing” originated at the very beginning with creation. Those Christians who believe in Predestination have relied heavily on this verse of scripture. Unfortunately, many Christian Denominations are led astray by taking one passage of scripture out of context. Predestination is no different. Paul believed that the followers of Jesus Christ were chosen, but he added it was set up at the very beginning of creation. Which in my opinion was part of his personal worldview because Jesus and Peter never said any such thing. Jesus and Peter emphasised the purpose of being Chosen, which was to proclaim the Gospel and be the Light of this world.
The problem with Predestination is that God states, he wishes no one perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Or that Christ died for all, not some, but all! That the Kingdom of Heaven is something that can be sought out, and he asked his followers to go into the highways and byways and compel people to come into the Kingdom. This contrasts with the Pharisees. Josephus mentions the Pharisees and the Essenes believed in the soul being Chosen at creation (Predestination), the Sadducees did not share their views.
Geza Vermes and David Flusser have a lot to say about the Essenes and their practices. From their writings on Second Temple Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls, I pieced together the following: The Qumran Community believed everything was complete at creation, including being chosen. That creation was not the beginning of work but a completed work. That everything will execute itself at the right time according to God’s plan. That several of Paul’s quotes were directly linked to the Essenes. Josephus mentioned a couple of them but word for word Paul’s writings can be directly linked to the Manual of Discipline. And that the Essenes view on Predestination was known to outsiders.
In Thessalonians, Paul says, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 — Give thanks brethren beloved by the Lord because God has Chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. Another favourite scripture of the Predestination people. To put these verses in their proper perspective, nothing and no one is so special in God’s eyes that they cannot be cut-off or replaced. Paul himself said this when he used the Olive Tree as a metaphor. The lesson we can learn from the Olive Tree is that dead branches were cut off and others were grafted in. Does that speak of permanency to you? It doesn’t to me. If we are chosen at creation, we would never be able to be cut-off. I covered a lot of ground in tracing Predestination in Jewish literature, and I can categorically say it is from the Talmud and steeped in the Kabbalah aspect of the pre-existence of souls. And that it was a deeply held belief of the Essenes, the first-century sect of Judaism.
What is the cost of being Chosen?
There is no end to wars and rumours of wars these days, and every time there is a war, people suffer, children suffer, and animals suffer. I grieve every day for those suffering and do my best to help in anyway I can. It seems social media sites recognize those who help others and I find myself inundated with help requests in my Newsfeeds. The other day, I was deeply moved by a request to help lions trapped in a Zoo in war-torn Yemen. The lions were starving, and they desperately needed food, how could I refuse? I gave whatever I could and felt a deep sense of satisfaction.
As I sat back in my armchair, and I thought about the lions chomping away on their dinner, I thought about the other poor animals I had just sentenced to death. I chose that day for one animal to live and another to die, and that’s what choosing is. With that knowledge came a deep revelation and appreciation about being Chosen. If we are somehow Chosen, it is nothing to be proud of because it is offered to us at the cost and sacrifice of others.
What I just tried to illustrate with my lions in Yemen story is being chosen comes with a cost, a cost to the giver and cost to the receiver. The story of Joseph comes to mind, Joseph really suffered because his brothers knew he was chosen. I have much to say about Joseph in my series on The Good Shepherd. Being Chosen also makes one a target. It’s no wonder there is a belief amongst the Jews that they are The Suffering Servant referred to in Isaiah Ch.53. According to Rabbi Stuart Federow, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 is the Jewish people, because they have suffered a great deal. He tells in his book Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast (which I would highly recommend) that in Judaism there is no such thing as a Suffering Messiah (Chapter 14) and since Messiah cannot suffer, the Jewish people fulfil that role instead.
Before I address this further, I always recommend his book because in some obscure way him and me bat for the same team. Like Federow, I have also made it my life’s mission to stamp out the lies peddled by the Judaizers, the apostate Jews who work tirelessly trying to turn Christianity into some pseudo religion that is neither Judaism nor Christianity. Scholars or experts who truly understand Judaism and Christianity will never say they are the same, like Jacob Neusner, “Christianity and Judaism: Two Faiths Talking About Different Things.”
For the Christian suffering is part and parcel of our existence. There is a constant stream of murders, imprisonment and punishments dished out to us. For example, every two hours a Christian is killed in Nigeria alone. I’m certain no other religious group are being killed at that rate. Nevertheless, we do not see ourselves as The Suffering Servant of Isaiah Ch.53. We see that entity (singular) as Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Jesus ticks all the boxes if you like. Jesus is called Chosen and Faithful in Revelation, but most importantly he will declare Judgement to the Gentiles. Judgement is an important aspect of his. I will say more about the Judgement of Messiah in the next segment.
