Summary: God has neither totally nor finally given up on Israel.
Have you ever given up on a person? You even felt that the person is beyond your reach… even beyond the reach of God. Well, when we look at the nation Israel, we tend to think that way. In view of the ongoing and, it seems, never-ending conflict there, it appears to us that God gave up on Israel. Is there a future for Israel? Or, has God rejected her totally and finally? The answers to these questions about her future will also determine our future. For ours is tied up with hers.
Before we turn to Romans 11, let us look at big picture of the book of Romans. There are five parts in this puzzle, namely, sin, salvation, security, sovereignty and sacrifice. Tonight, we will zoom in at the sovereignty of God in Israel. First, Paul talked about sin. All of us stand guilty equally and desperately before God. Then, he talked about salvation. We can only be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. He then moved on to security. By the Spirit, we are secure in our relationship with God. Here questions about the fate of Israel will come into play. If God gave up on the Jews, what would keep Him from giving up on us? That’s how important this issue is to us.
Here we will find that God will keep His commitment to the believers just as He will keep His covenant with Israel. Interestingly, the first 8 chapters of Romans discussed the past or justification, the present or sanctification, and the future or glorification aspects of salvation. The next three chapters on Israel mirror it. “The emphasis in chapter 9 is on Israel’s past election, in chapter 10 on Israel’s present rejection, and in chapter 11 on Israel’s future restoration.” Just as God was, is and will be faithful to Israel, so also He was, is and will be faithful to us.
Chapter 9 answers the question, “Why did God choose Israel over all the other nations?” It was because of His mercy, not because of any merit on their part. Chapter 10 answers the question, “Was God right in rejecting Israel?” Israel did not believe so God rejected her. They were not ignorant. But rather they ignored the salvation God offered through Christ. Thus, Paul argued, God was right in rejecting Israel. It was not an arbitrary decision. Now, chapter 11 answers the question, “Was the present rejection of Israel total and final?” Romans 11 gave four reasons why the rejection of Israel by God at the present time is neither final nor fatal. Now, in view of our limited time, I will just highlight some verses in our passage. If ever you want a full-blown exposition of the text, I encourage you to join a Precepts class.
First, God has not given up His people because He reserved them for Himself. In verse 1, Paul asks the question, “Did God reject his people?” He framed his question in such a way that the answer can only be a resounding “No!” But even with that, Paul answered his own question: “By no means!” In Greek, it was a very strong, negative. It was if Paul was exclaiming, “How could you even think about it? It’s so absurd!” Thus, God will never reject His people. It is not just unthinkable. It is impossible.
Verse 2 tells us why, “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.” The word “foreknew” means “to forelove” or “to choose.” God chose Israel even before they were born or had not done anything that would merit His favor. Paul even gave himself as an example. If God can call somebody like him, surely He can call the nation Israel back to Him. “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” He also cited an Old Testament example. In view of the widespread idolatry at that time, Elijah the prophet thought he was the last man standing. He even told God, “I am the only one left”. But God assured him that even in the midst of a great apostasy He has “reserved” a remnant for Himself.
So, He chose to love Israel and nothing or no one could ever change that. If God would not turn His back from Israel, He would not turn His back from Christians also. He will keep us just as He kept His people.
Second, God has not given up on His people because He will not replace them. Verse 11 asks, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” Yes, Israel fell. Actually, they saw and they heard but they refused to believe. Thus, God made them blind and deaf. But those hardened were not victims. Their condition is a result of their rejection. They cannot fault God for their hardened condition. They were not ignorant. They ignored God. They were not wounded but wrongdoers. It was a willful disobedience. They were not victims. They were violators. The question now is, “Was it a fatal fall?”