Let us open our bibles to Exodus chapter 4. As God sends Moses to confront the head of a very powerful nation, then Egypt, He tells him to tell Pharoah to “Let My people go” because “Israel is My son, My firstborn”.

Here lies an answer to this ongoing animosity and brings us to consider the great spiritual battle that is raging around this chosen nation. While many nations of the world are rejecting Israel, God will not, for our Father of Love will never reject who He calls His son, His firstborn.

What does it mean for us today that Israel is God’s firstborn? What are the present-day implications, and in particular how does that relate to the church? Rabbi Shaul, known also as the apostle Paul, clearly stipulated Israel’s position in relationship to the church. He gave nine descriptions of who Israel is, however these have been distorted and contorted by much of the visible church and so today many wonder who these people are. The answer to that is found in the heart of the Brit Chadashah, the New Testament.

It is here where the Scriptures explain God’s choice and Israel’s position as firstborn. This is when we consider the letter to the Romans which was written at a time when the level of antisemitism was very high in the Roman world. By the time this letter was written, around 56 A.D., the Jews had been twice expelled from the city of Rome. In 19 A.D., it was the Roman Emperor Tiberius who expelled them while in 49 A.D., Emperor Claudius did the same.

One example of such expulsions happened with Aquilla and Precilla who were a Jewish believing couple, expelled around 49 A.D.  and who later became good friends with Paul. So, seeing the high level of anti-Jewish feelings, Paul writes to the church of Rome and there affirms the biblical position of Israel.

Starting from Romans 3:2, he gives the first major reason why Israel is the firstborn of God, namely, to them were committed the oracles of God. The Scriptures are from the Jews in the sense that they were produced and guarded by them over many centuries. This is true both of the Tanakh, the Old Testament  and the Brit Chadashah, the New Testament writings. Today, we have these Hebrew Scriptures because the Jews did a good job in keeping them intact. This is a great gift Israel has given the church.

The eight other reasons why they are considered firstborn are given in Romans 9:4-5.

Starting with verse 4 we see that the second reason for their firstborn status is because the adoption pertains to them. This adoption began right here in Exodus 4:2 when God called Israel, My son. Note the word pertain; it is in the present tense. Not that it pertained, but rather it pertains to them. Concerning the word adoption, it is a word the secular Greeks of the time used for the legal adoption of a child and the fact that the parent would now recognize that child as their own. Adoption is only used five times in the New Testament, that same word being used for the believer’s adoption into the family of God at the moment of spiritual salvation (Romans 8:15). Therefore, Israel’s adoption as the Father’s firstborn is as sure and unwavering as our own adoption into the family of God.

Third, Israel received the divine glory. This refers to God’s personal revelation to Israel, beginning with the burning bush, then to His presence on Mount Sinai and then to the person of Yeshua, who descended from Israel. So, revelation and salvation were to Israel first, and then given to the entire world.

Fourth, Israel received the covenants, referring in particular to the Abrahamic Covenant that is so often referred to in Scriptures. We read from Exodus 2 to 6, the seven times that the names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are repeated. Why?  Because of the Abrahamic covenant that God made with Israel.

This covenant conveys three important features: the land aspect, referring to that territory which is Israel, and which belongs to the Jewish people. The kingdom aspect, referring to the Davidic promise which affirms that a descendant of David, Yeshua will reign from Jerusalem. Then there is the blessing aspect with the New Covenant through which the ecclesia or church of God houses Gentile believers grafted into the Olive Tree. All these things are really at the core of today’s antisemitism, which does not accept the reality of these covenantal blessings. I am amazed how Exodus chapter four and the letter to the Romans are so actual and timely for today.

Paul continues with the fifth reason. To them, the firstborn, belong the giving of the law; that is the Mosaic Covenant (or law) which declares so many facets of God’s character.

Sixth, the Temple worship. This is the Temple that God had built in Jerusalem and through which we can see so many facets of the redemptive mission of the Messiah. Do you want to know the Messiah? Get to know the Temple; His foreshadowing is seen almost everywhere; in its colors, in the materials used, in how the priests functioned and especially in the sacrifices.

Seventh, we have the promises. So many promises are given to Israel and today we can see God’s great faithfulness as He is fulfilling many of them in His bringing back of the exiles, His restoration of the land, and His protection over this country as we move into the Messianic Times when many of these promises will then be fulfilled.

Eighth, we have the patriarchs, or the fathers. Why mention them? Every time their names are mentioned, it brings us a precious piece of hope, our expectation of life in eternity. This is because the Bible speaks of them as alive and well in God’s eternal abode. In our last study Yeshua spoke of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense, defending the doctrine of the resurrection, saying in Mark 12:17 that our God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The patriarchs are mentioned because their testimony has not ended yet.

Ninth, and surely not least but perhaps the greatest reason of all is that it was through Israel, according to the flesh, that Messiah came. Jesus was a Jew. While we might understand how the nations of the world hate the Jews, how, we ask, can Christians hate Jews? I never understood this, up to this day, how some Christians hate the Jews. I leave this with God.

Romans 3:2, 9:4-5 can be seen as a modern commentary on Exodus 4:22 when Moses was told to go to Pharaoh and tell him:  Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.”


Click here for Exodus Sermon 6 : Israel My Son, My First Born