Who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God…
The name Israelites was a most honourable one, and dear to them all. The relationship which it signalised was fitted to remind them that by the condescension of the Omnipotent One, there was something "princely" within their reach (Genesis 32:28; Hosea 12:3).
I. THE ADOPTION. Under the Old Testament the Divine adoption realised itself specifically in the collective theocratic people as a people (Exodus 4:22; cf. Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1). The collective people were for great theocratic purposes adopted into a relation of Divine sonship, and thus into a relation of peculiar Divine privilege; not, however, because of a feeling of partiality in the heart of God toward a section of His human family, but because His benignant Messianic purposes, widespreading to the ends of the earth, required some arrangement of the kind. Such was the Divine plan in Old Testament ages. The Israelites were God's "son," "daughter," or "daughter of His people." At times the representation tended anticipatively toward the grander principle of personal individuality; as when it is said, "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me." But it was reserved for the New Testament age to give emphasis to the idea of personal individualism in relation to the Divine adoption (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:1).
II. THE GLORY. The reference is to that peculiar symbol of the Divine presence which guided the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness, overshadowing them by day and illuminating them by night (Exodus 13:21, 22; Exodus 14:19). This was in some external respects God's glory par excellence (Exodus 24:16). It was a magnificent symbol of Divine guidance and protection, and was denominated "the Shekinah." Wherever it was to be found, there God was to be found; not indeed as in His palace-home, the "house not made by hands," but as in His temporary tent beside His tented people in the period of their pilgrimage — a very present Helper and Defence.
III. THE COVENANTS. These were engagements on the part of God to confer distinguishing privileges on the patriarchs and the Israelites in general, on condition of responsive appreciation on their part, and the observance, in all the affairs of life, of His regulative will (Genesis 15:1-6; Genesis 17:1-8, 15-19; Exodus 19:1-9). But these engagements, while thus involving, as is suggested by the Hebrew term Berith, a certain ineradicable conditionality, were at the same time in accordance with the Greek suntheke, spontaneous and unencumbered dispositions of goods and distributions of benefits, just as if they had been actually "willed" to them by testamentary deed. God "disposed" of certain portions of His means and goods for the benefit of His national son, though it was impossible that He could alienate the goods from Himself, or alienate Himself from both His present usufruct and His perpetual right of property.
IV. THE GIVING OF THE LAW, i.e., the Divine legislative enactments published from Sinai, and constituting in their sum the code which is known as the "moral law." It is incomparably the best of all bases for the innumerable details of practical jurisprudence. It goes back, indeed, in its form to that primitive era when duty was, to a most preponderating extent, identified with moral self-restraint. Hence its injunctions are wisely set forth in negations. But when the detailed expanse of the decalogue is condensed into the summation of the duologue, the phase of representation is become affirmative; and nothing can excel the duological enactments in comprehensiveness, completeness, simplicity, and direct authority over the reason and the conscience.
V. THE SERVICE, i.e., the temple service — a grand ritual, here regarded as a Divine appointment or grant of grace. Being in its many and varied details instinct with practical significance, it was fitted to recall to the minds of the worshippers what was due to God on the one hand, and how much was graciously provided by Him on the other.
VI. THE PROMISES — announcements of coming favours — avant-couriers of the favours themselves, and sent forth to stimulate expectation and support the heart. All the Old Testament dispensations were replete with Messianic promises. His coming was "the promise" — the one running promise made to the fathers (Acts 13:32), and involved all other Messianic blessings, such as the atonement, the kingdom of heaven, the reign to be continued "as long as the sun," the "new earth," the "inheritance of the world" (Romans 4:13, 14). It involved peace, joy, hope, all of them unspeakable and full of glory (Romans 5:1-11).
VII. THE FATHERS — the patriarch fathers, the band of whom Abraham was the leader and typical representative. They were far indeed from being men without blemish. But perhaps most of the sinister bars in their escutcheon were parcels of the heritage which they had received from their ancestors. But notwithstanding their blemishes they were at once childlike in faith and reverential in spirit. Their thoughts rose up on high. They "sought a heavenly country and looked for a city whose builder and architect was God" (Hebrews 11:10-14). It was no little advantage to be descended from such sires.
VIII. THE CHRIST. The Messiah emerged from among the Hebrews, and thus "salvation was of the Jews." It was their crowning prerogative. Jesus was a Jew. But His own people knew not their privilege, and they perceived not that it was the time of tide in the day of their merciful visitation (John 1:11; cf. Matthew 21:39). When the apostle said "so far as His human nature was concerned," his mind was already mounting the infinite height which rose beyond. "Who is over all, God, to be blessed for ever."
(J. Morison, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;