Romans 11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
In this chapter Paul deals with the question, “Has God given up on Israel?” For Paul, this is a very special concern. Remember that he began chapter 9 with a statement of faith. That statement was that he would be willing to die and go to hell if it would somehow result in the salvation of the nation of Israel. Then in chapter 10, we find him expressing again his desire that Israel is saved. Now, he proclaims, as fact, God has not rejected his people. After all, Paul himself was an Israelite a descendant of Abraham.
When we study the Old Testament we see many of God’s people who are discouraged.…
Elijah, for example. Let’s read on Romans 11:2-4. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
God has not rejected his people. Let’s unpack the story of Elijah and see how discouragement can cause us to forget our mighty God.
When Ahab became king of Israel he married Jezebel the daughter of the King of Sidon. Of course, she was an idol worshiper. Ahab turned away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God sent Elijah to tell Ahab that it would not rain until he, Elijah, said so! Then Elijah went into hiding three and half years. At the end of that time Elijah called for a contest. Ahab gathered together 850 prophets of the pagan gods. They were instructed to set up an altar and place of sacrifice on it but put no fire on it. Elijah’s challenge was, “The God who answers by fire, he is God.”
The pagan prophets danced around their altar all day. They cut themselves with knives and cried out to their god. But there was no fire!
At the time there would normally be an evening sacrifice to the God of heaven Elijah erected an altar, had a trench dug around it, placed wood on top of it and a bull for sacrifice. Elijah had the people soak the altar and its sacrifice with water and filled the trench around it with water. Then he prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that these people may know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.” (1 Kings 18:36-37). God answered with fire that consumed the offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and the water. Immediately the people fell on their faces and proclaimed Yahweh is God!
Then in response to Elijah’s prayers, God sent rain and ended the drought. It would seem that God through Elijah had worked a great victory. Elijah should have been at the top of his game instead the Queen promised to have him killed. And Elijah ran! He had stood against 850 pagan priests but he ran at the threat of one woman! Elijah believed he was all alone so he went into the wilderness and asked God to kill him! No need to go anywhere Jezebel would’ve taken care of that task. When the angel of the Lord asking why he was running he replied that he was the only person left who followed Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s reply was, “I have kept for myself 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Elijah could not see them but they were there nonetheless. This is just one example, there are many more. In fact, we often feel rejected and all alone. There is always a remnant, chosen by grace through faith. Israel pursued the law and did not succeed in reaching that law. The reason they failed was they did not pursue by faith instead law became — not a rock to stand on — a stumbling stone that they tripped on. So only a remnant continues even to this day.
We must remember…
God did not fail! Israel failed. Let’s go back to Romans 11:5-7. So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.
Paul could see that just as God had a remnant in Elijah’s day he also had a remnant in Paul’s day. This selection of a remnant was based on God’s grace. Since it is by grace and had nothing to do with works. If one can earn salvation by some kind of good works God’s grace would have no value. Remember the rich young man who came to Jesus? (Matthew 19:21-22) He asked what he must do to be saved. Jesus pointed him to the law and he said that he had kept the law says he was a child. At the same time, he did not believe he was all right with God. Jesus told him to sell everything and give it to the poor and follow him! He went away from Jesus that day because he had great possessions. Or his great possessions had him! Salvation cannot be earned it is the gift of God who Jesus Christ our Lord. Throughout the centuries…
Israel were repeat offenders. Let’s turn to Deuteronomy 29:4. But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.
These words are taken from Moses’ renewing the covenant with Israel before he died. They had seen the miracles of God in Egypt and they had been provided for in the wilderness for 40 years. Yet they didn’t get it. It would seem they should have known that God can take care of them because he had been doing so for their entire lifetime. Three or four hundred years later God spoke through Isaiah…
Isaiah 29:10 For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).
His people had repeatedly heard, and seen, the power of God on their behalf. But, they refused to listen. God did not blind their eyes to his love and grace. They hardened their own hearts, like Pharaoh of old, and so God turned off their understanding. This should be a severe caution to anyone today who have heard the gospel and have refused to listen to it. If anyone hears the truth and does not respond to it the time will come when he or she will be incapable of responding. It is a terrifying thing to reject the living God. Refusing to hear God, Israel was self-condemned…
As a result, they stumbled. Again we look to Isaiah Isaiah 8:13-15. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
Here Isaiah is warned away from the people. God placed his hand — his strong hand — on Isaiah and warned him not to walk in the way of the people. Isaiah was instructed to honor God and let him be his fear. The people failed the test again and again! If we are not cautious we will also fail to meet the test. God became, not a rock to stand on but a stone to stumble over. In every generation, most of the people failed to follow God in faith. We must remember the God always has a faithful remnant who will follow him to the death. We recognize what Israel did not and that is…
God had a purpose they did not understand. Let’s go back to Romans 11:11-12. So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
The people stumbled but not without God’s purpose. Please remember, nothing can come into our lives except God guide it. He had a purpose in the failure of Israel. Israel was not past the point of redemption. Their “trespass” refers to Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.
Their trespass led to the salvation of the Gentiles. God’s purpose was to cause the Jews to be jealous and to seek God’s face. Their trespass meant spiritual riches to the world. There had always been a remnant of those who followed Abraham by faith. Even in the Old Testament, we find many examples of non-Jewish people who followed God. Melchizedek blessed Abraham because he was a priest of “God most high” (Genesis 14:18) who I take to be Yahweh. Moses was taken in by “the priest of Midian” (Exodus 2:16, 3:1). From these two examples I assume that there were many more. Today, I believe there are more believers in Christ Jesus than there appears to be on the surface.
Since the exclusion of the unbelieving Jews opened the door to Gentile inclusion in the kingdom of God it is possible we will fall into the trap of anti-Semitism. We are not included because we are worthy or have some kind of special ability. In fact, God intended that the gospel be proclaimed throughout the whole world so that everyone who believes can be saved. The failure of the Jews to believe in the Messiah is riches on the Gentiles. But the inclusion of the Jews will be rejoicing for us all. Those words in the ESV “full inclusion” or in the KJV “their fullness” does not mean they will all, historically, be saved. It seems to me there is a time in the future when all the Jews — or at least the vast majority — will be saved! I confess to you that I do not know everything I want to know about the end times.
I do know…
We Gentiles should not be proud. Let’s read on Romans 11:13-16. Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
Israel’s rejection of Jesus ultimately leads to reconciliation between God the entire world. If the Jews rejection produces such a redemptive effect, their acceptance of Jesus to bring even greater blessings. The next time we are in Romans chapter 11 we will look more seriously at the inclusion of the Gentiles in the restoration of the Jews. In the meantime…
There are repeated promises, throughout the Old Testament, that Israel will come back to God. The descendants of Abraham through the lineage of Isaac and Jacob will come to faith in Christ. There has never been a time when there were not Jewish believers. But that does not account for the promises of a restored nation of believing Israel. One of the satanic attacks is anti-Semitism! Satan is never stopped trying to destroy the Jews. By all human reasoning it would seem that these dispersed and despised people should have been destroyed! They have been held together by God until the fullness of the Gentiles occurs. The great multitude mentioned in Revelation will contain millions of Jews. I want to be there and I want a lot of my friends and family to be with me. Are you ready? Have you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Remember, everyone who in faith calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.