Paul continues with his dialogue about his fellow Israelites, the descendants of Jacob. He addresses the next logical question; did God reject his Chosen People because they rejected Jesus as their Messiah? God’s sovereign choice provides righteousness for people; this includes salvation for the Gentiles and the restoration of Israel.
One proof that God has not rejected Israel is that Paul is a believer, “an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin”; therefore God did not reject his people whom he foreknew. Romans 9:6 states, the word of God has not failed, “For not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel”. Paul is making a distinction between believing Israel and un-believing Israel.
Paul uses the example of Elijah after his great victory against the prophets of Baal. Elijah was depressed, saying that he was all alone, that King Ahab and Jezebel had killed all God’s prophets and the faithful in Israel. God’s reply to Elijah, “I have kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal.” Paul is making the connection between the time of Elijah and his current time, as God reserved a remnant chosen by grace in the time of Elijah, so too now He has set aside a remnant of faithful Israel. “So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace”.
Paul summarizes his argument by quoting Old Testament scripture; this is not the first time that some among the Israelites have had hard hearts against God’s plan, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day.” Because Israel pursued righteousness not by faith, as if that were even possible, but by works; they stumbled over the stumbling stone.
The next logical question is, will this stumbling over Jesus as the Messiah prove to be a fall beyond recovery, is this a permanent fall? Paul says no, the Israelites rejection prompted two divine purposes, the offer of salvation to the Gentiles and to make the Jews jealous. Paul was convinced that Israel’s fall, their transgression, was temporary thus he looks beyond its immediate results to the greater inclusion of the whole world.
Since Israel rejected their promised Messiah, does this mean that the promises of God to the nation of Israel are no longer valid? Remember Paul and Barnabas would always take the Gospel message first to the Synagogue, when the Jews rejected their message they relayed this additional message, “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have appointed you to be a light for the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” The Jews rejection of God’s plan means, “Riches for the world” and the reconciliation of the world. Paul likens the Jews future acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah to “life from the dead”, a joyful and glorious event like the resurrection.
Paul names the believing Jews, faithful Israel, as the firstfruit offering; if the first portion is holy then the whole batch is holy. Followed by “if the root is holy, so too are the branches”. He expands on this example of an olive tree, calling the Gentile believers “the wild olive shoot” that has been grafted into the old tree. The new grafted branches enjoy the richness of the old olive root, the root supports the branches. Therefore do not boast but remember that the old root supports you not the other way around and do not be arrogant about your position in Christ. Israel was rejected because of their unbelief; the new grafted in Christians need to stand by faith and remember the kindness of God that allowed us the wild unproductive olive branches to be included, grafted into the root.
Paul reminds his readers that if Israel repents and turns from their unbelief, then God is able to graft them in again. God is able to restore the nation of Israel, now Paul says that God will do it! He calls this a mystery, a previously hidden truth now revealed by God for us to know and understand: “A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved”. The Jews continue to be dearly loved by God for the sake of The Fathers (Patriarchs, Faithful Israel), “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable”. God does not revoke what He has given or whom He has chosen. Paul reminds his readers that they were formerly disobedient to God but now have received mercy, God is able to restore and heal Israel, and they will receive mercy now if they believe.
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.