The Least of the Nations

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In this year that marks the upcoming 75th anniversary of the modern state of Israel, the biblical history of the Promised Land sets the stage for a glorious re-telling of its miraculous origins and its enduring testimony to the world.

Through the people of Israel, God has chronicled the story of the ages that is beyond comparison. In dramatic fashion, God rescued His people time and time again from the hands of their enemies, both ancient and modern. He brought them out of slavery on numerous occasions, recorded in scripture and in the pages of history. He gave them supernatural victories in battles, from the biblical Jericho to modern-day Jerusalem.

God also used the Jewish people to bring unprecedented blessing upon the nations of the world. He brought them back from the far corners of the earth to re-establish them in their homeland, just as He said He would (Ezekiel 36:24), then He planted them as a democratic society in the midst of the volatile Middle East. He enabled them to be a nation that has brought emergency equipment and expertise into humanitarian disasters all around the world, such as the nation of Turkey in recent days. His blessing on the land of Israel has caused it to be an agricultural exporter of products and of harvesting techniques to many nations, as well as numerous technological innovations.

But perhaps one of the greatest miracles of all is the size and number of this people through whom God has done such remarkable things. Deuteronomy 7:7 says of the Jewish people that God chose them not because they were mighty in themselves or great in number, but rather the verse says that they were “the least of all peoples”.

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand… (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

It could be argued that God chose the Jewish people not just in spite of their size, but actually because they were “the least” – so that He could demonstrate that it was He alone who had worked wonders among them.

Indeed, our God specializes in taking the least things and making them the greatest!

It has always been God’s strategy to empower and use a remnant people to make a monumental difference in the world.

Think of it: 

God drove out mighty nations from the Promised Land so that Israel could enter in under Joshua…

God scattered the impressive army of the Midianites before Gideon and his 300 men…

God defeated the Philistines with the one slingshot of the young and inexperienced David…

And God gave the fledgling modern nation of Israel a resounding victory over five Arab armies that attacked her the day after Israeli statehood was declared in 1948.

The apostle Paul spoke of the nature of God to take the weak things of this world to bring about mighty victories:

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. (I Corinthians 1:27-29, NKJV)

Paul’s words as he introduced this theme speak directly to each one of us today:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise… (vv. 26-27, NIV)

If you feel that you are unqualified for the things that God has called you to do, you are in good company!

Most of the heroes of the Bible were people that we would have written off as being unfit for the job. Joseph… Moses… Esther… David. But God saw something more in them and in the tiny people of Israel as a whole: the unique potential to be a people who displayed His awesome works.

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate Pesach (Passover), the feast of remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. While slaves in Egypt, the people of Israel actually prospered and grew even more in numbers the more that they were afflicted by the Egyptians (Exodus 1:12). It was God’s love for them and His faithfulness to His Word, not their own merit or might, that prompted Him to prosper them and to deliver them by a mighty hand (Deuteronomy 7:8).

The people that were the least of all the nations became a beacon of light shining for all the nations to witness.

And what of us today?

Jesus also said to His followers, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). As believers living in this world, we as both Christians and Jews are the focal point of persecution worldwide – and though we may feel small and weak compared to the systems of this world, there is a Greater One among us who makes us the head and not the tail. We are part of a family of faith whom God has promised never to abandon.

Even against the greatest odds, the truth of God’s covenant will always hold firm. What He has chosen, no earthly force can extinguish. Blessed with the favor of their God, the “least of the nations”, Israel, will receive the treasures of the nations (Haggai 2:7), and God Himself will fill the increased house of Israel – Jews and Gentiles together – with His glory.

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