Quoting from Isaiah Ch.53, “He shall not strive, nor cry aloud, neither shall his voice be heard in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, a smoking flax shall he not quench, till he sends forth judgement into victory. And his name shall be great amongst the Gentiles” And that it is ─ Jesus is great amongst the Gentiles. Apart from everything else, the strongest sign for me that Isaiah Ch.53 speaks about Jesus Christ is that it mentions judgement. Judgement, justice and justify. This must be one of the strongest indications that this is a reference to the Kingdom of God. In my Fruits of the Kingdom message, I pick Judgement as being the single most aspect of the Heavenly Kingdom and that The Rod, The Stem of Jesse is Jesus Christ.
“He will not Judge by what he sees with his eyes or decide by what he hears with his ears: but with righteousness he will Judge the needy, with Justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips, he will slay the wicked.” Isaiah Ch.11.
What is the Purpose for being Chosen?
People are Chosen for a purpose, not because they are something special, or someone that others should respect or look up to. That is not God’s way of doing things. God calls and chooses people to perform his tasks on this earth. We have freewill to reject his calling and commissions. If freewill is removed from the equation, then we are just robots. As with the Ancient Israelites, the call went out and they collectively responded, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” The purpose behind their calling was to be Lights to the Nations.
Rabbi Stuart Federow has this to say about what being a Light to the Nations mean. “As a Jew one has been Chosen by God, to act as God’s advertising agent in the world. An advertisement draws attention to the subject, stands out from amongst the rest…If you look at a Jew you should see God. His existence, his morals, ethics.” That is a clear definition of the expectation that went with the Commission at Mount Sinai. And this is my point, that being Chosen has a very definite purpose, and it does not involve specialness or favouritism.
In the New Testament, Christians are also called by Jesus to be Lights to the World as he is the Light of this World (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14). And for the followers of the New Testament, what Rabbi Federow said about the Jews can apply equally for them also. Although, being a Light is more about how the people of God should conduct themselves, having God’s Righteous Judgement is the way that we prove being Lights to the Nations. But what is Righteous Judgement and how do we decide what is right?
I must say for me it was not easy to define God’s Judgement, but I will try. My first conclusion of having God’s Righteous Judgement would be to be a ‘Holy People’, but only as defined by the God of the Bible. The term ‘Holy People’ is used in the Old and New Testament respectively (Deuteronomy 7:6 & 1 Peter 2:9). If you are not Holy then you cannot transmit God’s Judgement, because his Light and Judgement must emanate from you. It works two ways, from God to the Individual and from the individual to the world. George Foot Moore states that the Hebrew word sedekwhich is interpretedas Righteousness in English is the Quality of Righteousness in relation to God in his Judgements.
George Foot Moore goes on to say, that Justice (remember the same word was used repeatedly in Isaiah 11 and Isiah 53 for Judgement) in a broad sense is a fundamental virtue on which human society is based. It is no less fundamental in the idea of God, and in the definition of what God needs from men.” So, it’s not just Holiness and Righteousness (Judgement) we are talking about here, but it is a Holiness and Righteousness that is defined by the God of the Bible. If we relate this back to being Chosen, to claim that God ‘Chooses’ people irrelevant of their spiritual standings is nothing more than ridiculous. God will never choose a sinner over someone who is in a committed walk with Him!
Christians and Jews use different means by which they believe they live out their call to be Lights to the Nations according to God’s Righteous Judgement. In more recent times, it’s become a priority for Christians to become involved in politics. This is a very American thing and to date Christians have become highly successful in lobbying governments to bring about change. I personally believe it has gone too far and rather than fulfil our role as Chosen for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, we chose to force others to believe what we believe through legislation. I thought long and hard about what true Justice means for the Christian, and for me it came down to The Good Samaritan. Will you help a person, beaten and naked on the side of the road? Once that person becomes unrecognizable by cuts and bruises and cannot be identified because he is naked, will you still help him?
