Most Christians have heard it or said it, “If you were the only living person on earth, Christ would still have died for you.” In a way, that thought of Yah’s love for the individual is the companion thought to the actual words of Messiah in, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, so none would perish but have everlasting life.” That well-known verse focuses on Yah’s love for an entire group. Like every other Kingdom concept, both thoughts are true and act as the posts at each end of guitar string. When tuned correctly they offer divine tension, creating a truth that we can resonate with. In the end, both speak to the idea of being chosen.
The first idea reaches out to us as types of Adam’s or Eve’s. It lifts us up as unique individuals, intimately made by hand, crafted in our Creator’s image. We are so loved that everything that was created before us was created for us. When we feel that individual love, we get distracted from our holes, defects, and our deep needs. We forget our damage, our wounds, our pain. That desire to embrace that type of love is obvious, and Yah wants us to walk in it. So why does it not stick? Why does it seem like we have to strive to stay in that place? It is because of our inability to love our Father back with the same perfect intensity with which He loves us. It is our inability to be perfect as He is perfect. It is the selfishness that Yah lacks but we perpetually magnify. It is this selfishness that makes this idea resonate with us in the first place. “If I was the only living person on earth, Christ would have still died for me.” That sentiment reflects our self-focused need to be rescued from our own selfishness.
The John 3:16 truth is more complicated. It isn’t just you or me Yeshua was talking to. YHWH sent Messiah to die for the collective. The entire world is so loved. The same price that was paid for you and me individually was paid for literally everyone who has ever lived. It was paid for those who are yet to be born. We become anonymous in this sea of loved humanity. I’m not special. I wasn’t chosen. Yah is not a respecter of persons. Messiah is coming back for his Bride, not for me alone. We all will meet him in the air together. We will all cross over the Jordan together. We are assembled into a living temple together. Every individual ever born doesn’t make the cut, of course, but those who accept the redeeming blood of the Lamb by are grafted into faithful Israel, or as The Body of Christ, or as the Church—all terms for the same exact principle.
This same contrast between our individual selves and the redeemed collective is underscored during the tenth days of the first and second months of each Biblical year. On the tenth day of the first month, each individual is commanded to choose a sheep or a goat to offer as a sign of their individual redemption. This animal is then sacrificed on Pesach (Passover), just four days later. Back in the days of the temple, that would have meant millions of animals killed within a span of just a few hours. Imagine the blood, the noise, the cost. Messiah demonstrated this lesson with his own life as he too was selected on the tenth day as the perfect sacrifice. This was the day, that year a Shabbat, when he rode into Jerusalem to the joyous shouts of an adoring crowd. He was sacrificed just a few days later, alone, as an individual. He paid the cost for each of us individually–for each of us alone.
However, on the tenth day of the seventh month, the object lesson is different. This is the Day of Atonement, which does not represent our individual redemption, but represents the covering Yah offers to his Bride collectively. There are only two goats involved in this ceremony, not millions. The High Priest takes responsibility for the entire process and each individual Israelite plays no part at all. We are simply asked to remain humble as we witness what has been done for us as His collective people. One of the goats is considered Holy, but its twin is sent to wander alone in the wilderness to die. When the ceremony is over, there is only one. The remaining goat, which is sacrificed to YHWH, does not represent you or me. That one remaining goat represents us. All that remains after Atonement is successful are Israel, the High Priest, and YHWH—the three of us are then pure, Holy, and one.
The dynamics of these two separate tenth-days-of-the-month’s throws a wrench into the idea of a “Chosen People”. I think it’s more accurate to say that Yah has invited each of us as individuals into His collective. Yes, He has truly chosen you and me, He’s covered our individual sins, He’s paid for us, and He owns us. However, no human being deserves that special status. Also, no people group, no matter how hard they cling to tradition or DNA, can simply declare themselves as chosen. To be truly His, we each have a responsibility to actively reciprocate His offer by choosing Yah back. It’s only our choice to choose to be chosen that ignites the power. Flowing from there, that power is evidenced through humility and thankfulness which manifests in our lives as love. On a daily basis, we show our choice to love Yah back through keeping His commandments (John 14:15). This is the prime directive of Israel, to manifest Yah’s name, most especially his love, through our choices and through our obedience. This is what a “Chosen People” looks like scripturally. Ultimately, since we are made in His image, and He is choosy, we are called to be particularly choosy. Matthew 22:14 is commonly translated as “for many are called, but few are chosen,” but at least the Aramaic New Testament offers a variation of “for many are called, but few choose”, which makes much more sense in the context of the related parable.
