About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 11:1 - 10

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The Remnant Of Israel  (ch. 11:1 – 10)


From what Paul has said in chapters 9 and 10 you might think that God has rejected Israel altogether.  Paul therefore opens chapter 11 with this question.  "Did God reject His people?"  This question has been heavily debated and argued over for centuries.  It has divided the church right down the middle.  How you answer this question will determine how you view prophetic history.  How you answer this question will also determine your political views towards Israel today.    


His answer is both predictable and precise.  "By no means," he says.  Paul does not believe God has rejected Israel, and neither should we.  Israel is still significant in the eyes of God.  There should be no doubt about that.   


We need to understand that Israel as Paul uses it here is the
nation of Israel as seen throughout the Old Testament.   This is not some spiritual Israel, or the church, as some people think.  Remember, Paul made that very clear back in Romans 9:1 to 4 when he began this present train of thought.  There's no way he is thinking of some kind of spiritual Israel , the church, when he uses the word "Israel" here.  This is how is readers would have understood Israel and he certainly wouldn't confuse his readers by thinking Israel was something different than what they thought.     


In verse 1 Paul states one reason why God has not rejected Israel.  He himself was an Israelite.  Therefore, if he was saved, accepted and blessed by God, then God obviously has not rejected all the Jews.


We should note from verse 2 that even though Paul was now a Christian, he still considered himself to be a national Jew.  He was still an Israeli.  He did not disassociate himself from his Jewish roots. 


In verse 2 Paul states that God did not reject Israel "who He foreknew".   The "foreknowledge of God" is a huge issue and I won't elaborate on it here.  The term simply means that God knows the future before the future happens.   He knew all about Israel , and her failings before the creation of the world, and that did not distract Him from choosing Israel to be a special people.  As we saw earlier in Romans, God's choice of Israel as being a special nation, to be His priest among the nations, was His own personal choice and had nothing to do with how Israel acted.  We need to realize that when God called Abraham as the father of a great nation, He realized that Israel would not act like the great nations they were called to be.    


We should note here that in the beginning God chose Abra
ham to be the father of Israel.  His choice was associated with His calling for the nation of Israel.  God chose Israel to be His priestly nation to the nations of the world (Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 49:6).  This calling was just as much about ministry as it was about salvation.    


Paul quotes from 1 Kings 19:10 to 14 in verse 3.  He cites the passage where Elijah pleaded with God by saying, "Lord, they have killed your prophets and have torn down your altars; I am the only one left and they are trying to kill me."  In verse 4 Paul states God's response.  God said to Elijah, "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed their knee to Baal."  Baal was the Canaanites supreme god; the god of fertility.  Elijah might have thought he was the only one serving God, but he wasn't.   


Notice in the above passage that it says that "God has reserved for Himself…"  God has sovereignty set aside some people within Israel for Himself that Paul calls the remnant.  A remnant is a small piece of some larger thing.  What Paul is saying here is that God has set aside a small group of Israelites for Himself and in so doing has not rejected Israel.  God has to be true to the covenant He spoke to Abraham.  There must be some Jews to inherit the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant, which by the way, includes land as well as nationhood.  God will not be defeated. 


It's it bit ironic to me that Elijah thought he was the only godly man left, when in fact there were seven thousand more people just like him among the Jews.  Some suggest that the number seven thousand is just a rounded off number, and that might be so.  That being said, the number seven, and any derivative  of the number seven has special significance in Biblical terms, so, I think it might well have some kind of special prophetic significance.   


In verse 5 Paul says that in like fashion, as in the days of Elijah, God has set aside a remnant of Jews for Himself, a remnant chosen by grace.   That means the remnant of Jews set aside for the purpose of God in Paul's day was not chosen because of any merit they had.  It wasn't that they were in total compliance to the Law of Moses.  They were chosen because of God's unmerited favour towards them.  Again, that may sound like predestination, but if you read my commentary on Romans 8:29 and 30 you will note that God has predestined all to salvation and all to ministry.  He has predetermined that all mankind should be saved.  That is why Jesus died to all, not just for a few chosen people.  Therefore, in one way or another, all are called by God by His grace and those who respond in a positive way will be saved and have a specific role to play in the purposes of God.         


