Psalm 33:12 and God’s Chosen Nation
by Adam Maarschalk (December 3, 2010)
Psalm 33:12 is a familiar verse to many people. In the United States, it’s often cited in patriotic sermons or at political events along with a declaration that the US is a Christian nation. This is how the verse reads (see here for its context):
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!”
When studying Scripture, it’s important to consider the original intent of the author—as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit—and who was in his original audience (a study method known as “exegesis”). It’s also good to then consider the meaning and application of a given text to one’s own life and time (known as “hermeneutics”). With this in mind, and given your overall knowledge of Scripture, which of these combinations do you believe to be correct for Psalm 33:12?
|ORIGINAL AUDIENCE:||PRESENTLY APPLIED TO:|
|Ancient Israel||The modern-day nation of Israel and/or the Jewish people|
|Ancient Israel||The nation of Israel, in the future|
|Ancient Israel||The United States of America, at least ideally|
|Ancient Israel||The Church, the body of Christ|
I will assume that there is no disagreement regarding the original audience of this Psalm of David, but if there is please do feel free to express your understanding in the Comments section below. Were you surprised to see option #2 listed above? I was certainly surprised the other day when I saw that a fairly well-known pastor and author proposed this as the primary meaning of Psalm 33:12. This is what prompted me to write this post actually. This assertion was made by Pastor Happy Caldwell, founder of Agape Church, a mega church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Caldwell is also an Executive Board Member with Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the influential pro-Israel organization founded by John Hagee. Caldwell wrote the following in the November 23, 2010 CUFI Weekly Update:
“The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: And the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance”.
In this Scripture we see the “future” of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. God calls those things that be not as though they were. He speaks the end results from the beginning. (Job 42:12) (Ecclesiastes 7:8) (Isaiah 46:9, 10)
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end”. (Jeremiah 29:11)
As we pray for Israel today, let us remember God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Let us stand together with the Nation of Israel and thank God for the “expected end” . . . which is total peace, prosperity and victory.
“The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations.”
In other words, according to Caldwell, this passage (Psalm 33:11-12), which was written roughly 3000 years ago, is not presently being fulfilled, but it will be fulfilled one day for the geopolitical nation of Israel. To be fair, it’s not clear whether or not Caldwell believes this was once fulfilled in ancient Israel prior to the destruction of that nation in 70 AD. Caldwell also asserts that “God’s chosen people” is made up of the citizens of the nation of Israel (In his mind, does this include the Palestinians, since out of Israel’s population of about 7.6 million people nearly 2 million are non-Jewish?). It’s also clear that Caldwell makes a direct association between the modern nation of Israel and God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We’ll discuss shortly why all these assertions are highly problematic.
The “biblecc” website is one I’ve found to be helpful in that it provides parallel commentaries for any given Scripture passage (as well as parallel translations). Their entry for Psalm 33:12 includes commentary from Albert Barnes (1834), Adam Clarke (1831), John Gill (1746-63), Charles Spurgeon – The Treasury of David (1869-85), the Geneva Study Bible, and Matthew Henry. The comments at the end of Albert Barnes’ entry are notable (emphasis added):
“And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance – Chosen to be “His;” or, His portion. The primary reference here is undoubtedly to the Hebrew people, called his “inheritance:” Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 32:9; Psalm 74:2; Psalm 78:62, Psalm 78:71; or “heritage,” Psalm 94:5; Jeremiah 12:7,Jeremiah 12:9; but what is here affirmed of that people is true also of all other people who worship the true God.”
Barnes points to nine Old Testament passages where the term “inheritance” or “heritage” is used as a reference to the ancient nation of Israel. Is he correct in saying that “what is here affirmed of that people is true also of all other people who worship the true God”? Does the New Testament bear this out?
It certainly does. God’s major announcement in Exodus 19 regarding His chosen people finds its New Testament equivalent in I Peter 2, and a comparison of these two passages is very revealing. The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote in September titled, “Who Are God’s Chosen People and Why Are They Chosen?”
