Never Forgotten (Romans 11:1-36)

In this our third of three days of looking at chapters 9-11 of Romans, we see of Israel’s future as a nation. Their disobedience and disbelief was grievous. As stated in the previous two chapters, they were God’s chosen and special people who had not received God’s truth and plan. Therefore through the rejection of Christ, a larger plan of God for the expanse of the Gospel to Gentile peoples was accomplished.

But did this mean that all Israelites were now lost … that God had forgotten and totally rejected his people? Well certainly not. As Paul argues immediately in the first verse, he himself as a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin had come to faith by God’s divine call and personal intervention. It was not God rejecting; it was a matter of the chosen people rejecting God.

Paul turns quickly to another Old Testament account, that of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. It is one of my favorite OT stories. Here is Elijah, feeling sorry for himself, believing that he was just about the only one remaining who was faithful to God … “and those bad boys are trying to kill me now!” he wails. And God answers him by essentially saying, “Shut up with your whining, I’ve got 7,000 others who are yet faithful, pull up your socks and get to work because I have an assignment for you.”

Though as a whole the nation of Israel had rejected Christ and the gospel message, there remained even in the early church more than a few who knew and followed the truth. The gospel was good for Jews and Gentiles, though the church age would be a time where the gospel would particularly spread ultimately around the world to every tribe and nationality, as it has for the past 2,000 years.

The argument of the rest of the chapter is rather complicated, again accompanied by a bevy of Old Testament quotations. The primary issue is to communicate that God has not forgotten or permanently rejected the nation of Israel. The Gentiles who were the majority people receiving this letter should remember that it is they who were grafted into the “tree” of God’s family as spiritual descendants of Abraham. But a day will yet come (after Christ’s return) where there will be a national turning back to God of the Jewish people.

Again, for our devotional purposes and in an effort to keep us today out of the deep theological weeds, there is an interpretation of passages such as this one (along with others that speak of the nation of Israel) as saying that the church is “spiritual Israel” … that the promised given literally to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament are being spiritually fulfilled in the church. Though it is true that we are all one people of God in terms of our salvation being based in the work of Christ, God still has a literal future for the nation of Israel where his promises to them will be literally fulfilled.

Along with the overarching emphases within these complicated chapters that God is sovereign and has a sovereignly-designed plan that will come to fruition, we see the great grace and mercy of God. He does not forget his promises and his word. And we may fully bank on that! As time goes by, God’s master plan is being fulfilled toward a glorious end. This truth leads Paul to a doxological praise in the final four verses. And in our lives it leads us to confidence and trust in worship of the One who faithfully is working in all things and all times and all places … including in our lives. Amen!

11:1 – I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

7 What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, 8 as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.”

9 And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. 10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

Ingrafted Branches

11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

All Israel Will Be Saved

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Doxology

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments,     and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”

35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”

36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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