In Deuteronomy 9, God reminds his people that it was not because of their righteousness or “deserving” that he was bringing them into the Promised Land. In fact, he reminds them of their stubbornness and sin. So WHY did God choose them over other people he could have chosen? John Piper helps us understand in a sermon, “The Pleasure of God in Election”
Deuteronomy 10:14–15 describes the delight God had in choosing Israel from all the peoples of the earth.
14) Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; 15) yet the Lord set his heart in love upon your fathers [literally: “the Lord delighted in your fathers to love them”] and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day.
Notice two things.
God’s Complete Freedom
First, notice the contrast between verses 14 and 15. Why does Moses describe the election of Israel against the backdrop of God’s ownership of the whole universe? Verse 14 says: To God belongs everything in heaven and on earth. Then verse 15 says: Yet he chose you for his people.
Isn’t the point to dispel any notion that God was somehow hedged in to choose this people? Isn’t the point to explode the myth that each people has its own god and this god has a right to his own people but no more?
So Moses’ point in saying, “God owns everything in heaven and on earth—absolutely everything—yet he chose you,” is to make clear to the Israelites that God was not locked in to choosing them. He had rights and privileges to choose absolutely any people on the face of the earth for his redeeming purposes. And therefore when he calls himself “their God,” he does not mean that he is on a par with the gods of Egypt or the gods of Canaan. He owns those gods and their peoples. And if it had pleased him, he could have chosen a totally different people to accomplish his purposes. The point of putting verses 14 and 15 together in this way is to stress the freedom and the universal rights and authority of God.
The Way God Exercises His Freedom
The second thing to notice is in verse 15: the way God exercises his freedom is to “set his love upon the fathers.” That means that God freely chose to make Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the object of his delight and love. God’s love for the fathers of Israel was free and merciful and wasn’t constrained by anything that the fathers were in their Jewishness or in their virtue.
One of the ways God makes this clear is that when Abraham has two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, God only chooses one of them, Isaac. And when Isaac has two sons, Jacob and Esau, even before they were born, God only chooses Jacob not Esau to continue the line of his chosen people. And Paul stresses in Romans 9:10–13 that the reason for this was to show that God’s election is free and unconditional. It is not based on Jewishness or virtue or faith; it is free, and therefore completely merciful and gracious.