The People of God: Part 2 of 7 God Chooses and Calls a People

With the fall and downward spiral of humanity, the beginning of God’s redemptive and restorative mission is revealed. Genesis 3:15 announces the proto-euangelion (first gospel) with the initial proclamation of the future “serpent head crusher” who by his suffering forms a new humanity. Moreover, God reveals his mission by choosing to enter into a covenant with Noah and calling him and his family into the life saving ark (Gen 6:18). After the flood, God reiterates his cultural mandate (Gen 1:28) by calling Noah and his family to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” and to exercise authority over the earth (Gen 9:1,2). They were to worship God by depending on him, and they were to serve him by participating in his mandated mission. By covenanting with Noah, God commits to a new, long term plan to redeem and restore people into right-relationship with himself.[1] The establishment of the covenant enabled Noah and his descendants to encounter God in new ways and to experience the reality of belonging to God and to each other.

However, after the tower of Babel, the people were scattered due to their desire to make a name for themselves (11:4), but out of this scattered people, God again chooses and calls a people into covenant relationship with himself. This began with Abraham and Sarah where God promises to make Abraham’s name great, to make him into a great nation, to bless him with land and to use him as “the instrument of life-giving blessing to the world.”[2] Here, God chooses and calls one person “who then expands into a multitude of descendants, for the purpose of participating in God’s redemptive work in the world.”[3] This is a significant development of God’s mission, and it is the foundation for one’s understanding of the rest of the overall biblical story.

God’s covenantal promises continued to Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, who was renamed Israel, and from his twelve sons descended the twelve tribes of Israel. These “children of Israel” are those who are the people of God, and God decisively chooses and calls them his people while they were enslaved in Egypt. Exodus 6:6-7 states,

I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (ESV).

And later in Exodus 19:4 God says to Israel, “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Deuteronomy 7:6-8 explains that God chose Israel “out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” because he loved them and kept the oath he swore to their ancestors. These passages emphasize the sovereign and loving nature of God in choosing and calling a people, and this is what set them apart as unique people among all the other people of the Ancient Near East. The Israelites encountered and belonged to the one, true and loving God.[4] They were the people of God.

[1] Brad E. Kelle, Telling the Old Testament Story: God’s Mission and God’s People (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017), 51.[2] Kelle, Telling, 57. [3] Kelle, Telling, 56. [4] Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Engagement with God, Translated [from the German] by John Halliburton (London: S.P.C.K., 1975), 35.