Troublesome Topic: God Chose a People for Himself

Lesson 1 of 7

The descendants of Abraham had become very numerous but were living in slavery under the powerful hand of the most dominant empire of that time—Egypt. God had not forgotten them. He had chosen the descendants of Abraham to be His agents, His ambassadors in this world. Through them He would work out His redemptive plan. For this purpose God set them apart from the other peoples of the earth and gave them the identity that He wanted them to have. The exodus was how and when He did it.

In this one event we call the exodus, God took a people who were nothing, and gave them an identity of their very own. He brought them from death to life, from being considered sub-human, to being called God’s special instruments. In Deuteronomy. 7:7-8 Moses tells the people,

Deuteronomy 7:7


It was not that you were more abundant than any other people that YHVH (read Adonai) delighted in you and chose you, for you were

the littlest of all peoples,



Your ability to defend yourselves against other nations was not the reason THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD

became lovingly attached to you, for in reality you were the least capable of all people groups of defending yourselves,

Deuteronomy 7:8


but because of the love of YHVH (read Adonai)

for you and in order to keep the oath He swore to your


YHVH (read Adonai)

has brought you out with a mighty hand

and ransomed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of king Pharaoh


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rather it was because of the love of THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD for you, and in order to keep the covenant oath He swore to your ancestors (Abram, Isaac and Jacob) that THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD has used his mighty power and amazing capabilities to bring you out, and to purchase you from the place where you were owned as slaves, and from the very hand of the Pharaoh who was the ruler over THE PLACE THAT IS BOUND BY SIN.

God did not choose a group of people who already could get the job done on their own; He chose the most insignificant people of the earth. They were not considered a nation, just a large group of slaves. He chose the very symbol of weakness in order to reveal His great strength. He chose a group that would have to depend on Him to get anything done because they had nothing in them worth depending on—no organized governing body, no army (yet), no economic structures, etc. In contrast Egypt was the most powerful and advanced nation of the world, and thus represented the very best that men could achieve on their own, without God. From this point on the Bible often sites Egypt as an example of human effort without God, and thus a representation of sin itself. By ripping Egypt’s slaves from them He was showing the world that He alone is the true authority, no one else deserves the glory. He was also establishing as His people the kind of group He could mold according to His own purpose.

God chose a group of people who had only a partially developed culture. He did this in part so He could shape their culture to be what He wanted it to be. He chose an almost empty glass so He could fill it. If he had chosen a full glass, He would have had to empty most of it first, (strip away established cultural norms and perspectives) and all humans resist that.

As 21st century Americans we find the Bible hard to understand because our culture is so different from the culture we read about in the Bible. We jump to conclusions based only on what we know or how we think, not based on research about how the ancient Israelites thought. Our culture hinders our ability to understand the Bible, and learning about ancient cultures takes time and effort. I think the time and effort are worthwhile, but many Americans don’t even realize they need to seek a different perspective.

The idea of setting something apart for a special purpose is the very heart of what holiness or sanctification is all about. As an example consider the utensils later used in the tabernacle and the temple. Many of them were what we consider common household items, but because they were set apart for a special use in the religious rituals, they could not be taken home and used to grill a chicken. Being set apart, or sanctified, meant that they were to be used exclusively for a special, God-ordained purpose. That is exactly the mental picture God wanted His people to keep in mind. He had set them apart from the other nations for His own special purpose, and He wanted them to act exclusively according to that purpose. (Of course, He allowed them to keep their free will, so this was only by their choice.) That purpose was the same that He expressed first to Abram—the desire for a special relationship. We read in Exodus 29:45-46

Exodus 29:45


And I will dwell in the middle

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of the sons of ISRAEL and be their ELOHIM,

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Then I will dwell in the middle of THOSE WHO NEVER LET GO OF GOD, and I will be THE CREATOR AND RULER OF ALL THINGS and I am committed to being their OWNER AND RULER in a special way as long as they remain committed to following me.

Exodus 29:46


And they will know that I am YHVH, their ELOHIM

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(read Adonai their Elohim).

that brought them

out of the land of EGYPT

that I may dwell in the middle of them. I am YHVH

their ELOHIM

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(read Adonai their Elohim).


Thus they will know that I am THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD, and I am committed to being THEIR OWNER AND RULER in a special way. I am also the one who brought them out of the land known as THE PLACE THAT IS BOUND BY SIN; I did so in order to dwell in the middle of them. I repeat, I am THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD, and I am committed to being THEIR OWNER AND RULER in a special way.

That the God of creation would want to dwell among men rather than in His own special place indicates the degree to which He was willing to go to find closeness with His creation.

The next lesson in the Full and Medium Length Series on Covenants is: God Led Them Through Suffering and Death



The name Egypt means “defense, fortification, to besiege or to be besieged, to be bound or enclosed.” The Egyptians would have taken the more positive aspects of the name, in my paraphrase I take the negative aspects of it because, in Scripture, Egypt is usually associated with sin. In fact Egypt is a word picture for sin, hence my paraphrase rendering of “the place that is bound by sin.”


“in the middle of,” can mean “among, in the midst of, in the middle of” but it has as its core idea that of “in the very middle, in the center.” To me it is more meaningful to say that God wants to be in the middle of His people than to say God wants to be among His people. “In the middle of” means He is equally accessible to all, and it means we should keep Him at the center of our lives as well. There are choices and actions on His part as well as on our part.


What is meant by the phrase “be their God”? It means He will be there for them; He will focus on their needs; He will come through for them and prove Himself reliable. It also means they need to be loyal and obedient to Him. It is a two-way street.

In Hebrew, the phrase “their God” can be expressed in more than one way, and all of them employ a slightly different spelling of that divine name. In the paraphrase I have expressed the idea that God being “their God” is a two-way street; it is a relationship that makes demands on each one in the relationship. It is a promise on God’s part that He will be there for them, but it is also a promise on the part of the people that they will be loyal and obedient to His expressed will.


The form of the Hebrew name used here is not Elohim, but a possessive form that means “their God.” I have chosen to use the more familiar form (Elohim) so everyone will immediately know who is being referred to, but please understand that in Hebrew it looks a bit different while the meaning behind the name is the same.


Once again the Hebrew word used is not Elohim, but a possessive form of Elohim. I have used Elohim in the Translation column so that everyone will easily recognize the name.