The first thing we need to know about the identity of God’s people is that it is again tied to ’knowing God’. Again and again, people have made the claim that God’s people are tied to genetics, flesh and even titles and not behavior conduct. This idea is widespread and has lead to religious suppression for many groups and individuals.
This is why many have accepted religious leaders based on superstition and unwillingly accepted corruption and false teachings in the belief that it was more important to God that we follow authority, flesh, and heritage before principles.
By viewing Gods dealings and value system in the past, we can get to know Him better and find an answer to these questions. What we find is that God is constantly pruning His people. Just as it is done with fruit-trees. You prune or remove branches so that it will continue to have a healthy growth and give good fruit and so that the bad branches won’t destroy the growth healthy ones.
In the Bible, we see that God first chooses Noah based on Noah’s faithfulness. Then we see that He chooses Abraham. God says straight out that the reason He chose Abraham was: «Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.» (1.Mos.26,5)
Abraham was obedient. He knew God’s will through these commandments and it was on this basis he was recognized as God’s servant. Even though Abraham showed himself weak and failed he allowed God to confront him, instruct him and guide him. And this was the whole point. Both King Saul and King David failed God and sinned, but God rejected Saul and kept David. The difference between the two was that one allowed God to correct him and change him and the other opposed instruction. God knows none of us are perfect and probably never will be in this world. But if we let God discipline and guide us we are on the right track.
Abraham fathered many sons but not all of Abraham’s sons were chosen to be God’s specially elected people or God’s truth-bearers. Only the one who stayed true to Gods instruction. The other son’s descendants ended up practicing idol worship. So not all of Abraham’s descendants was chosen. Isaac then fathered two sons. But only one of them was chosen based on his willingness to follow Gods path in life. His name was Jacob, later called Israel. So what we see here and what we will continue to see is that God continues to prone or separate one line of people who are willing to listen to Him and let Him instruct them. Not all are approved and chosen just because they are born by a chosen, or are a descendant of a chosen. Such was the case with Esau. John the Baptist reminded everyone of this principle when he said: «And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.» (Matt.3:9)
The family of Jacob is struggling and is broken but in the end, they all chose to follow God and He chooses all 12 sons. But when only the tribe of Levi was faithful and obedient in a conflict situation, they were especially elected to be priests and instructors to the rest.
We see God delivering Israel from Egypt and Him establishing them as a people and His willingness to choose them before all. But as the experience continues, not all want to follow God’s lead. And God continues to prune His people. The first time we see God separating the people and cutting off a part of them is when they made a golden calf at Mount Sinai after being instructed in God’s law.
They wanted to lead the people back to Egypt. Not just physical lead them in the opposite direction God had planned, but also lead them spiritually by offering different laws and practices. In order for God to save the ones who wanted to be lead by Him, He cuts off the part of the people who would not be obedient and who were trying to steal His people from Him. ‘Whosoever is on the LORD’s side, let him come unto me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them: ‘Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel: Put ye every man his sword upon his thigh, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.’ And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. (Exodus 32:26-28)
Again and again, groups of people want to go their own way and take the others with them and God cuts them off too. Some of them are Levites, Gods chosen truth-bearers. They are still cut off, their ancestry cannot save them. When they go their own way and rebel against Gods authority they to are cut off like in the case of Korah. His family had been charged with carrying the holy items of the temple yet he was not exempt from God’s pruning. (Num.16) Not only them, but everyone who followed their lead. 14 700 died from a plague God sent over them. They too wanted to take over and lead the people in another direction than what God had planned. It was a revolution.
We see God pruning His people again when they are given meat to eat. It says: “And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.” (Num 11:33-34) Same when serpents came into the camp. All who were bitten, and chose not to be saved by following God’s instruction, died. (Num.21:9) Those who did what God instructed, lived. In the end, God rejects a whole generation of Israel because of their unwillingness to be lead by Him. They are not permitted to enter the promised land. (Num.32:13) “When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.” (Heb.3:9-11) Actually, they placed themselves in a position where God could not use them or lead them and so He was forced to reject them. Notice how being the sons of Jacob or Israel have no effect and no advantage if they disobey God or resist His leading. Genetics has no value in such cases. God will always continue with the faithful. No one is chosen no matter what. God prune them again. At the border of the promised land when many of the men commit adultery with Midianite women and their gods, 24 000 died. (Num.25)
When God’s people finally conquer the promised land God is left with a committed people who are willing to stand up for the truth. Only one man disobeyed God and steals Babylonian clothing and gold from Jericho and he, and his family that helped him, is stoned. Many find the different pruning harsh, however, the alternative was for God to give up the entire people and let the rebels take over. This wouldn’t have been fair to the faithful, nor would God have a people who could represent Him in the world. Either God gave up or converted to them, or He had to be determined and protect His few remaining faithful. Bear in mind, none of those that rebelled were forced by fences to stay among the people, they could have left to go live among other nations. Instead of leaving, they decided to influence by force and manipulation the spiritual direction of the people. These people were all God had left, the rest of the world followed a corrupted version of the truth. And He would preserve them and not let the enemy grab the remnant as well.
