How could God morally choose one nation, Israel, and make this nation so special at the expense of others? This question requires careful consideration of one key fact and the two issues that are raised by that fact. The fact is that God chose Israel over other nations. The issues raised are, firstly, does that choice imply absolute exclusivity and, secondly, does that choice imply a rejection of all other nations of the earth?
God’s Choice of Israel
That God chose one nation of the earth over all other nations is a fact clearly articulated by Scripture: “The LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deut 14:2). This sovereign choice began with the covenant with Abram in Genesis 12 where Jehovah promised Abram that He would “make of thee a great nation” (v2) and “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (v3).
God has always retained the right to express His sovereignty without the need to justify the decisions He makes. This may seem autocratic or even tyrannical but one must understand both that God is God and also that God is good (1John 1:5). As such, His creation does not experience His sovereignty in an abusive or despotic manner. Nevertheless, His choice to show blessing is entirely His own, as He explained to Moses, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Exo 33:19, cf. Rom 9:14-15).
Nobody really asks, “Is it fair for God to bless certain people?” without adding, “and not others?” This leads to the two issues raised by God’s clear choice of Israel.
Does God’s Choice Imply Exclusivity?
If God chose to bless Israel, does this mean that no other nation or people experienced His blessing? Fortunately, this is simple enough to answer.
First, note that clear provision was made for the “stranger” (a non-Israelite) throughout the Old Testament law. For example, any circumcised stranger could partake of the Passover. God made it clear that the law which applied to Israel equally applied to the stranger (Exo 12:48-49). The Israelites were specifically instructed not to vex strangers, but to treat him or her “as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Lev 19:33-34). Thus it was entirely possible for a stranger to join himself or herself with God’s chosen people and to enjoy the blessings of that covenant just as the Israelites themselves did.
Second, not only was there provision to join the elect in order to receive blessing, but God’s blessing was also experienced by nations in other ways. For example, in addressing the heathen Lystran population, Paul notes that God “in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-18).
Third, while presenting the gospel on Mars’ Hill, Paul noted that He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth … That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said. ‘For we are also His offspring’” (Acts 17:26-28). Paul clearly asserts here that for those from Gentile nations who would seek the Lord, a personal relationship with Him was possible. Thus it is clear from Scripture that God’s blessings were experienced by more than just Israelites.
Does God’s Choice Imply Rejection?
This is the most difficult part of the question, really dealing with the phrase in the question, “… at the expense of others.” Aside from what has been noted previously, this question begs to ask if God’s choice of some for blessing forces the conclusion that He must have rejected others. Or, put simply, did God choose Israel for blessing and designate the rest of the world for damnation? It is not rational to claim that God chose some but then deny that He rejected others. Rejection is an implicit counterpoint to choice. One cannot choose a part of something (e.g., humanity) without rejecting the rest. Following this line of thinking leads one to conclude that if God chose specific people for blessing then He must have chosen the rest for retribution.
Rather, God chose a nation, Israel, for blessing—but this choice did not mandate exclusivity. Individuals outside that nation could themselves choose to become part of the blessing Israel received (see references in the previous section). Furthermore, it was God’s intention that Israel be the means through which “all the nations of the earth” (Gen 22:18) would be blessed. Thus, the question that began this article is invalid in its assumption that His sovereign choice of Israel implies the deliberate rejection of others. God’s blessing was specific, but not exclusive. Furthermore, it was special, but not at the expense of other nations. If anything, it could be clearly demonstrated from the giving of our Savior in sacrifice at Calvary that God’s blessing came at great expense to Himself. As such, we can be thankful that God ever did choose Israel and that He chose to extend His blessing through them to the rest of the nations of the earth.
Thus, rather than focusing on exclusivity, this question offers an excellent opportunity to teach our children about their own personal need to respond to God’s gracious offer of salvation.