You only have I known. How those five words confound the modern theologian! And yet there they are, big as life. “O children of Israel . . . You only have I known.” But can this be? Does God really have only one people that He calls His Own? How narrow and exclusive this sounds to the modern ear! But did our Lord not choose us above all others? Is what sounds good to the modern ear even relevant? Truth is truth whether it sounds good to the modern ear or not, isn’t it?
The writer believes that the only standard for the Christian is the Word of God. Therefore, we believe that the Word of God — not our feelings, nor what is socially or politically acceptable at any given moment — is to be our benchmark in all matters of doctrine.
Let us see what further saith the Word of God. Did God really choose Israel above all others? Deuteronomy 7:6-11 declares to the children of Israel “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; and repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.”
God hath indeed chosen Israel above all other people to be His very own, and He charges His people to be obedient to His Law.
Again, Psalm 33:12 declares, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” Translated from the Septuagint, which is what Christ and His disciples used, this verse is better rendered “Blessed is the race whose God is Jehovah, and the family whom God hath long ago chosen for His own inheritance.” That racial family — as defined by the Word of God — are the Israelites, whom God affectionately calls the apple of His eye. So, who are the Israelites? Are they to be spiritualized or are they a literal people?
The text makes it clear that they are the literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. History tells us that the Israelites became known as the Khumri after the Assyrian captivity. The Khumri later became known as the Scythians, from whom the modern European peoples descend. This being so, we are that people whom God hath chosen as His inheritance above all other people and to whom He saith, “You only have I known.”
So, what does this mean for us today?
Some among us tend to let the above passages lure them into a prideful arrogance, as though we are something special. It is true we are special to God, and we do indeed hold a position of importance with Him that is held by no other race of people. But we did not earn it. It was simply God’s choice. He decided in the infinite past that He wanted us to be His inheritance, His own special treasure. Therefore, we have nothing to boast about in ourselves, it was simply the choice of the Almighty.
Let us never think more highly of ourselves than we ought. To the contrary, we of all the peoples of the earth should be humble because being the “you only ” of God comes with a great and weighty responsibility.
Let us return to our opening text and read further . . . “O children of Israel . . . You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. .” Amos 3:1-2
Commenting on this passage, “You only have I known,” Adam Clarke writes in other words, “I have taken no other people to be my own people. I have approved of you, loved you, fed, sustained, and defended you; but because you have forsaken me, have become idolatrous and polluted, therefore will I punish you. And the punishment shall be in proportion to the privileges you have enjoyed, and the grace you have abused.”
And this is where we are today.
It’s like the times when you and your playmates got into trouble as a children. Your father didn’t concern himself with the other children. He singled you out and tore into you because you were his child. He taught you better. You knew better. Yet, you disobeyed. We are indeed God’s special treasure. We are His people, chosen above all others. He calls no other people His. He calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Israel. But let us not allow ourselves to be prideful or arrogant in this fact: let us rather be grateful.
In gratefulness of heart and humility, let us take our position as the people of God seriously, and let us keep His commandments. For it was our pridefulness and arrogance that got us in the mess we are in.
Oh, the joy and the weight of being the only people of God.