God’s people had to be pure in order to punish the nations that were living in Canaan. He would not take the land from bad people just to give it to other bad people. So He would not let them enter the promised land before they had turned from their ways. But not even their descendants were chosen no matter what.
«And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.» (Judges 2:7 & 10)
Again they «knew not the Lord», they had knowledge of their past and history. They knew who they were and the stories about God. But the knowledge was without insight because they had strayed from the truth.
Israel moves into Canaan but after a while, they start to mix truth with lies in their worship. God’s sanctuary stood for a long time in Shiloh. The priest there was from a chosen priest-line. But when the chosen priest failed to honor God as he ought to as priest, God goes back on His promise to his chosen lineage. He says: “ Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.” (1Sa 2:30-31) They that know God in Bible history are aware that behavior conduct is valued higher then ancestry. He also rejected Shiloh spite that the temple in His honor was there. “Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the LORD, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.” (Jer 7:11-16)
God chose at one point in time to separate the nation into two parts. The two parts are known as Israel and Judah. Israel refuse instruction and to turn away from their mixture religion no matter how many prophets God send them or how much time He gives them. In the end, God allows their enemies to conquer them in order to preserve Judah for as long as possible. The twelve tribes are pruned again, ten tribes are cut off. All that is left now is Judah and Jerusalem.
«Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the defenced cities of Judah, and took them. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army.» (Isa 36:1-2) Although only a remnant now was left of Israel, Sennacherib had no power at all when he came up to Jerusalem, because Hezekiah and the town had decided to serve the Lord and when they asked God for help He delivered them. Even the Judean cities around had been conquered. Unfortunately, the people of Jerusalem didn’t continue on the right path. Spite some good kings trying to reform the land, the majority of the people were not willing to give up pagan traditions and lies. God let them go and most are either killed by enemy armies or taken captive and moved to Babylon. God is only left with a remnant of the Jewish people spread throughout.
Among those moved to Babylon, Daniel is chosen, again we see that he is chosen because he is faithful and obedient towards God. When Daniel earlier was tempted he and his friends chose to follow God’s commandments. Daniel later gets a high position in the kingdom. He prays to God and begs Him to give the people a new chance quoting the words of the prophets that they would get a chance to return to Jerusalem and try again. The angel Gabriel is sent to Daniel to explain that God will give his people, the Jewish nation, 70 prophetic weeks, which is 490 years, to turn from their ways. He explains that they will be permitted to return to the land and rebuild Jerusalem. In the last prophetic week, which is 7 years, they will be tested by the coming of the Messiah. Their decisions and actions, in this case, will determine if their time is up as a nation under God. They are told that in the end of this time prophecy, in the middle of the 7 years, Messiah would be killed. They are even told when they were to start counting so there would be no excuses for not understanding when their probation would end.
But when the time came the people were full of prejudices and pride and not only did they reject Christ as their Messiah but they also started to persecute and threaten those who preached the gospel. They silenced God’s truth and banned the true interpretation of prophecy. When they stoned one of the church leaders, Steven, their time was up. They had been chosen to bring God’s truth to the world, instead, they were actively silencing and fighting it. God had no other option than to let them go. God had big plans for the Jewish people. They were to have a powerful position in the preaching of His kingdom to the world, to bring His law and justice and salvation to nations. He had planned to exalt them and let them be the light in the darkness. He had told many of these plans for them through his prophets.
Jesus said: «O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.» (Mat 23:37-38)
He then gave them a new condition for Him to take them back. He said: «For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.» (Mat 23:39)
They would not be chosen unless they received Christ. God had big plans that He was forced to put aside. Again God had to divide and separate the people and continue with only a remnant. Paul explains that they were not rejected completely, a remnant of them would remain the chosen truth- bearers just like God had pruned the people before. «I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.» (Rom 11:1-5)
God doesn’t reject His people completely, but He does prune them and continue with the part of them that are faithful just as He always has. As we will see and have seen, Gods people always have a connecting history, a continues line. This most likely was for God to create some order in the chaos and make it easier for people to understand who His truth bearers were. They had to have a combination of both linage and behavior.
