Hebrew Highlights 132 – ROMANS 11
Shalom. This is Yuval Shomron, coming to you from Jerusalem.
I thought it might be good to take a close look at Romans 11. For those of us living in Israel, this is a key chapter to understanding the relationship between Israel and the church. Let’s examine the passages section by section, and see what truths we can glean.
ROM 11:1, “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” This first statement by the Apostle Paul, or as we say in Hebrew “Shaul”, should be enough in itself to refute any and all dispensational theology. Paul could have even reminded us here that most of the writers of the New Covenant were fellow Israelites. If God had rejected His people, we would have a very thin book.
Next, in ROM 11:2-6, Paul expands his defense. “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, they have torn down Thine altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life." But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
Remember that Paul was writing to the Romans; the proud citizens of a great empire. It would have been easy for these gentile conquerors of the Holy Land to believe that God had given the promises, as well as the real estate into their hands. But God’s choices are always based on His choice and His grace. The referral to the remnant of 7000 in Elijah’s story is probably an understatement. Some scholars deduce that as many as a third of the people of Israel at the time came to faith in Messiah Yeshua. Even in the initial revival following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we see that thousands of residents of Jerusalem were saved.
The next section, ROM 11:7-10, is sometimes ignorantly used to speak against Paul’s basic tenant. “What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes to see not and ears to hear not, Down to this very day." And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, And a stumbling block and a retribution to them. "Let their eyes be darkened to see not, And bend their backs forever."
It is true that Israel had angered God, and He allowed their own stubbornness to blind them. Many Israelis put religion above a relationship with God, and thereby missed the very Messiah they had been waiting for. It is also obvious that the phrase “Down to this very day” seems to be timeless, and applies still in the 21st century. However, the chapter is not finished.
ROM 11:11-15, “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
There is no doubt that God’s call for Israel was originally to bring the knowledge of God to the world. Actually, it was indeed the remnant of Israel, in the form of the apostles, who did open up the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul already is speaking in faith about the reconciliation of God’s chosen people, and their return to the promises. When he says, “For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”, he is prophesying about a future Jewish revival that will bring the gospel to world in a way that the gentiles have not managed to do. There is still a lot of work to do. I’ve heard that statistically, more people have heard the name Coca Cola than the name Jesus.
ROM 11:16-21 is a stern warning to the gentiles. “And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.”
In many ways, the church as a whole has not heeded this warning. Arrogance towards the Jewish people has been widespread throughout the church’s history. Even today, when the Israeli revival is alive and well, and teaching about our Jewish roots readily available, some congregations still teach mainly from the New Testament, virtually ignoring the foundation stone of the Old Testament on which it is built. I will comment further on verse 21 at the end of this study.
ROM 11:22-24, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” You don’t have to be a horticulturist to understand this simple truth about the olive tree. In case it’s still difficult for you, let me rephrase it in another example.
If there is a family made up of both adopted children and biological children, the Father’s kindness applies to every child. Yet if some of the biological children run away from home, and reject the authority of the Father, they may loose their inheritance. That does not mean the adopted children can do whatever they want and continue in the grace of the Father. And, if the natural children repent and come home, it will be easy for them to be reaccepted back into the family.
At this point you might be saying, “OK, but why is this important to me?” The apostle Paul evidently anticipated your question, and answered it in the next section of the chapter. ROM 11:25-32, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob." "And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins." From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.”
We must understand this mystery. Speakers often quote verse 29 out of context, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Although the principal is all encompassing, this verse is clearly speaking about the gifts and calling of God concerning the people of Israel. They still have a job to do, and will perform it.
Before going on, I want to, as promised, repeat verse 21, “Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.” Every single one of us has, like Israel, rejected God over and over, sometimes even daily. And, also like Israel, we keep crawling back to God in repentance. Being the loving Father that He is, He receives us every time with open arms.
Now, I may shock some of you if I tell you that the modern state of Israel, and its government are not holy. However, God has gathered His chosen people back to their homeland for two purposes. First and foremost, He has gathered them for their own salvation. If the Bible says, “all Israel will be saved”, then it shall be so. And, if it continues by stating, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob", then we are looking at the second coming of Messiah.
The second purpose for the ingathering is made evident by standing back and looking at the overall flow of this chapter. Israel will play a major role in the end time revival of the entire world.
The final portion of the chapter is again often misquoted out of the context of Israel. ROM 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
Do you see it? The very fact that God has begun the reconciliation of the people of Israel is good news for us all. The existence of the State of Israel today means that God’s grace is everlasting. It means that all of the prophecies are true. It means that all of us sinners saved by grace have a leg to stand on.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and pray for her salvation. ISA 40:1-2 says, "Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God. "Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the Lord's hand Double for all her sins."
As Paul reminded us, “if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
Shalom shalom, from the root of God’s olive tree, Jerusalem.