A People For His Own Possession
By: Andrew M. Gilhooley
Throughout the Old Testament, the sons of Israel were known as the Lord’s special people. With His strong right hand, God redeemed the nation from slavery in Egypt and made them a people for His own possession. By means of the tabernacle and temple cultus, He dwelled in their very midst, thus bringing the divine into intimate relationship with humanity for the first time since the Fall. The nation is even pictured as a second Adam, dwelling with God upon a cultic mountain (i.e. the tabernacle and temple) by mediation of the priesthood. There were not a people like Israel among all the nations.
The vocabulary used describing Israel as being a people for God’s own possession, or treasured possession, is used several times in the Scriptures:
•Exod. 19:5 “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples.”
•Deut 7:6 “The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possessionout of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
•Deut. 14:2 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
•Deut 26:18 “The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments.”
Israel being a special people does not mean they were a wise people. They continuously broke covenant with the Lord and whored after foreign gods. As time waned on in their history, the need for a Messiah to restore the nation became more prevalent. They needed a priest who could lead them in proper worship and make atonement for their sins, a king to lead them and subdue their enemies before them, and a prophet to give them God’s unadulterated word. Essentially, they needed a second Adam who would not fail.
Isaiah prophesized that in the latter days when the Messiah would come, He would be the summation of true Israel within Himself and, like Adam, would function as a federal head (Is 49:3-6) (Beale: 2011, 656). The notion therefore was that if a man was to be part of latter-dayIsrael (also called ‘eschatological Israel’) then he must identify himself with the Messiah. Being a son of Abraham, being circumcised, and keeping sundry ceremonial regulations would one day no longer constitute a man as an Israelite. Days were coming when the Lord’s special people would be transferred from physical descendants of Abraham to spiritual descendants of the Messiah.
Upon the coming of the Messiah, namely Jesus of Nazareth, God’s special people are no longer ethnic Jews living in Palestine; instead, they are those who identify themselves with Jesus Christ. Concerning this, the Apostle Paul writes to Titus regarding the assembly of believers in Crete, saying, “[Christ Jesus] gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). The churchtherefore is latter-day Israel and a people for the Lord’s own possession, for she is the body of Christ and identifies herself with her head, namely Jesus. People do not become part of this eschatological Israel by making a pilgrimage to a plot of land in Palestine and taking on the unique signs of theocratic Israel, but rather by making a pilgrimage to Jesus, the true Israel (Is 49:3-6), and identifying with Him as the ultimate mark of being a true Israelite (Beale: 2011, 655).
Beloved, if you believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, then by faith you are a true Israelite.