Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be chosen to take part in the Olympics? What an amazing feeling it must be for the athletes as they parade in during the opening ceremony, holding their country’s flag and carrying the hopes and dreams of their nation on their shoulders! Regardless of whether you’re a sports fan or not (chosen last during sports lessons at school?), it’s easy to imagine that being chosen to represent your country at the Olympics must be wonderful.
If there’s one thing that we Jewish people are known for (apart from bagels and hummus), it’s for being the “Chosen People”.
If there’s one thing that we Jewish people are known for (apart from bagels and hummus), it’s for being the “Chosen People”. Despite the regular use of this epithet, we rarely ask ourselves the question, “Chosen for what?” In fact, maybe sometimes we might wish that we weren’t chosen at all! As Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof said, “I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?!”
The topic of us being chosen is taken up in this week’s parasha, Eikev. Moshe details at length our relationship with God, why God chose us and what our role is in all of this. What may come as a surprise is that God didn’t choose us because we were better than other peoples, nor did His choosing us mean that we would be safe from harm or guaranteed a place in the Olam HaBa. Moshe writes, “Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you.” (D’varim/Deuteronomy 9:4) In fact, Moshe goes on to recount the Golden Calf incident as if to say, “If you think you’re so awesome, remember what happened!!!” So God didn’t choose us because we were good. He even goes on to warn us that there was something we needed to do: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” (D’varim/Deuteronomy 10:16)
So, if God didn’t choose us because we were good, then why did He choose us?
So, if God didn’t choose us because we were good, then why did He choose us? In D’varim/Deuteronomy 7:8, God tells us that He chose us because He loves us and because He loved our fathers and because He swore an oath to them. But more than that, He had a purpose in choosing us. One which might seem quite surprising…
To a certain extent, the athletes that take part in the Olympics are ambassadors. While they don’t handle any politically delicate situations, they represent their county and their actions bring either shame or praise to their land, as we’ve seen this year from the American swimmers and the Egyptian judoka. In the same way, God chose us Jewish people to be His ambassadors on the earth. In Shemot/Exodus 19:6 God says that we are to be a “kingdom of priests” to Him. Priests are essentially intermediaries between man and God. But what sense would it make to make all of us priests? Who would we be intermediaries for? Who else, but the rest of the world.
God chose us to be a nation of ambassadors to show the rest of the world what He was like, what He required from them etc. Or, in the words of Yeshayahu/Isaiah 49:6, we were supposed to be a “Light to the nations.” The problem is, is that for most of our history, the majority of our people have failed at this task. Throughout the Tanakh we read about how the majority of our people don’t follow God and since the times of the Romans, Judaism has been an internally-focused, non-proselytising religion. If our job was to be God’s representatives to the world, then we certainly failed.
The amazing truth, however, is that God did not fail.
The amazing truth, however, is that God did not fail. When God sent the Messiah Yeshua to die on our behalf and to rise from the dead in order to give us eternal life, He fulfilled our calling for us. The Messiah, as a perfect man and perfect Jew, did what we as a people, had mostly failed to do up until that point – to represent God to the rest of the world and to be an intermediary between God and the rest of the world. When the Messiah Yeshua died He reconciled not only our people to God, but all peoples. Yeshua was the ultimate priest, the ultimate ambassador.
It should come as no surprise to us then, that Yeshua is honoured and worshiped not only by Messianic Jews, but also by people from all of the nations. Yeshua has become the embodiment of His Jewish people – becoming a light to the nations. The fact that Yeshua is accepted as the Messiah by so many non-Jews around the world is actually in accordance with the Scriptures and a confirmation of His Messiahship!
Ultimately, the call of God to us Jewish people still stands. He still wants us to be His ambassadors to the nations. But first, we have to believe the message, in order to become ambassadors for it. Today, the question of Jewish identity is as pertinent as ever. And yet when we put our faith in Messiah Yeshua, we discover the purpose that we were made for, the real reason why we were chosen – to be a light to the nations. And what greater message is there to be an ambassador for, than that it’s possible to know the God who created us, because the death of His Son has reconciled us to Him? You may not be an Olympic athlete, but are you willing to become an ambassador?