Romans 11:7-12 (ESV)
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”
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. 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!
On first reading, this is a pretty harsh section regarding Israel from Paul. If we were to quickly ‘gloss over’ it with our eyes, we would think that undue hard punishment has been placed on the nation of Israel.
But what is it really saying? The first section is pretty clear – God, in His foreknowledge, hardened those who weren’t going to believe. But the rest is much more insightful.
Firstly, it is through the stumbling of much of Israel over Jesus (1 Cor 1:23) that the Gospel then was preached to those of us who are not in the bloodlines of the Jews. For in the great commission that we have heard so often, First the Gospel was to be preached to the Jews, then the Samaritans (who were essentially what is left of the other 10 tribes of Israel), and then the rest of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Secondly, and more importantly, Paul is drawing us back to both the remnant of Israel, and their future roles that are still promised! Yes, Israel still has an important place to play in our world, and in world history. Even when we look at the news now (which I admit to doing less and less), you can see that Israel remains a focus all over the world.
Let’s have a quick review of some facts about Israel (the nation). It has a population of around 7 Million, which is 1/10th of 1 percent (.01%) of the world’s population. I would call that ‘statistically insignificant’ (this is not an insult, but an observation that such a small point of a percentage in any number is generally insignificant. For example, if you had $100, and lost 10 cents, this is the same comparison – its still a loss, but you still have $99.90 of your initial $100). Interestingly enough, it also has around the same percentage (0.01%) of the world’s landmass enclosed in its borders.
So how does a country that is so small, with such a small population in comparison to others, take up so much of the world stage, and continually figure in so much of the world news? How does a population that is smaller than inner city New York (8 million) and just over a third of the population of the full New York metropolitan area take up so much ‘space’ in this world?
Because God has chosen it to be so. The nation of Israel was at one time specifically God’s chosen people – and the rest of the world has never forgotten, or forgiven. Despite being having a population that could be called not much more than a ‘rounding error’, they remain the centre of attention of a world that knows God, but refuses to admit it.
And this is what Paul is talking about. Many of the Jews have rejected Jesus, and that has meant riches for the rest of the world. But there is still a plan for the nation of Israel that will see them once again come back to God, and find Jesus, their prophesied Messiah. And when that happens we will all be amazed.
Almighty God, thank you that Your good news has spread throughout the world, starting with Your chosen nation of Israel. We can all see that your hand is still active in Israel, and that you still have plans to use them in the world for Your glory. Teach us not to show partiality towards them, but treat them as you treat us, as a people loved by God, despite our sins. Guide us in Your Word we pray in Jesus Name. Amen.