God’s regrets

  • Question from BC, Singapore

    Did God regret the selection of Israelites as His people, because all the books of prophets seem to be against the Israelites?

    While the prophetic books are often very critical of the way the Israelite people ‘forsook’ Yahweh and worshipped, for example, Baal and other Canaanite gods, it should be noted that the prophets generally sought to call Israel back to worshipping Yahweh, even while predicting terrible judgement.

    In one sense the Old Testament contains the prophetic books that came true. In the stories surrounding Jeremiah there are several ‘prophets’ who ‘prophesy’ positive outcomes, in contrast to Jeremiah’s warnings of doom. It was Jeremiah’s predictions that happened and so, with the vantage point of history, the later compilers assumed he was a genuine prophet and his oracles were preserved, unlike the sayings of his contemporaries.

    This is quite a cynical view of Biblical formation, but it must be borne in mind. Many of the prophets operated outside the rigid religious caste system. They usually did not belong to the priesthood and were often very critical of the organised religious activities. The fact that they were proved right in the end has played a very big part in their subsequent acceptance as ‘speaking from God’.

    Within Christianity, the heritage of these prophets has been a sense that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. Certainly there have been prominent theologians and writers who have virtually said that the Church has taken on this role because the Israelites ‘blew their chance’. The concept of ‘developing revelation’, where God reveals his will through the covenant with Abraham, the Law given to Moses, the Temple religion of the nation of Israel and finally the Incarnation, often explains the disobedience and disloyalty of the Israelites as a part of God’s plan. By showing that human beings could not succeed in living according to God’s directions, whether through the Law or the ‘witness of the prophets’, the necessity for God’s personal involvement in the world through the Incarnation was made clear.

    Thanks for your question BC.

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