Why would a loving and just God have a “Chosen People?” What is so special about Israel? Does God play favorites? It seems petty for God to focus His attention on one small tribe – just one man, originally. What about everybody else? Isn’t this a sure example of how the Old Testament God is nothing like the God of the New Testament, the God Who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”? (Matthew 5:45)
To examine this, look carefully at what God said to Abram (later renamed Abraham) when He first called him:
” The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”” (Genesis 12:1-3)
When you bake sourdough bread, you begin by making starter. Starter is made with ordinary ingredients – flour and water – but it requires a lot of special attention and It takes awhile. You can’t use just any old container. You can’t use chlorinated water. You need to keep it warm but not too warm. Periodically, you have to discard half of the starter and feed the rest. But when you have good starter growing and bubbling, a small portion of it will cause a whole batch of bread to rise.
Israel was God’s “starter.” He gave that small group of people special attention and required they follow special strict laws so that, like growing and bubbling starter, through them “all peoples on earth [would] be blessed.” Read back through God’s call to Abram, thinking about sourdough starter, and reflect upon the history of Israel. It’s amazing, really, after all they have been through, how many times they have been conquered, exiled, dispersed and slaughtered, how central they are to world events right now. There is no other nation that compares. Consider how the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, has spread His influence throughout “all peoples.” God’s “Starter.”
No illustration works completely but I like the sourdough starter analogy for another reason. God’s ways seem so mysterious to us. Can you imagine, if each of us was a particle of rye flour in God’s bread bowl, with some of us in the starter and some of us added later, how we might have a few questions? “Does God know what He is doing? Why is He so particular? Why does all this take so long?”
Maybe you think it’s time I got some professional help. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to toast up a fat slab of sourdough with lots of butter and strawberry jam… Either way, it’s time to recognize that the God of Israel loves you and has reached out to you through Jesus!