Everyone wants to be “chosen.” It is also a word tossed around frequently in the Middle East. People assert that Israel is the “chosen” nation, the Jews are the “chosen” people, or, sometimes the reverse assertion, that the Gentile Christians are “chosen” to replace the corrupt and blind Jews.
Whatever the claim, I have found that these are most often touted by those claiming to be “chosen” (or those idolizing them) and seem to come part and parcel bound up with pride, as some zero-sum principle that excludes the “other,” and whole theologies crop up with this “chosenness” principle at the center, rather than a theology centered on the Messiah, who chooses all who believe in Him. He is just thrown in there as some extra ornament of a basically selfish ideology.
But what does it really mean to be “chosen?” How did God “choose?” And what was the behavior of the “chosen?”
As I choose to search and look at the complete picture, not taking miniscule verses out of context for my own benefit, I find the following:
● God chose the weak, lowly and despised things so that no one could boast, both Jew and Gentile (1 Corinthians 1:22-29).
● God chose David, the least expected of Jesse’s sons and the youngest, not even thought worthy of consideration, completely overriding the accepted norm and Jesse’s pride (1 Samuel 6).
● God chose Moses who had a speech problem (Exodus 4) and who the Hebrew people were constantly suspicious of and grumbled against (Exodus 2:14; Exodus 15, 16). It likely didn’t help that he had not been raised as one of them and his interracial marriage is mentioned as another point of contention (Numbers 12:1-2), among others.
● God chose Samuel (1 Samuel 3) rather than Eli’s sons, despite the earlier promises implying the physical sons should have been the rightful heirs (1 Samuel 2:27-31).
● In an especially baffling case, God chose Jacob, the younger, also not in accordance with what was expected or considered right (Genesis 27).
● God chose Tamar, Ruth, Rahab and Bathsheba to be in the line of Jesus, all whom were either not of the people of Israel or were of ill repute
● Through Hosea, God even promises to “choose” those previously unchosen and unloved (Hosea 2:23 & Romans 9:24-26)
● God sent His son (God incarnate), to be born in a barn, to a family with little to no rights, to humbly take on guilt that he was not responsible for, in stark contrast to the way of the world, which would have had him born in a palace, ready to correct humankind regarding their interpretations of Him.
A beautiful pattern begins to emerge from these and other examples: God always does the unexpected and chooses those the world thinks are unworthy. He doesn’t play the power games of the strong; he never protects the position of those who assume they are entitled. He repeatedly brings promise and life from barrenness.
Also interesting to note, the chosen never touted their own chosenness (other than Joseph, who was then forced to a place of humility and servanthood). Even those who knew God’s promises were often required to sacrifice what they thought was the only way to the promise or the rightful recipient of promise (for example, Abraham) before they could ever begin to walk in that chosen place. Furthermore, their actions spoke louder than their message. People followed them because they were willing to put themselves last.
Overall, it seems God often chooses the humble and places them in a position to justly identify with and protect the weak.
As the formerly barren Hannah utters in her prayer of worship (I Samuel 2:8) while Samuel was being raised to minister under Eli, in place of Eli’s “chosen” biological sons:
“He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.”
When I focus my theology on being “chosen” rather than on loving God with all of my heart and loving others like myself, it becomes self-serving or idolatry; when the focus becomes who is “in” and who is “out” rather than being like Jesus, the Good News becomes the same old news of the world.
For this reason, my personal theology is far less (if at all) about whether I am chosen or not and more about the Messiah who came to give worth and value to all -- Jew or Palestinian, man or woman -- liberating us from the oppression of the world that has gripped us all at one time or another, so that we can allow ourselves to be pursued relentlessly by His love.