"Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;" Romans 9:4
In the midst of the confounding of the tower of Babel, and as the different families of the Gentiles head off in their separate directions God chooses, out of all of humanity, one man for himself. In Genesis 12:1, he calls Abram. In Genesis 14:13, God calls him Abram the Hebrew, a name which comes from Abram’s father Eber. The word ‘Jew’ first shows up in the book of Esther to describe the captured inhabitants of Judea, but the term appears interchangeably in the New Testament with the word ‘Hebrew’.
From Genesis 12 until the book of Acts, the God of the Bible deals almost exclusively with the descendants of one man. God absolutely played favorites, and chose to reveal himself not by writing his will across the sky for all of man to see, but by giving written scriptures to one group of people exclusively. He makes promises to this one man Abram that set the course of history for the rest of mankind, and no matter how stubborn or stiff-necked or idolatrous Abram’s descendants were (and still are) God keeps his promises to Abram through a nation which has Abram’s blood running through it’s veins.Romans 9:4 says that there are six things the Hebrew people received from God that nobody else received. Some of these promises are conditional in nature, and some are unconditional, but all of them are physical and temporal in nature. The promises God made to the Jews aren’t necessarily for the ‘sweet by and by’, but rather for the ‘nutty gritty here and now’.
They were promised adoption by God along family lines. If I were a Hebrew I could know that not only would God be my God, but he would be my children’s God. He would not cast us aside to suddenly show favor on the Greeks or the Indians. Simply put, God chose them, whether or not they on an individual basis chose him. Deut. 7:6-8 says “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” God did not make that promise to the Chinese, or to the Europeans. No African received such an adoption. But the adoption didn’t stop there.
Now that he had chosen a people, God chose himself a city. The Bible says in “Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.” Neither Shanghai nor Dubai made the cut. Detroit or New Orleans weren’t even considered. There are some lovely cities on the earth, but only one of them has ever been chosen by God to bear his name.
God, having chosen for himself a people and adopted for himself a city, also picked an habitation. The Bible says in Psalm 132:13-14, “For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell ; for I have desired it.”
After having called out Abram, God further narrows it down to which of Abram’s sons will be the adopted line. Will it be Ishamel, or perhaps one the children he fathered after the death of his wife? The Bible says in Isaiah 44:1 “Yet now hear , O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen :”
God is very specific about which branch of the family tree he is adopting. In Isaiah 41:8-9, the Bible says “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen , the seed of Abraham my friend . Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away .” It’s not enough to simply be related to Abraham; you must be related to Abraham though Isaac and then through Jacob. No one in Ishmael gets the adoption, neither do any of Esau’s descendants get the adoption. Yet another proclamation of the exclusivity of this relationship is in Psalm 105 “O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen.”
Furthermore, God refers to Israel in Isaiah 49:14-15 as such; “But Zion said , The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget , yet will I not forget thee.” God claims here that his love and devotion to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob surpasses the devotion a mother has to her child and that although mothers do sometimes cast away their own babies, God will not cast away the people he has chosen and adopted for himself.
This adoption did come with some strings attached. God would demand to be intricately involved in their lives. As he hid his face from the Gentiles, he revealed himself to Abraham’s seed. Exodus 19:5 says “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed , and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine” If you look at this passage carelessly, one might conclude that their adoption was conditional upon obedience. One might hastily deduce that if they disobeyed, they would be ‘dis-inherited’ or ‘unadopted’. Having made an incorrect assumption, some would even go so far as to say that this adoption is up for grabs by another group of ‘peculiar people’. Let me ask you to hold off on these conclusions because I maintain that this promise is not a contradiction with an unconditional adoption, and as we go through the rest of what the Hebrews received, the singularity of this statement will become apparent.
These sons of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, were they to heed to God’s laws, would become the most peculiar people that had ever lived. Everything about their lives would be different from the nations around them. They had a peculiar birth in the Passover (Ex 12), as they are never referred to as a nation until after the Passover. My nation began in 1776, their nation began the night of Passover. They had a peculiar inheritance in Exodus 13, and a peculiar deliverance in Exodus 14. Exodus 15 assigns to them a peculiar joy, while Exodus 16 and 17 shows us the manna, a most peculiar provision. In Exodus 19 they are given a peculiar revelation. In Exodus chapters 20 through 24 they are given by God peculiar laws and governments. Exodus 25 through 40 details their peculiar religion and its peculiar relationship with the Creator.
Now think about this for a moment. Let’s say you are a Hittite or a Jebusite living in the land of Canaan. You are trudging along in the vanity of your own mind, living by your conscience and violating it on a regular basis. Your ancestors have wrested the truths of God they knew and have reduced your people to worshipping the fish god Dagon or Baal the rain god. Just down the road from you is a Jewish settlement, and those fellows are unusual to say the least. You’ve heard they circumcise their males, and they wear funny clothes with a border of blue around the bottom. They have a long list of foods they don’t eat, and a long list of things they aren’t allowed to touch. They are always worried about being defiled, and once a week, for no apparent reason, they stop and do absolutely nothing. They don’t even cook or gather wood for a fire. Their houses have borders around the roof and they don’t trim their beards. They worship at this strange tent made of dyed badger skins, and they claim God meets with them inside that tent. They claim that, generations back, their ancestors came through here with a golden box and killed scores of your relatives, but they refuse to let anybody see the golden box. They are always slaying lambs and offering up blood to their God. They are always washing their hands. Everything about them makes them stick out like the proverbial sore thumb, and makes it very hard to marry any of their women. Oh, you or one of your Jebusite buddies might meet up off with an apostate Hebrew cutie in rebellion against her parents every now and again, but for the most part, they want nothing to do with you. They are, in the purest sense of the word ,peculiar.