Israel was Chosen
Amos begins a new thought in Amos 3:1, 2, saying,
1 Hear this word which the Lord has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt, 2 “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
Only Israel was chosen, he says. Some have taken this to mean that only those who could trace their genealogy to Jacob-Israel could be “chosen.” But this is not so. First, Amos was talking about the NATION of Israel, which included more than just those whose ancestor was the man called Israel.
A “mixed multitude” left Egypt with the Israelites (Ex. 12:38). They were included in all of the feasts (Deut. 16), and they participated in the covenants as well. When the Old Covenant was instituted in Exodus 19:8, “all the people” swore obedience to God. And in the second covenant 40 years later, the aliens in Israel were specifically included (Deut. 29:11).
Hence, the Bible normally refers to Israel as a nation, not a race.
Furthermore, the law commanded that the genealogical Israelites must love the aliens as themselves (Lev. 19:34), and that the law applied equally to all (Num. 15:15, 16). When Israel entered Canaan, there were only 12 tribal territories, for the aliens had been integrated into their midst and had joined whatever tribe they chose. So there was no separate tribe of Egyptians in the land. All were Israelites by nationality, if not by genealogy.
Hence, when God speaks through Amos saying, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth,” one cannot use this to prove that only genealogical Israelites were chosen. It refers to all of the citizens of the nation who had come under the covenants of God.
To be “chosen” is to be under covenant. Not only were the aliens under the second covenant (Deut. 29:1, 11), but also, many years later, Isaiah said specifically that aliens could come under God’s covenant, saying in Isaiah 56:6, 7,
6 Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; 7 even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
Isaiah says nothing of second-class citizens of Israel, nor does the law discriminate in its system of justice. Anyone who joins himself to the Lord “and holds fast My covenant” is chosen of God and is given equal status with all other citizens of Israel.
The only real caveat here is in distinguishing between the two covenants. Because all have sinned, no one has been able to keep the Old Covenant that was made in Exodus 19. That covenant was broken and abolished (Heb. 8:13), so no one is “chosen” through that covenant.
However, the New Covenant (type), which was established in Deut. 29, empowered Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. It was a covenant by which God vowed to make them His people and to be their God (Deut. 29:12, 13). To be God’s people is to be chosen.
In fact, God broadened this to include all who were not present at the time, saying in Deut. 29:14, 15,
14 Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but both with those who stand here with us in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today.
This covenant included the aliens in verse 11 who were standing there at the time, and hence, it also included all of the aliens who were not present. In other words, it was a universal covenant that included all men in every generation from the beginning to the end of time. God vowed to make the aliens “His people” in the same manner as Israel was “His people.” There was no distinction (Rom. 3:22).
For this reason, when God says to Amos that only Israel was chosen, it means that all men must become Israelites to be chosen. To become an Israelite is to come under the New Covenant, even as Jacob himself had to be transformed by the renewing of his mind in order to become an Israelite.
As people appropriate the New Covenant by faith in its Mediator, Jesus Christ, they become “chosen,” along with the remnant of grace in the days of Elijah, who alone were chosen among the millions of Israelites. Paul says in Rom. 11:7, “those who were chosen obtained it [grace], and the rest were hardened.” It is clear that one cannot be chosen under the Old Covenant, for all have sinned and failed to keep the terms of their vow or oath.
God says that because Israel was chosen, “therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Being chosen, then, does not mean that one is privileged to sin without any consequences. In fact, it means the opposite. The more one knows, the more one is held accountable.
Recall what Heb. 12:5-8 says,
5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
So we see that because Israel was part of God’s family, He was responsible to discipline the nation as a son, for Hos. 11:1 says, “out of Egypt I called My son.” Israel was not exempt from punishment or discipline. In fact, being “chosen” made God responsible to discipline Israel, even as a father is responsible to discipline and train his son.