Romans 10, Part 3
Dec 17, 2010
After telling us that the gospel had gone out into the whole earth through the message in the stars themselves, Paul then questions whether or not the dispersed Israelites actually understood that gospel.
(19) But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? At the first Moses says [in Deut. 32:21], "I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you." (20) And Isaiah is very bold and says [in 65:1], "I was sought by those who sought Me not, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me." (21) But as for Israel He says [in 65:2], "All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."
Paul was building upon his earlier premise that the House of Israel had become "not My people" in the sense that they had lost their covenant relationship with God. They were on an equal legal status with the other nations who were likewise "not My people." Paul says that Moses himself prophesied of this situation in Deut. 32:21, which is part of a longer prophecy of Israel's future apostasy.
(21) They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
In other words, even as Israel had followed after other gods which are no-gods, and had provoked God to jealousy (as a jealous husband), so also would God treat Israel. God would honor and bless non-Israelites who were "not My people," in order to provoke natural Israelites to jealousy. God did this with every captivity in the book of Judges. He put Israel under the authority of various other nations, treating them as if those other nations were "chosen," in order to provoke Israel to jealousy. The result was that the Israelites eventually repented, turned back to Yahweh, put away their idols, and then God reversed the captivity.
In other words, the Israelites became "jealous" of the other nations and the way that God was honoring them and empowering them to rule Israel. This tactic worked well in the book of Judges on a small scale, but in the final captivity to Assyria, the whole principle of jealousy was accomplished on a massive scale.
Once Israel had been divorced and cast out of God's house (Jer. 3:8; Deut. 24:1), they became one of the nations that were "not My people." Isaiah 65:1, 2 prophesies that Israel was "a rebellious people," who refused to follow the God who had redeemed them from Egypt. So He made them "not My people," because in that non-covenantal state, they would seek Him once again through the law of jealousy. Isaiah tells us,
(1) I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, "Here am I, here am I," to a nation which did not call on My name. (2) I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts.
The dispersed Israelites and the other nations were busy worshipping their own gods and were not seeking Yahweh. But Yahweh showed up, and they stumbled upon Him as if it were by accident. They were not seeking Him, but He manifested Himself to them anyway. In fact, ALL of the ethnoswho were "not My people" would find Him, although they had not sought Him. God made Himself available to the ethnos by sending them apostles who would preach the gospel to them.
In other words, the ethnos did not come to God, so God went to them.
As for the ex-Israelites of the dispersion, they had rejected Him while they were Israelites. So God made them "not My people" in order to qualify them to receive the gospel as prophesied. God also had to make them jealous, as it were, in order to motivate them to repent. It is as if the Israelites were asking how to regain a covenant relationship with God and the Birthright name of Israel. The answer was to accept Jesus Christ as their King and to follow His commands and laws, as opposed to "following their own thoughts," which is idolatry.
And, of course, in drawing those ex-Israelites back to Him, God drew to Himself the entire class of nations that were "not My people."
Paul then continues in Romans 11, asking,
(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. (2) God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. . . .
No, God has not rejected Israel, though He certainly did divorce them and cast them out of the house. The marriage covenant was broken, and Israel became "not My people." But how has God NOT rejected them? In that He has provided a way for them to return to a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As they accept Him and come under the New Covenant, they regain a covenant relationship--not by the same covenant that was broken in the past and which was abolished, but by a New Covenant that was designed never to end.
As those ex-Israelites of the dispersion accept Christ, along with all the other ethnos, the promises of God are fulfilled in them. At first, there is only a "remnant of grace" that responds to the gospel of Christ, and he makes it clear that he himself had followed this path since his conversion on the Damascus Road. This is the next theme that Paul develops.
This remnant of grace is the firstfruits company of a greater harvest that will continue until "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26).
This is the final part of a series titled "Romans 10." To view all parts, click the link below.