Some of the choices we are asked to make are often quite difficult at first. He chose the Seventh day as Holy and He chose to rest on that day, so we choose likewise. He chose to make certain meats suitable for food and other meat not so much, so we choose likewise. Avoiding idolatry, murder, adultery, and theft are choices we make, with every choice going against our selfish instincts. A Holy life is really just a never-ending series of choices we make as a response to His choice to choose us. When we first enter into a lifestyle of obediently choosing, some of these commandments can seem daunting and even burdensome. After a little practice, however, it turns out that these basic commands, the ten He set in stone, are actually the easy ones.
My wife and I adopted two of our six children from abroad. When they were little, we would tell them that they weren’t simply born into our family, they were chosen. When we chose to adopt, we literally searched the world until we found them. Specifically, them. We paid a high price, left our safety and security behind, traveled to a land we did not know, and personally delivered them into a life of blessing and promise. I don’t know if we consciously recognized it at the time, but we were modeling the life and mission of Messiah through our choices. Every one of us, His redeemed, are asked to make this same series of choices, but are never required to travel or spend a single dime. We are obligated to model Messiah with every relationship in our lives.
We model it to the children we created “the fun way” by choosing every day to love them as Messiah loved us. We choose to fill each of their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs with all of our resources, and with every minute of our lives. We choose to show the love of Yah to each of them, not based on our own understanding and our own needs, but by prayerfully customizing that love to fit their needs. We choose to know each child intimately. This is what our Father does for us, and it’s what every parent must consciously choose to do as part of a Holy lifestyle. It’s this input that will reverberate into their adulthood, into their marriages, and eventually into their children.
If we’re honest, it’s the lack of this individual customized love, or worse, the trauma caused by our own parents’ inability to choose to love us, that remains the loudest echo in our own adult lives. There’s no pain that lasts longer than a father who abandons or abuses his child. Nothing is more confusing to a child than a parent who, by their choices, demonstrates that something or someone else was more valuable than them. Messiah has given us the map to undo these generational curses, but we must do our part by choosing to follow the Way. The promise to heal these deep wounds takes work, but in the end Yah does promise that we will be healed.
It’s not just our parent/child relationship that requires choosing and work. As spouses we are faced with the same challenge. Half of the single adult population of planet was available to each of us, and even with these endless options, married couples eventually found and chose one another, making a lifetime commitment. This choice isn’t just made once at an altar, it’s a choice each partner makes afresh every single day. A marriage is a model of the intimate and sacrificial love of Messiah that we each offer to one another. When we “feel” loved, nothing could be easier. But we are commanded to love our spouses even when we feel lonely, unloved, unappreciated, neglected, or even betrayed. This is when we are most obviously making a choice. This is when we are truly loving our spouse like Christ loves his Bride. We, as Israel, treat Yeshua in those same deficient ways far too often, and yet he never leaves us or forsakes us. In all circumstances, Messiah remains our model.
Our brothers and sisters within the Body of Messiah each have needs that can’t be met by spouses or parents alone. What’s most challenging is there’s no guarantee that we’ll see much of tangible return on these investments. When the easy choice is to keep our distance, we are called actively choose to edify and support, to rebuke and to challenge. We are asked to risk our own feelings and jeopardize our time and resources for one another, offering all of ourselves to one another. We choose to pour the love of Messiah into the lives of our adopted spiritual family, as we are forced to recognize that ultimately Israel is made up entirely of the adopted. We accept the challenge of being brother and sister, aunt and uncle, even grandparents to others who we barely know. All we really need to know is that Yah loves them as much as he loves us. He paid the very same price for them, down to the very last drop of blood.
The ultimate choice we make, certainly the hardest choice, is to love our enemies. When we show love to our children, to our spouses, even to collective Israel, there is usually an element of reaping what we sow. Our children respond by loving us back, and hopefully our spouses will also respond in kind. Loving others in the body often produces a more loving body, and the rising tide of love should lift everybody’s boats. Messiah, however, chose to love knowing that in many cases there would be no payback, no residual income, no selfish benefits at all for him personally. He offered love and was paid back in pain. He offered healing and was repaid with stripes. He offered life and received death in response. He made the ultimate sacrifice because it is the nature of Yah to sacrifice, and Yeshua was entirely one with His father. The hardest choice is to love and to invest in others, especially when our flesh says, “why bother?” or “what’s the use?” or “what’s in it for me?”
That’s the fullness of the reciprocity that’s expected from us.
Those are the choices of Israel, His only Chosen People.