The Faithful God of Israel.
You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong. – Romans 11:24 NLT
When reading the book of Romans, especially chapters nine through 11, it is easy to make it all about Jew and Gentile. God, it appears, has rejected one and received the other. But while Paul talks a great deal about these two specific people groups, the real hero of the story is God Himself. Paul has emphasized over and over again the sovereignty and grace of God. He has highlighted God’s undeserved grace and mercy, and made clear the fact that no one, either Jew or Gentile, can earn a right relationship with God. Whether speaking of the nation of Israel or the Gentile nations, it is God who calls, chooses, redeems, restores, and even rejects. But Paul makes it clear that God has NOT rejected the people of Israel. “I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1 NLT). Paul himself was a Jew and he most certainly had not been rejected by God. He had been chosen by God and had had a life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. He was a living example of the fact that God had not completely rejected the people of Israel. Paul reminds his readers that God has been carefully and faithfully sparing a remnant of His chosen people for generations. “…a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace — his undeserved kindness in choosing them. And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is — free and undeserved” (Romans 11:5-6 NLT). As it was with the Gentiles, so it would be with the Jews. A right relationship with God was to be solely based on grace, not works or effort. No one was going to earn their way into good favor with God, not even the people of God, the Jews.
As a result, a majority of the Jews had failed to be restored to God. Unwilling to believe that salvation was available through the death of a single man, they continued to pursue a right relationship with God through attempting to keep the law – a pursuit that Paul considered foolish and impossible. But Paul explains that the rebellion of the people of Israel and their rejection of God had a divine purpose. “Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have — the ones God has chosen — but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Scriptures say, ‘God has put them into a deep sleep. To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear'” (Romans 11:7-8 NLT). According to Paul, this was all God’s doing. But why? What was His purpose in hardening their hearts, shutting their eyes, and closing their ears? “God made salvation available to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:11 NLT). That was the purpose. Their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah and Savior opened the doors to the Gentiles. This had always been part of God’s plan. Even long before the moment God made His promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth through him, He had planned make His grace and the gift of His Son available to all nations. And He would use the rejection of Jesus by the Jews as a springboard to for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the nations. Jesus, a Jew, would be the Savior of all the nations, not just His own people. And yet, God did not completely abandon the people of Israel. As Paul writes, they had not fallen beyond recovery. Their disobedience made salvation available to the Gentiles. But the day is coming when many of Paul’s Jewish brothers and sisters will turn to Christ. “For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead!” (Romans 11:15 NLT). Why? Because of the faithfulness and mercy of God. He is not done with the people of Israel. He will spare and restore a remnant of the Jewish people, using the Gentiles as a means to create jealousy among them. In all of this, Paul can see the divine hand of God, working behind the scenes in ways we can’t understand. God chose to make the Israelites a special people in His eyes. He raised up the Savior from among them, but they ended up rejecting Him. But their rejection of the Messiah made possible the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. And the blessings of God upon the Gentiles who received Christ as their Savior would be the impetus behind the future salvation of many Jews. And the day is coming when the salvation of the Jews will lead to even more Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. This whole section is really about the faithfulness and sovereignty of God. It is about His divine plan for mankind and how He intends to fulfill that plan and keep His promises to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
We cannot fully understand the ways of God. But it is dangerous for us to question His methods or means. We may not understand what God is doing, but we have no right to doubt His plan or purposes. He knows what He is doing. We can trust that He will do what He has promised and complete what He has begun. We have a limited, short-term perspective. He is eternal and has a long-term view that knows how all this works out in the end. There is a method to God’s seeming madness. He is purposeful and faithful. He is righteous and just. His ways are not our ways. His wisdom is beyond our understanding. But we can rest in the fact that God has everything under control and nothing can prevent His sovereign plan from one day coming to complete and perfect fruition.
Father, You are in control. You are sovereign and have all things held firmly in Your hands. That includes my future and the future of the people of Israel. You are faithful and always keep Your promises. You never go back on Your word or fail to do what You have said You will do. Thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your plan. Not because I deserved it, but because of Your grace and mercy. Thank You that You are going to one day restore the people of Israel. You are not done yet. Your work is not complete. But one day it will be. And I rest in the assurance that You are in complete control, whether I can see it or sense it. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men