Holiness, Israel, the Land

Deuteronomy 14  (NASB)
2 For you are a holy (קָדֹושׁ֙ )people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen(בָּחַ֣ר ) you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Leviticus 20
26 Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.

There is a lot of misunderstanding of what the word “holy” means.  In order to be a “holy people” and a “chosen people” Israel had to God’s own possession as a subcategory of all the people of the earth.  To be holy a person or a people had to be separated above the common ordinary animals, people and food.  The holy and chosen people are set apart from all the other common peoples of the earth.  In the two verses above, Deuteronomy and Leviticus illustrate what is meant to be holy and to be chosen.

The current popular political philosophy on discrimination clouds the understanding of holy.  To be holy is to discriminate.  God discriminated racially in the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The first step in being acceptable to God was being born into Israel or conversion into the body politic of Israel.  Of those people who made this first step, God required the keeping of the law and a true believing faith in order to become the true Israel.

There is a true Israel which is a subset of the body politic of Israel. (Eph 2:12) (πολιτειας του ισραηλ)
Romans 9:6
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;

There is an Israel that is descended from Israel.  The Israel defined by physical descent, the body politic of Israel are heirs of the promises given to the fathers, but they are not chosen to salvation.  Notice the verse does not say there is no Israel from whom descent is measured.  The verse explicitly proclaims there is a remnant Israel descended from the physical Israel.

Romans 11:28
From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;

In order to part of Israel a person had to be a descendant of one of the sons of Jacob:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah,  Issachar Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph or Benjamin.  In Genesis 49, Jacob calls his 12 sons and blesses them.  God explains why these 12 sons are important.  They represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Genesis 49:28
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.

This distinction of being part of Israel, by birth and racial heritage is maintained through the Bible and reinforced by Paul’s explanation:

Romans 9:3-4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Is it clear that Paul in an Israelite from birth, his birth made him an Israelite; his brothers are fellow descendants from the fathers.  What are they chosen to be?  They are not chosen to salvation.  They are chosen to be heirs to the promises of God.  The promises of the children and the land are the two greatest promises given to Abraham.

Often there is a misconception of holy.  Holy is perceived as a spiritual mood or as an antonym of defilement.  The antonym of holy is common.  The word “Holy” means to set apart.  There is even a form of the Hebrew word for holy “qadesh” which means a male temple prostitute.  Of course this prostitution is a different kind of holiness and “holy” Israel has to follow certain laws which keep them separated from the common people.  Prostitution certainly would be a disqualification.  The root meaning is clear and can be observed from the two verses above.  The holy people of God are set apart and are a subgroup all the peoples of the earth.

Moses lead the 12 tribes of Israel to Mount Sinai and gave them the law.  The law served as an instrument to make the children of Israel a separate and holy people.  The law did not make them the children of Israel, the law makes them separate and holy.

Exodus 19 (NKJV)
3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel… 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

God’s goals for the children of Israel is to be a special treasure above all the people of the earth, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  Notice they are already the children of Israel but there is a covenant with the children of Israel.  If the children follow God and keep his commandments they will receive the special blessings mentioned above: special treasure, kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  According to Paul there are other promises given to Israel even if Israel is now any enemy of the gospel (Romans 11:28) and accursed by God (Romans 11:11).  Of course the promise of the land was the one of the most important part of the promises.

Bad theology leads to bad politics.  It is no coincidence that the complicity of the Lutheran and German Catholic Churches in the persecution of the Jews abetted the Nazi apology for the holocaust.  The Lutheran, Reformed and Catholic doctrines of Replacement theology and the complementary theology of Amillennialism contribute to the Antisemitism of the Pre-WWII Germany and the current Pro-Muslim Anti-Israel politics of the Protestant left.


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