They Were Born Into God’s Chosen Nation
“It is you Jehovah your God has chosen to become his people.”—DEUTERONOMY 7:6.
1, 2. What mighty acts did Jehovah perform in behalf of his people, and what relationship did the Israelites enter into with God?
IN 1513 B.C.E., Jehovah brought his servants on earth into a new relationship with him. That year, he humiliated a world power and delivered the Israelites from slavery. In so doing, he became their Savior and Owner. Before acting, God told Moses: “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am Jehovah, and I shall certainly bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from their slavery, and I shall indeed reclaim you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I shall certainly take you as my people, and I shall indeed prove to be your God.’”—Exodus 6:6, 7, footnotes; 15:1-7, 11.
2 Shortly after their Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites entered into a covenant relationship with their God, Jehovah. Rather than dealing with individuals, families, or clans, henceforth Jehovah would have an organized people, a nation, on earth. (Exodus 19:5, 6; 24:7) He provided his people with laws that governed their social order and, more important, their worship. Moses said to them: “What great nation is there that has gods near to it the way Jehovah our God is in all our calling upon him? And what great nation is there that has righteous regulations and judicial decisions like all this law that I am putting before you today?”—Deuteronomy 4:7, 8.
Born Into a Nation of Witnesses
3, 4. What was an important reason for Israel’s existence as a nation?
3 Centuries later, Jehovah reminded the Israelites, through his prophet Isaiah, of an important reason for their existence as a nation. Isaiah said: “This is what Jehovah has said, your Creator, O Jacob, and your Former, O Israel: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have repurchased you. I have called you by your name. You are mine. For I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel your Savior. . . . Bring my sons from far off, and my daughters from the extremity of the earth, everyone that is called by my name and that I have created for my own glory, that I have formed, yes, that I have made. You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, . . . the people whom I have formed for myself, that they should recount the praise of me.’”—Isaiah 43:1, 3, 6, 7, 10, 21.
4 As a people called by Jehovah’s name, the Israelites would serve as witnesses to his sovereignty before the nations. They were to be a people ‘created for Jehovah’s glory.’ They were to ‘recount the praise of Jehovah,’ relate his wondrous acts of deliverance and thus glorify his holy name. In short, they were to be a nation of witnesses for Jehovah.
5. In what respects was Israel a dedicated nation?
5 In the 11th century B.C.E., King Solomon indicated that Jehovah had made Israel a separated nation. In prayer to Jehovah, he stated: “You yourself separated them as your inheritance out of all the peoples of the earth.” (1 Kings 8:53) Individual Israelites also had a special relationship with Jehovah. Earlier, Moses had told them: “Sons you are of Jehovah your God. . . . For you are a holy people to Jehovah your God.” (Deuteronomy 14:1, 2) Young Israelites, therefore, did not need to dedicate their lives to Jehovah. They were born as members of God’s dedicated people. (Psalm 79:13; 95:7) Each new generation was instructed in the laws of Jehovah and was obligated to keep them by virtue of the covenant that bound Israel to Jehovah.—Deuteronomy 11:18, 19.
Free to Choose
6. What choice did individual Israelites have to make?
6 Although the Israelites were born into a dedicated nation, each individual had to make a personal decision to serve God. Before they entered the Promised Land, Moses told them: “I do take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today, that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell upon the ground that Jehovah swore to your forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give to them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) Hence, the Israelites individually had to choose to love Jehovah, to listen to his voice, and to stick to him. Since the Israelites had free will, they would have to bear the consequences of their choice.—Deuteronomy 30:16-18.
7. What happened after the death of Joshua’s generation?
7 The period of the Judges provides a good illustration of the consequences of faithfulness and of unfaithfulness. Just before that period began, the Israelites followed the good example of Joshua and were blessed. “The people continued to serve Jehovah all the days of Joshua and all the days of the older men who extended their days after Joshua and who had seen all of Jehovah’s great work that he did for Israel.” However, some time after Joshua’s death, “another generation began to rise after them that did not know Jehovah or the work that he had done for Israel. And the sons of Israel fell to doing what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah.” (Judges 2:7, 10, 11) Apparently, the upcoming, inexperienced generation did not prize their heritage as members of a dedicated people, in whose behalf their God, Jehovah, had accomplished mighty acts in the past.—Psalm 78:3-7, 10, 11.
Living Up to Their Dedication
8, 9. (a) What arrangement allowed the Israelites to demonstrate their dedication to Jehovah? (b) What did those who made voluntary offerings gain for themselves?
8 Jehovah provided his people with opportunities to live up to the national dedication. For instance, his Law provided for a system of sacrifices, or offerings, some of which were compulsory, while others were voluntary. (Hebrews 8:3) Such sacrifices included burnt offerings, grain offerings, and communion offerings that were voluntary—gifts presented to Jehovah to gain his favor and express thanksgiving.—Leviticus 7:11-13.
9 Those voluntary sacrifices pleased Jehovah. It was said of the burnt offering and of the grain offering that they were “a restful odor to Jehovah.” (Leviticus 1:9; 2:2) In the communion sacrifice, the blood and the fat of the animal were offered to Jehovah, while portions of the meat were consumed by the priests and the offerer. It was thus a symbolic meal signifying a peaceful relationship with Jehovah. The Law stated: “Now in case you should sacrifice a communion sacrifice to Jehovah, you should sacrifice it to gain approval for yourselves.” (Leviticus 19:5) While all Israelites were dedicated to Jehovah by reason of birth, those who made their dedication meaningful by making voluntary offerings ‘gained approval for themselves’ and were richly blessed.—Malachi 3:10.