In verse 6 Paul says that God set aside these people by His grace alone, not by any good works they have done.  Again, good works here would be in association with the Law of Moses.  He says that if the setting aside of these people was by works then grace would not be grace.  Salvation, or in this instance, being God's chosen people, is totally a matter of grace, His unmerited favour.  There is no mixture of grace and works here.  If there were, then grace by definition would not be grace.  This thinking is a repeat of what Paul said in chapter 9, and throughout his writings.  We cannot underestimate the grace of God by trying to add our own good works to His salvation.  


The grace spoken of here is in contrast to the Law of Moses.  When Paul uses the word "works", he is speaking of the works of the Law of Moses, as well as the rabbinical laws, of which there were hundreds.  The Rabbinical laws were meant to clarify the Law of Moses, to make things simple, but it really made things more complicated.  The Jews not only had to obey the Law of Moses, but also the law of the Jewish religious leaders.  


In verse 7 Paul asks; "What then?  What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did."  What Paul says is correct.  Israel was given the Law of Moses to obey, but for the most part they didn't obey the Law of Moses.  Instead, they attempted to obey all of the rabbinical laws in an attempt to find right standing before God.  In this way they sought to find righteousness by their own humanistic works as Paul states here. 


The Law of Moses was a code for a nation to live by.  In reality, if Israel would have obeyed the Law of Moses they would have obeyed it because they had faith in their God.  That's common sense.  The fact that they didn't obey the Law of Moses tells me that they did not have faith in God.  Really, salvation in the long run has always been a matter of faith and not of works.  


The remnant of Jews in Paul's day who did have faith, they directed that faith towards Jesus.  Because of that faith they were saved.  They were God's remnant.  


Paul speaks of the word "elect" here.  This is a word that has been often debated.  Who is the elect?  I believe the word as it is used in the sentence and in context shows us who these people are.  I believe the elect are those Jews who have believed in God.  They have received His grace.  The rest of the Jews have had their hearts hardened according to Paul in verse 7.   They cannot, nor will not, receive any aspect of salvation, which would include being numbered among God's chosen people.


We've seen the word "hardened" earlier in Paul's writing here.  It was in reference to God hardening Pharaoh's heart.  What I said then applies here.  God does not reach down into a person's heart and hardens it against his will.  A person hardens his own heart.  As a result, God puts situations before him that gives him the opportunity to either repent or harden his heart even more.  In this sense of the word, because of the curses God cursed Israel with because of their disobedience, most Israelis hardened their hearts.


In verse 8 Paul goes on to say that the rest of Israel was given over to their hard hearts.  "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so they could not see, and ears so they could not hear, to this very day (Isaiah 29:10)."  Again, I don't believe God made Israel's heart hard.  I don't think He made them go into a drunken stupor.  I don't believe He made them spiritually blind.  He presented situations before them that made them go spiritually blind and death.  Note that Israel , right up to the day that Paul wrote these words were spiritually blind.  If was for this reason that Jesus spoke to the masses of Israel in parables.  It was so they would not see with their understanding.  The fact of the matter is that Israel was so far in rebellion when Jesus preached to them that it was too late for them.  Yes, Jesus would have His remnant, but the rest of Israel was already doomed for punishment until the day comes when the final remnant will return to their God.     


Another thing to note here is that if God's judges His own people because they have turned their backs on their Him, then God will have no problem judging the wicked nations of the world.  The ultimate judging of the nations will take place during what is commonly called the Tribulation.  


In verse 9 Paul quotes from Psalm 69:22 and 23 to continue to back up his point that God's judgment would fall on Israel.  David speaks of the tables becoming a snare and retribution to the Jews.  I believe this is speaking of the religious system of the Jews.  Their very religion that was meant for them to find God will get in the way from finding their God and will end in their judgment.  It will get in the way because of all of the rabbinical laws that were added to the Law of Moses. 


Verse 10 continues with this Psalm.  The eyes of Israel would be darkened.  Note the word "forever" in verse 10.  Are the eyes of the Jews really darkened forever?  I don't think so.  As I've said before, their will be a remnant of Jews whose eyes are not darkened.  They will return to their God.  So, you might ask why David puts the word "forever" in his statement if it doesn't mean forever.  Those whose hearts are hardened and have not received or accepted God's grace will indeed be blind and drunk forever.  The remnant, of course, will not be counted with the blind and the drunk.   

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