God Has Not Rejected His People – For Many Reasons; God Expects Gentile Christians To Make The Jewish People Jealous; And Bring Us The Good News
So far in his letter to Messiah’s Community in Rome, the Rabbi has informed us that God has saved us with a great salvation, a salvation that we have not earned or deserved. We are saved by God’s grace when we respond to the Good News about Messiah with faith. God kills our old nature. He removes us from the control of our old master, sin. He frees us from the law of sin and death. He gives us a new nature. He gives us His Spirit who lives in us, and who does so many good things for us. He has promised to resurrect our bodies and give us eternal life and an amazing inheritance.
But, the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome may have started thinking: how reliable are these great promises? Reliable enough to suffer for? Reliable enough to die for? After all, God made a lot of promises to Israel, and things didn’t seem to be working out too well for them. If God’s promises to Israel won’t be fulfilled, how can we trust God’s promises to us? And how should we understand Israel? Is God finished with the Jewish people? How should Christians and Messianic Jews relate to Israel? These are the questions that Rabbi Paul deals with in chapters 9, 10 and 11.
I ask then: Did God reject his people? For most of the past 1900 years, most, but not all Christian theologians, have answered “yes.” Yes, God has rejected His people. And the Church is the new Israel and has replaced the old Israel. The Jewish people are now no different from any other nation. They have no special calling or special future. This false teaching is referred to in a number of ways. The one I prefer is “Replacement Theology.”
The Lord’s divinely inspired representative answers his own question, not with a Replacement Theology yes, but with a very strong no: By no means! No way! No how! God has most emphatically not rejected His people Israel!
If this was the apostle’s only response, it would be enough to answer the question whether Israel has lost its special calling and special future. However, the Rabbi will give additional reasons why God has not rejected His people.
The first reason why God has not rejected His people is that Paul himself is part of Israel, and since God didn’t reject Paul, He cannot have rejected His people. I am an Israeli myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. The Rabbi is making it clear that his Jewish identity didn’t change by him following the King of the Jews.
Note well that Paul writes: I am an Israeli, not I was an Israeli; or I was formerly an Israeli but now I am not an Israeli. No, I am an Israeli. A descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Israel does not stop being an Israeli, being Jewish, being part of the Chosen Nation when he follows the King of the Jews. If anything, he becomes more Jewish, not less Jewish! In fact, following the Messiah is the most Jewish thing any Jewish person can do!
Paul was teaching the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome that understood that although he was a Christian, which means a follower of the Messiah; although he was part of Messiah’s Community, he was still an Israeli. He was still Jewish. He was still part of God’s people. If God had rejected His people, then Paul would have been rejected. But God had most certainly not rejected him. Therefore God had not rejected His people because Israelis like Paul were an integral part of that people.
Another reason why God has not rejected His people is because of His foreknowledge. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Just as God foreknows individuals, and chooses some for special purposes, including salvation, and does not choose others for special purposes, including salvation – God foreknew the Jewish people and chose us to be His people.
Before the universe began, God had a plan to create beings made in His image, who would be born into a fallen world, be redeemed by the Messiah and live with the Father and the Son forever. To fulfill this plan, God knew He would choose a special nation. He would form that nation; reveal Himself to that nation; teach that nation; use that nation to be a light to the other nations; bless the other nations by bringing the Seed of the Woman into the world through that nation. God also foreknew that the majority of that nation would reject the Messiah, and their rejection would result in the Messiah’s death; and Messiah’s death would enable salvation to be given to chosen individuals from Israel and the other nations.
God, who foreknew that nation, and chose it to accomplish very special purposes, and foreknew that the majority of the nation would reject the Messiah, did not reject that nation. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.
The Rabbi gives us another reason why God has not rejected His people – and that is because of the remnant. God is committed to His people because of the faithful minority. He has not and will not reject the nation because of the faithless majority. In every generation, God has remained committed to His people, even though only the remnant were faithful. The Rabbi gives us several examples of this, starting with the days of Elijah. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
Elijah lamented that the nation had abandoned God and he was the only faithful one left. The Lord informed him he was not alone. There were a faithful remnant of seven thousand who had not become Baal worshipers. Did God reject His people in the days of Elijah because the majority were unfaithful? No. The Lord remained committed to His people.
God continued to operate by the same remnant principle after the rejection of the Messiah. So too, at the present time there is a remnant. The remnant “at the present time” refers to the Messianic Jews of Paul’s day – people like himself and the other apostles and the three thousand who became loyal to Messiah on the day of Shavuot. That remnant grew to five thousand, and then to tens of thousands.
Everyone who is part of the remnant is very blessed. To prevent that from leading to pride, the Rabbi reminds the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome that the remnant is chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. Being part of the remnant is wholly due to God’s choice. He chooses who will become part of the remnant, and who will not. And becoming part of the remnant is entirely due to God’s grace, not our works, not our efforts. Being part of the remnant is not due to anything we can do – other than hearing the Good News and responding to it with faith. We don’t deserve to be part of the remnant. We can’t earn our way into the remnant.
Therefore if we are part of the blessed remnant, we should be humble and thankful, not proud and boastful.
Paul gives us additional examples of the “remnant principle” at work in Israel’s history. What then? What the people of Israel sought (salvation, righteousness, eternal life) so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect (the ones God chose, the remnant) among them did, but the others were hardened, 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.” This is a combination of quotes from Moses and from Isaiah. Paul quotes Deuteronomy which records Moses’ lament over the nation’s spiritual blindness and deafness in spite of the great signs and wonders we witnessed and the great teaching we received. In spite of the repeated failures of the majority of Moses’ generation, God did not reject His people during the days of Moses.
