Christian thought generally leads us to believe that up until the birth of Jesus, the Jews were God's chosen people, and only after the resurrection did the promise of God extend to the Gentiles. Sure, we know that from the very first covenant, God had in mind the whole of humanity, but clearly, He's got a preference for Israel that extends from the time of Abraham all the way through to the ministry of Jesus (who had a thing for ragamuffins).
But it's not so simple.
If you look closely at the Old Testament, every time God's people are brought one step closer to their promise, a few more "outsiders" are let in.
When their scouts head out to see what Canaan looks like, they come upon a prostitute named Rahab. She and her family are the only ones spared when Israel sacks Jericho, and they do not live as outsiders or remnants of the fallen; no, they become an integral part of the community of God's people. How do we know? Because one testament later, we find out that Rahab is an ancestor of Jesus.
When the people of Israel are trying to figure out how to celebrate the Passover, it's said that "there may be foreigners among you who want to eat the Passover meal with you." And God's opinion on this? They can. They have to be circumcised and ritually clean at the time, but simply not being biological Jews is no excuse to exclude them from a table that they want to sit at.
When Israel is retaking their land after exile in Babylon, Ezekiel is given the instructions for dividing up the land and settling the tribes back into it. These instructions clearly say, "This land will be for you. It will also be for the foreign residents who live among you.... Think of them as Israelites." (47:22)
There are, of course, other examples along the way, but just look at this progression: one woman/family is spared, then a good number of foreigners are welcomed at the table, and finally, a greater number still are given land among the inheritance of Israel. The prostitute recognized the power of God, the good number were circumcised and cleansed as a sign of their commitment, and the greater number still are integral to the community of God.
Isn't it cool?
So often, we look at this as black and white. One moment, Israel; the next moment, the world. But God's been working from Israel out toward the world the whole time, in all these small but significant ways that are so easy to miss if we're not paying attention.
It really makes you wonder what kind of small but significant things He's up to in your own life that are slowly but surely leading you to a bigger theology and a greater love....