God has only ever had one chosen people, and no one (regardless of race) is part of God’s chosen people if they are outside of Christ. God’s chosen people in Old Testament times were chosen for the same purpose as God’s chosen people at this time. Compare what was spoken by Moses to “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3) to what has been spoken to the Church through Peter. The parallel language is unmistakable, and I have letter-coded the parallels (A, B, and C):
 To ancient national Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be [A]MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me [B] A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and a [C] HOLY NATION…” (Exodus 19:5-6).
 To the Church: “But you are a chosen race, [B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” (I Peter 2:9-10).
Can there be any question that the Church is chosen for the same purpose that the nation of Israel was once chosen? …Israel has never ceased to exist. The body of Christ today IS Israel in every true sense (see, for example, Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16). Outside of Christ there is no Israel (as God’s people), despite the fact that a secular, political nation in the Middle East happens to bear that name today. Romans 9:6-8 is most profound on this point (parenthetical notes are mine): “…For not all who are descended from [natural] Israel belong to [spiritual] Israel, and not all are [spiritual] children of Abraham because they are his [physical] offspring…it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” See this article for an excellent explanation of Galatians 6:16’s use of the phrase “the Israel of God” to refer to the Church: http://www.bible-researcher.com/gal6-16.html. Furthermore, we who are in Christ are spiritual Jews, so to speak: “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter…” (Romans 2:28-29; see also Philippians 3:3).
Galatians 3:16 further points out that all the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring, “referring to One, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” In the same chapter, Paul says, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). Does Paul leave any room for those who are outside of Christ to be heirs of the promises? No, he doesn’t, not even for unbelieving Jews. Nor did Jesus (see, for example, John 8:31-47), nor does the New Testament in any place.
Today many teach that the Jews (meaning all ethnic Jews) are God’s chosen people. I believe this is classic false teaching. I Peter 2:9-10, already quoted here, makes it explicitly clear why God’s chosen people, the body of Christ (believing Jews and Gentiles), are chosen. His people have been called out of darkness and now have the privilege of proclaiming His excellencies to those who are still in darkness. Unbelieving Jews remain in darkness, and cannot possibly carry out any such calling. For those who teach that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, the question remains: What are they (allegedly) chosen for at this present time?
It’s for these same reasons that America cannot qualify as God’s chosen heritage, the nation spoken of in Psalm 33:12. The majority of people in America remain in darkness, just like the majority of Jews, and they don’t know the excellencies of Christ’s salvation, let alone have the ability to proclaim them. This calling belongs exclusively to those who are in Christ. Why do we look elsewhere, whether to America or to the nation of Israel, to find some group to fulfill it? Likewise, for Happy Caldwell to speak of Psalm 33:12 as awaiting a future fulfillment for a geopolitical nation is for him to effectively deny that God has had a chosen people for the last 2000 years walking in holiness as His special possession and proclaiming the gospel to those walking in darkness.
In another excerpt from the Sept. 2010 post on God’s chosen people, we saw a quick rundown on what the New Testament has to say about God’s chosen people and why they are chosen:
 “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; see verses 1-13 for context).
 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16).
 “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him…” (Ephesians 1:3-4; see also verses 5-14 for an even fuller description of what belongs to God’s chosen people).
 See also Ephesians 2:11-22 [The word “chosen” is not used, but this passage speaks of God bringing those who were far off (Gentiles) “near by the blood of Christ,” creating “one new man”, “one body,” and breaking down the wall of hostility that separated them (us) from the “the commonwealth of Israel” and “the covenants of promise.”]
 “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (Colossians 3:11-12).
 “As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (I Peter 2:4-10).
Clearly God’s chosen people, according to these passages, are strictly those who belong to Christ. It’s all about bearing spiritual fruit, not being of this world, having every single spiritual blessing, being holy and blameless, being God’s own special possession, proclaiming His excellencies to those who are in darkness, receiving mercy, etc.
Again, these things aren’t true and can’t be true for unbelieving Jews, unbelieving Americans, unbelievers in any location, or for any geopolitical nation as a whole. Yet they are true for the Church. For those who are in Christ, let us rejoice that we are blessed to be part of that nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom He has chosen as His heritage.
All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.