Are Jews More Important to God Than Gentiles?
It is an implicit commentary on the narrowness of the way of salvation that God chose the descendants of one man (Abraham) to accomplish His work of redemption through. The goal was to eventually raise up a people set apart as His special vineyard to demonstrate His proper worship among and to bring forth His Messiah through. God would commit His Scriptures to that nation. He would teach and train these people in proper worship and righteous living. He would especially make known His character in His dealings with them. And He would teach them lessons about redemption of sin, and other principles related to this, so that when His redeemer came there would be an appropriate context to the redemption which He would accomplish and offer. And the nation which He chose for this was Israel, the descendants of Abraham (through Abraham’s son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob, also called Israel, whose descendants composed the twelve tribes of Israel).
Was Israel a special nation for God’s purposes? Of course. Was it a great privilege to be a part of the nation of Israel as God’s plan of redemption unfolded in their midst? Yes. But does this mean that those born into Israel were inherently better or more important to God than other people? Absolutely not. And it is a sad commentary on mankind’s great wickedness, that despite all that God had done in Israel, the Messiah came to a nation of Israelites (or Jews- the terms eventually became interchangeable) who had overall not learned the lessons they should have learned. And one key lesson they had not learned is in regard to respect of persons, which in the Jews’ case has often been expressed in thinking that they are more important to God than non-Jews. Jesus frequently rebuked them for this in the Gospels. Such a rebuke actually directly resulted in Him almost being killed by the inhabitants of His hometown Nazareth in Luke chapter 4.
Luke 4:16-31: “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way, And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.”
They were angry at Jesus because Jesus rebuked their pride related to their belief that they were more important or more valuable to God than other people because they were ethnically Jewish. Jesus simply pointed out, right from the Jewish Scriptures, how there were times when God chose to help gentiles and overlooked Jews. Gentiles who have diligently sought the God of Israel with contrite hearts have had their faith rewarded with help from God which Israelites who did not do so did not obtain. What happened with Jesus being vehemently opposed by the people of Nazareth for simply pointing out the obvious from the Scriptures they professed to believe would also happen in Jewish synagogues now, and most Christian churches now as well, if someone who spoke in them were to simply point out certain obvious truths from the very Scriptures which the congregation professes to be God’s Word.
How then could Israel have a special place in God’s plan of redemption even though individual Israelites are equally valuable to God as gentiles are? God’s plan of redemption worked through Israel was intended for the potential blessing of every individual of every nation. The following was directly said by God to Abraham when God set Abraham apart.
Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the Lord had said unto Abram (who eventually became Abraham), Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
And right in the midst of some of the clearest Messianic prophecies in the Book of Isaiah, we see that the light of Israel (which culminated in its Messiah) was intended to be shed abroad to the nations to bring them to that light (that is, into partaking of the Messiah’s redeeming grace).
Isaiah 49:1-4: “Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.”
We’re about to see how this passage is ultimately a reference to Israel’s Messiah. Note as the passage continues the distinction between the servant here who is speaking and the individuals of the nation of Israel. Not unrelated to this, we can know that the suffering servant spoken of Isaiah chapter 53 is the sin-bearing Messiah, and not Israel as a nation, due to the phrase in Isaiah 53:8, “for the transgression of my people was he stricken.”
Isaiah 49:5-12: “And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim (Sinim is probably a reference to China).”
Simeon was a righteous man who understood that the Messiah was raised up through Israel to be a light intended to bless the gentiles.
Luke 2:25-32 (as Jesus was being presented to the Lord at the Temple as an infant): ‘And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”
We see in the Apostle’s preaching that they as they went out to preach Jesus Christ in gentile cities, they would begin in the synagogue with the Jews who had the Scriptures and who (if there were faithful men there) would be the best qualified to lead a Christian church in that city (since Christianity is founded upon the Jewish Scriptures, and thus upon Scriptural Jewish principles of worship and morality). And yet the Apostles would not neglect the gentiles, usually going to them after their almost inevitable eventual rejection by the synagogue (this definitely didn’t happen with the Bereans though in Acts chapter 17 because of their ready mind and willingness to diligently examine the Scriptures, but it happened with virtually every other synagogue they went to).