When the Lord called Isaiah to serve Him, He warned His prophet that Israel was spiritually asleep and most would not listen to him. God gave them a spirit of stupor. But God did not reject His people in the time of Isaiah. And the same spiritual blindness, deafness and stupor characterized the majority of Israel throughout our generations, to this very day – meaning Paul’s day.
So, if the majority were spiritually blind, spiritually deaf and spiritually asleep in Paul’s day, like they were in Moses’ day and Isaiah’s day and throughout the following generations; and if God did not reject His people in the days of Moses or Isaiah or the following generations, neither did He reject His people in Paul’s day.
Paul gives another example of the “remnant principle” at work in Israel’s history. And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” Paul’s quote from Psalm 69 is part of a prayer in which king David asked the Lord to punish his enemies – the enemies being his own people. Even though many opposed David, and even though at one point the majority of Israel followed Absalom and rejected David, who was God’s messiah, God’s anointed king, God did not reject His people in David’s day.
Just as God did not reject His people when the majority went astray in the days of Moses, David, Elijah and Isaiah, or any other generation, so the Lord did not reject His people in the days of Paul.
The Rabbi wants the Christians and Messianic Jews in Rome to understand that even though the majority of the Jewish people had stumbled, God would enable the nation to recover. Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Israel’s fall from grace is temporary. The Lord will help us get back up on our feet. We stumbled, but we will rise. We will recover! Therefore God cannot have rejected His people.
God is so wise, so powerful and so good that He is able to bring good out of evil. He is able to use the failure of the majority of the Chosen People to bring salvation to the nations. Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles. As a result of the Jewish majority’s rejection of Messiah, which resulted in Messiah’s death, the doors of God’s Kingdom have been opened to those outside of Israel. The Lord used the failure of the majority of Israel to make His salvation available to the nations. Now, it is God’s plan to use those Gentiles who have been blessed with salvation to reach the Jewish majority who are unsaved. Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles – to make Israel envious.
This teaches us that Christians are not to hate the Jewish people; reject us; oppose us; put us in ghettos; pogrom us; holocaust us; anti-Semitize us; Replacement-Theologize us. They are to make us envious – jealous of their closeness to God; jealous of their understanding of the Word of God; jealous of the peace they enjoy; the hope they have; the love they have for one another and for us.
The Rabbi gives us another reason why God has not rejected His people – and that is because God is not finished using His people to bless the nations. 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! One of the reasons God chose Israel was to use Israel to enrich the nations. Through you all the nations of the world will be blessed. Enrichment became available to the nations because of the transgression of the majority of Israel – the transgression being the rejection of the Messiah which resulted in His death. Even though salvation is an amazing blessing, even greater blessings, even greater enrichment will be made available to the nations when the majority of Israel gets right with God by welcoming Yeshua as the Messiah.
The Rabbi is teaching us that a time is most definitely coming for the Jewish people, when transgression and loss will be replaced by full inclusion and fulfillment. When that happens, the world will be amazingly blessed, profoundly enriched, tremendously saved. Therefore God cannot have rejected His people.
Paul is letting us know that the ultimate salvation, blessing and enrichment of the world depends – not on science, not on technology, not on more education, not on better politicians, not on efforts to unite the world – but on Israel. The golden age will only arrive when the Jewish people get right with God by acknowledging that Yeshua is the Messiah. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense for the Church to make the salvation of the Jewish people a priority? For Christians to prioritize helping the Jewish people find Messiah – by making us jealous of their relationship to God, their love, their peace, their joy; by loving us and bringing us the Gospel in a way we can understand – by emphasizing the Jewishness of Jesus; the Jewishness of the New Testament; the Jewishness of Christianity?
The Lord’s Representative wants Gentile Christians to make special efforts to bring the message about the Messiah to the Jewish people. I am talking to you Gentiles – so that the Gentiles will be motivated to be actively involved in Jewish evangelism. And he wants Messianic Jews to be passionate about Jewish evangelism, like he was, even though his ministry was directed to the Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.
The Rabbi is letting us know that part of his motivation to reach the Gentiles was so that, through the Gentiles he reached, Jewish people would be reached. As more Gentiles were saved, Jewish people would notice; and the faith, love, peace and joy of the Gentiles would impact the Jewish people and help them experience salvation.
Again, the Rabbi uses the amazing blessings that will come to the world when the majority of the Jewish people accept the Messiah, to motivate the Gentiles to be passionate about Jewish evangelism. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? You don’t like the way the world is? Tired, sad, cruel, unhappy, unjust? You want a new world, a better world, a golden age? Get involved in Jewish evangelism! Pray for the salvation of the Jewish people. Support ministries that are bringing the Good News to the Jewish people. Get other Christians and Messianic Jews involved with you.
Paul gives us another reason why God has not rejected His people, and it’s the last one we will cover this morning. It’s based on the principle that what God starts well, He likes to end well. 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. In the Torah, we were instructed give the first piece of dough to God as an offering. If the first piece of dough was acceptable to God, the Lord would continue to provide dough for us to eat. The offering of the first fruits of the barley around Passover, and the offering of the firstfruits of the wheat at Shavuot, accomplished something similar. If the Lord accepted those firstfruit offerings, He would make sure the rest of the harvest came in. In a similar way, a tree with a good root will produce a good tree with branches and fruit. Th