For the Jews, Judgement is carried out through legal means, by adhering to Law Codes. The Sanhedrin, or Council of Hewn Stone, administer Judgement. The Council has remained somewhat inactive since it was demolished after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. It reconvened briefly at Jamnia and set itself up as a High Court of Moral and Religious Authority. It needs to be told that the Judgements of The Council are not based purely on Biblical principles but also on the Rabbi’s as well. Like the time Rabbi Akiba puzzled Moses who sat in the last row of his class. After nearly two thousand years The Council merges again from the ashes and will sit again in Judgement of Jews and Non-Jews alike. If the Jewish people believe they are the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, then that Suffering Servant must execute Judgement by seeing the labour of his soul and justify many (verse 11). But how this Judgement will be carried out is left to be seen. At the end of the day if any aspect of the Mosaic Law is to be enacted, it will carry with it the death penalty for thirty-six crimes.
In concluding I discovered that there are two requirements to being The Chosen People, they are, being Lights to the Nations and a Holy People. The Hebrew word sedek is often translated in the English Bible as Righteousness but, it should be Judgement. And not just any Judgement, but rather the quality of Judgement and God’s Judgement at that. For the Christian it means being like The Good Samaritan, if a person is so bloodied and naked and you have no way of knowing their status in life, will you still help them? For the Jews it is about legal precedents and enacting the Mosaic and Talmudic Law via the Council of Hewn Stone (Sanhedrin).
Being Chosen is about Purpose and should not be viewed as favouritism. The Prophet Ezekiel tells us why God chose Israel, because He had compassion on her (Ezekiel 16:6). There is also an element of suffering associated with being Chosen and we see this throughout the Scriptures. Joseph for instance suffered a lot of rejection because he was Chosen. The Jewish people relate to this suffering by seeing themselves in the writings of Isaiah Chs 11&53, which speaks of the Suffering Servant. Christians see this entity as Jesus Christ, but also experience a significant amount of suffering and are the most persecuted religious group in the world today.
I also covered the concept of Predestination, which has become a Doctrine in some Christian circles. Predestination in relation to being Chosen for me is Paul’s personal worldview. Paul’s Pharisaic background meant that he would’ve believed in Predestination. Predestination was also a deeply held view of the Qumran Community. Paul shared many worldviews with this community, including his views on women and celibacy. Paul quoted from the Qumran texts, and there is no disputing that. The Essenes idea of Predestination, which Paul also believed, meant that before the foundation of the world, souls were already preselected too either walk the path of light or walk the path of darkness. It also meant the Unchosen were destined to an eternity of suffering and torment without any freewill. Personally, I cannot accept that God created human souls with that intent.
From a biblical perspective being Chosen is to be selected for the task to being a Light to the Nations. This common theme runs through from the Hebrew Scriptures into the Christian Scriptures. In the Hebrew Scriptures, God Chose Ancient Israel at Mount Sinai to be a Holy People set apart for his divine purpose. Choosing was always followed by a commission to obey. For the Christian the calling is consistent with the identical words and themes to also be Light to the Nations and a Holy People. Christians have been given the task to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to every Nation and People. Something most of them do not do, and that has been confirmed by recent statistics. If being Lights to the Nations and a Holy People is what God intended for his Chosen, then I’m convinced both Jews and Christians have failed miserably in their mission.
Cohen, A., 2008. Everyman’s Talmud the Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages. BN Publishing.
Federow, R., 2012. Judaism And Christianity A Contrast. Bloomington: iUniverse, Inc.
Flusser, D. and Yadin, A., 2009. Judaism of the Second Temple Period. Grand Rapids (Mich.): Eerdmans.
Foot Moore, G., 1997. Judaism In the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of Tannaim Volumes 2&3. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.
1954. KJV- Amplified Holy Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
Louis, G., n.d. Legends of the Jews. The Library of Alexandria.
Neusner, J., 2011. The Babylonian Talmud. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers.
Neusner, J., 2005. Questions and Answers Intellectual Foundations of Judaism. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.
Raphael Patai., 1983. On Jewish Folklore. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Schwartz, H. and Loebel-Fried, C., n.d. Tree of souls The Mythology of Judaism.
Vermès, G., n.d. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Penguin Classics.
The Council of Hewn Stone:
Sanhedrin which, according to the Mishnah,1234 held their meetings in the Temple; the second, or intermediate Court of Appeal, being in the ‘Court of the Priests’ (probably close to the Nicanor Gate); and the highest, that of the Great Sanhedrin, at one time in the ‘Hall of Hewn Square Stones’ (Lishkath ha-Gazith.)
Every two hours a Christian is killed in Nigeria:
Source: Open Doors USA Please Google this source as I cannot post the link.
Predestination in Judaism:
6 out of every 10 Christians do not share the Gospel and do not know how to share their faith:
All links were accessed in June 2022.