Not the “Chosen One”

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Once again we hear of the President of the United States referred to as the “chosen one.”[1] The biblical reference to the generic moniker is found in Isaiah chapter 42, which begins: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. Upon him I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.” (Is. 42:1-2) There is no other explicit reference to a chosen one anywhere in the Old or New Testament of the Bible.

Isaiah 42 is the first of the “servant songs” in Isaiah that disclose the nature and mission of God’s servant. Christian thought associates the servant and “chosen one” with the messiah. In Christian theology Christ, the messiah, is the remnant of the nation of Israel, the “shoot [that] shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.” (Is. 11:1) The chosen one is to accomplish the mission God originally entrusted to the nation of Israel, but which Israel proved unable to complete.

The “chosen one” refers explicitly and solely to God’s messiah. There is a strain of thought that also applies the term to the nation of Israel. “The words ‘in whom I delight’ (v.1), confirmed by the reference to faithfulness (v.3), immediately suggest that the servant is either Israel idealized or Israel represented by the ideal Israelite.”[2]

The “chosen-ness” of the chosen one extends through the servant (Christ) to the entire people of God. The concept of Christ as the idealized Israel and the Church as the “body of Christ” marks the theology of St. Paul in his writings as the “mystical union.” The various “members” (people) of the Church can be thought of as “members” of a body. Each of the members has a function to perform in the life of the whole body, and the body is Christ.

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love.  (Eph. 4:11-16)

It is true that there are many biblical instances of God choosing imperfect people to accomplish his will. In fact, this is one of the hallmarks of Christian faith: that God bypasses those the world honors and entrusts his work to sinners. And it might be possible to make a case that every President is in some way anointed by God, by virtue of the fact that they are entrusted with the well-being of the nation (if this is true it must mean all Presidents, not just the ones you agree with politically). But it is in no way possible to associate any President with God’s “chosen one.”

A disciple of Christ ought to shudder at the attribution of the title “chosen one” or “King of Israel” to any man. To acquiesce is to indicate, as Isaiah also prophecies, that we have “all gone astray.” (Is. 53:6)

[1] Aris Folley, “Rick Perry Says Trump Is the ‘chosen one’ Sent ‘to Do Great Things’,” The Hill, November 25, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/471868-rick-perry-says-trump-is-the-chosen-one.

[2] Geoffrey W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 255.

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