10. How did Jehovah express his displeasure in the days of Isaiah and of Malachi?
10 Frequently, however, the dedicated nation of Israel proved unfaithful to Jehovah. Through his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah said to them: “You have not brought me the sheep of your whole burnt offerings, and with your sacrifices you have not glorified me. I have not compelled you to serve me with a gift.” (Isaiah 43:23) In addition, offerings that were not made willingly and out of love had no value in Jehovah’s eyes. For instance, three centuries after Isaiah, in the days of the prophet Malachi, the Israelites offered blemished animals. Hence, Malachi told them: “‘No delight do I have in you,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and in the gift offering from your hand I take no pleasure.’ . . . ‘You have brought something torn away, and the lame one, and the sick one; yes, you have brought it as a gift. Can I take pleasure in it at your hand?’ Jehovah has said.”—Malachi 1:10, 13; Amos 5:22.
Rejected as a Dedicated Nation
11. What opportunity was given to Israel?
11 At the time the Israelites became a nation dedicated to Jehovah, he promised them: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) The promised Messiah would appear in their midst and give them the first opportunity to become members of God’s Kingdom government. (Genesis 22:17, 18; 49:10; 2 Samuel 7:12, 16; Luke 1:31-33; Romans 9:4, 5) But the great majority of the Israelite nation proved false to their dedication. (Matthew 22:14) They rejected the Messiah and eventually killed him.—Acts 7:51-53.
12. What statements by Jesus show that Israel was rejected as Jehovah’s dedicated nation?
12 A few days before his death, Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders: “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone that the builders rejected is the one that has become the chief cornerstone. From Jehovah this has come to be, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? This is why I say to you, The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:42, 43) Showing that Jehovah had rejected them as a nation dedicated to Him, Jesus stated: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”—Matthew 23:37, 38.
A New Dedicated Nation
13. What prophetic statement did Jehovah make in the days of Jeremiah?
13 At the time of the prophet Jeremiah, Jehovah foretold something new with regard to his people. We read: “‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, “which covenant of mine they themselves broke, although I myself had husbandly ownership of them,” is the utterance of Jehovah.’ ‘For this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.’”—Jeremiah 31:31-33.
14. When and on what basis did Jehovah’s new dedicated nation come into being? Identify that new nation.
14 The basis for this new covenant was laid when Jesus died and later presented the value of his shed blood to his Father, in 33 C.E. (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 9:15, 24-26) However, with the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. and the birth of a new nation, “the Israel of God,” the new covenant went into operation. (Galatians 6:16; Romans 2:28, 29; 9:6; 11:25, 26) Writing to anointed Christians, the apostle Peter declared: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10) The special relationship between Jehovah and fleshly Israel had ended. In 33 C.E., Jehovah’s favor had been transferred from earthly Israel to spiritual Israel, the Christian congregation, ‘a nation producing the fruits’ of the Messianic Kingdom.—Matthew 21:43.
15. On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., what baptism did Peter urge his listeners to undergo?
15 After Pentecost 33 C.E., every individual, Jew or Gentile, had to make a personal dedication to God and be baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” * (Matthew 28:19) At Pentecost, the apostle Peter told receptive Jews and proselytes: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Such Jews and proselytes had to signify by their baptism not only that they had dedicated their lives to Jehovah but also that they had accepted Jesus as the means whereby Jehovah would forgive their sins. They had to acknowledge him as Jehovah’s High Priest and as their Leader, the Head of the Christian congregation.—Colossians 1:13, 14, 18.
16. In Paul’s day, how did rightly disposed ones—Jews and Gentiles—become part of spiritual Israel?
16 Years later, the apostle Paul stated: “Both to those in Damascus first and to those in Jerusalem, and over all the country of Judea, and to the nations I went bringing the message that they should repent and turn to God by doing works that befit repentance.” (Acts 26:20) After convincing people—Jews and Gentiles—that Jesus was Christ, the Messiah, Paul helped them to dedication and baptism. (Acts 16:14, 15, 31-33; 17:3, 4; 18:8) By turning to God, such new disciples became members of spiritual Israel.
17. What sealing work is nearing its end, and what other work is going on apace?
17 Today, the final sealing of the remaining spiritual Israelites is near. When it is completed, the “four angels” holding back the winds of destruction of “the great tribulation” will be authorized to release them. In the meantime, the ingathering of the “great crowd,” who hope to live forever on earth, is going on apace. These “other sheep” freely choose to exercise faith in “the blood of the Lamb” and get baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah. (Revelation 7:1-4, 9-15; 22:17; John 10:16; Matthew 28:19, 20) Among them are many young ones who have been raised by Christian parents. If you are such a young person, you will be interested in reading the following article.
^ par. 15 See The Watchtower, May 15, 2003, pages 30-1.
By Way of Review
• Why did young Israelites not have to make a personal dedication to Jehovah?
• How could the Israelites demonstrate that they lived up to their dedication?
• Why did Jehovah reject Israel as his dedicated nation, and how was it replaced?
• From Pentecost 33 C.E. on, what did both Jews and Gentiles have to do to become members of spiritual Israel?
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Young Israelites were born as members of God’s chosen nation
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Each Israelite had to make a personal decision to serve God
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Voluntary offerings gave Israelites the opportunity to demonstrate their love for Jehovah
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After Pentecost 33 C.E., Christ’s followers had to make a personal dedication to God and symbolize this by baptism