God continued with the Jews that were obedient to Him and that had received the teachings of Christ, which was God’s teaching, and His salvation. This new group of remnant Jews was now the new chosen line. The majority, just like in the wilderness, had been cut off. A minority continued as God’s people. Paul explains it by using a metaphor of a tree. He explains that even though God had separated and broken off a large amount of the Jews, He had also added other branches from the heathen, those who chose to follow God like Abraham and the others did. Together the remnant Jews and the converted pagans became God’s people. This principle is Biblical. For instance, a chosen line to Shiloh, the lawgiver, went through Judah as promised. (Gen.49:10) Judah’s children, however, were this line would go through, was from a union between a heathen named Tamar and himself. So the chosen lineage went through a converted pagan mixed with Judah. Later another Jewish leader did the same, he was united with a former harlot from Jericho named Rahab. They too become part of the chosen king line. Again, a converted pagan mixed with the tribe of Judah. Continuing this line we see Ruth who comes from pagan worship in Moab but turns to the God of Israel and is united in a bond with the jew Boas.
Again their children, the chosen jew, and the converted pagan woman become the chosen line. The testimonies of these three unions show the approval stamp on the first Christian church. The union of converted pagans and Jews. And remember the name Christians was considered more lucrative for these Jews than the name Jew. Jew was from their forefather Judah, but Christ was from their spiritual Father who had redeemed and saved them, and the change of name was therefore natural and desired. Christ was greater than Judah. But these first Christians was still descendants of Judah and Abraham. They were still the remnant.
As seen in the past chosen line, when the heathen turn to God they are recognized as part of Gods family and their children become part of the chosen line. It happened the same way when the majority of the Jews rejected Christ. Jesus continued with those Jews who were faithful and the part of the pagans that converted, and they were united and together became the chosen line. It’s not new, it’s a continuation of the same line only some branches are plucked off and some are grafted in. By seeing how God has done things in the past and the always consequent pattern we get to know God better and understand how He does things today. This is not replacement theology. This is how God always have done it in the past. Those who chose to be disobedient was separated and those who were pagans, but converted and faithful, took their place. In the case of Tamar, God rejected two sons of Judah but kept her, because she was faithful and they were evil. Those who call this replacement theology er really the ones who break away from God’s system and replace it with a system God does not use and never have. They claim that God’s chosen people were the ones who were NOT faithful, the ones who disowned God, and they point to heritage by flesh alone. In fact, many Christians today claim Jews who refuse God’s leading are chosen above a faithful christian. This proves how not knowing God properly, what He stands for, how He operates, lead to some strange misunderstandings of Scripture. Paul knew: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Rom 2:28-29)
Many call the lineage of Jews that refused to take upon them Christ name and continued to rebel against God’s plan of salvation, God’s chosen people. Ironically Jewish genetics today show that even the non-believing Jews by flesh are mixed with heathen genetics. There is no 100% clean Jewish race found today. Most Muslims get a 5% Jewish heritage when they take a test. Some professed Jews don’t even have the same genetic forefathers as other jews. Some only have a certain percentage. How much percent before they can be recognized as part of God’s chosen people? These scientific researches prove how unreliable such an idea is. And this is why Israel go by Jewish religion and not genetic heritage when they give citizenship. But for a Christian, this is foolish, for it means rewarding anyone denying Christ to follow the Jewish religion with being God’s chosen people. And so it’s tied to denying Christ and not flesh. All these questions prove that relying on flesh alone is in vain. It’s not how God has worked throughout Bible history.
The lineage continues.
The Bible is clear on who God’s people is and that the lineage continues away from the disobedient jews and through a faithful remnant. This first mixture of the remnant Jews and converted pagans in the first century was the first to be called Christians. They were taught by faithful Jews in the truth and got a Jewish-Christian belief system. They were severally persecuted by their Jewish brethren and also by the Romans.
But God was not done separating and pruning His people. Even this group would experience that those who were disobedient to God was separated and God continued with only the obedient and faithful.
God had once clearly explained to Eli the priest, that not even those who are chosen will remain chosen if they stop being faithful.
The apostles and Paul warned everyone about corrupted claimed believers. Satan’s servants and also unconverted, who would seem converted, would be teachers and leaders and infiltrate the church or the group.
«For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.» (Act 20:29-31)