These things come together well in the account of the Apostles’ preaching in Antioch of Pisidia in Acts chapter 13. After Paul had initially preached Christ in the synagogue this is what happened afterwards.
Acts 13:42-51: “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes (ethnic gentiles who had previously converted to Judaism) followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles (we see here how the Apostles understood that faithful messengers of the Messiah can be identified with Him in a sense due to how they are faithful testimonies of Him), that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (appointed to eternal life due to their reception of the light of God’s Word pointing them to Jesus Christ, in contrast to the Jews here who had just rejected the light). And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.”
Jesus’ public ministry was focused on the Jewish people- due to how the Jews had been being prepared to be a light to the entire world. They thus had to be visited and instructed first- for the intended benefit of everyone. Jews though frequently regarded gentiles with scorn (some things never change). Jesus rebuked this mentality by the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10:25-37. He emphasized to a Mosaic lawyer something which the lawyer should have already known from God’s Law- that gentiles are just as much your neighbor as Jews are. And actually, all the more are those with spiritual advantages supposed to demonstrate righteousness before, and show compassion towards, those who don’t have such advantages. And it is no wonder that to this very day, men like Moses Maimonides and many before him and after him who have taught similar things, are held in high regard among the Jews. Maimonides taught the superiority of the Jews to the gentile and applied the texts in the Jewish Scriptures about loving one’s neighbor as oneself as having relevance only to other Jews. We see right from God’s Law how horribly wrong those like Maimonides were.
Deuteronomy 10:14-19: “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment (clothing). Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Yes, right as God reminded Israel of the special purpose He had for them, He also reminded them that He does not regard persons nor take bribes. And He commanded them here to love the stranger, with the clear implication that they should treat people like the Egyptians the way that the Egyptians should have treated the Jews when the Jews were in Egypt.
Unlike many of his natural descendants throughout the ages and up until today, the Jewish forefather Abraham saw himself as a servant to those outside of his ethnic kin and considered them as people whom he was obligated to regard with dignity, to demonstrate righteousness before, and to deal justly with. Consider also the obvious regarding where the ground is which we’re about to read about and what God had already said to Abraham about it. This gives an obvious lesson that no matter who you are, and no matter what God has allegedly or actually promised you, there is never an excuse to steal, to defraud nor to treat people as if they have inherently less value than you or as if they are in any way less important to God than you (or to treat any group of people as if they are more or less important to God). All actual racism stems from people not getting this lesson, not to mention the modern experiment of Zionism.
Genesis 23:10-19 (the context is that Abraham’s wife Sarah has died and he is seeking to acquire land in Canaan from Ephron the Hittite to bury her): “And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying, Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead. And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land. And he spoke unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead. And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant. And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.”
With these things in mind, it is no wonder that Jesus would go contrary to the typical custom of the Jews of His day by speaking to a Samaritan woman for the sake of her salvation- while also telling her that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:9 and 22). Jesus Christ calls all people to Himself; and He will judge all people without partiality. All tribal pride, all respect of persons, and all ungodly values must be cast away in coming to Him. All presumptuous assumed privileges must die. The righteous examples in Scripture must be followed; the wicked examples taken as warning. Only a fool would think that God would let them get away with evil deeds and ungodly thinking because of their heritage. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know that the Bible is filled with examples of those of every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation who obtained grace in God’s sight; and to know that the Bible is also filled with examples of those from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation who provoked Him to anger to their own damnation.
John 8:33-39: “They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father (referring to the devil). They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.”
Acts 10:34-35: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
Romans 2:4-11 (let all beware and take heed, Jew and gentile, every person): “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.”
Psalm 145:17-20: “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.”
Aaron’s email is: [email protected]