The Jewish nation, Israel, are the chosen people of God. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans to go to a land that He would show him. Abraham is the father of the Israelite nation and through them all nations would be blessed. (Genesis 12:1 Genesis 22:18) As the numbers of the Israelite nation grew so did their sin of unbelief and God referred to His children as a stiff necked people. (Deuteronomy 9:6) God sent them their Messiah, Jesus. “The Jewish messiah is a leader anointed by God, physically descended from the Davidic line, who will rule the united tribes of Israel and herald the Messianic Age of global peace also known as the World to come.” (Wikipedia) Through Jesus God offers grace, salvation and righteousness to the Jewish people. Still most of the Jewish nation rejected their Messiah in unbelief and did not accept God’s great gifts to them. It would seem, then, that God’s plans for His chosen people had failed. Paul shows us in this chapter of his letter to the Romans that God’s plans had not failed at all. Paul points out that God has an even a more wonderful plan for His chosen.
The unbelief of the Jewish nation in Paul’s day is much the same today. The will of God is unstoppable and His plan for the Jewish people will come to happen. Those who remain in their unbelief will not benefit unless they repent. Without repentance the punishment for sinful people is death. There will be those whose eyes will open to the truth of God and He will win a great victory.
Paul give us two ways that the relationship of the Jewish people to God has not ended.
Paul is a Jew himself a descendant of Abraham and of the tribe of Benjamin. This tribe is a small tribe in the Israelite nation but the first king of Israel came from this tribe, King Saul. In Paul’s earlier life He had been a devout Jew and a Pharisee and was a persecutor of the Christians. On the road to Damascus one day Jesus revealed Himself to Paul and Paul converted and became a Christian. Paul demonstrates that if God could forgive him, who had sinned much and persecuted the followers of Jesus, then God would forgive other Jews as well.
Paul reminds us of the prophet Elijah and the answer that God gave him when he thought he was to only faithful Jew in the nation. Even the queen, Jezebel was seeking to kill Elijah. All of the altars to God had been destroyed by the Jewish people. All of the other prophets of God had been killed because of their faith in God. Elijah believed that he was the only one left in all of Israel that still had faith in God. God answered Elijah telling him that there were 7,000 who remained loyal to God and did not worship the false god Baal. (1 Kings 19:14-18)
In the days of Elijah God had kept the 7,000 who were loyal to Him because He loved them. These did not deserve God’s love, but they received God’s salvation not by their works of deeds but because of God’s love. The loving-kindness of God is displayed by His saving these people. If they had deserved salvation, then God would not have been showing His loving-kindness. God gives His gifts to undeserving people.
At the time of Paul there were two groups of Jews and this still is true today. One group showed faith and they were the people God chose. God saved them because of His kindness. The second group were the unbelieving and were disobedient to God.
Paul uses two scripture quotations to show what happens to people of unbelief and disobedience. The unfaithful did not believe the gospel message and they were not even able to understand it. Paul first uses Isaiah 29:10 “For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers.” The second Scripture is Deuteronomy 29:4 “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” Since they have rejected God and refused to believe God has blinded them to the truth.
Next Paul looks to the words of King David in Psalm 69:22-23. In reference to the phrase, “May their table before them become a snare,” a man’s table was to be a place of safety. For the ungodly complacency is a trap. While here in this world they may feel all is right, without a right relationship with God people are in great peril towards their eternal destination. This is the case for the Jews who refused to believe in God’s good news. To reject the gospel message of Jesus Christ is a trap for which there is no escape. As the day will come that those who reject God’s truth will no longer even be able to see it. They will be as the blind with the weight of their sin on their backs.
Even as the Jews have rejected their Messiah, and Paul has explained the suffering that will result from their unbelief, still this is not the end of the relationship between God and His chosen people. God still has a plan for the Jewish Nation. The Jewish people will recover from their troubles Paul emphasizes. They will again be the people that God has chosen them to be while now God offers His free gift of salvation for all those who will accept it. Israel has rejected their Messiah and salvation has come to the Gentiles. Luke records four times in the book of Acts that Paul began to preach the gospel to the Jews, but they rejected his message so he turned to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46 Acts 18:6 Acts 19:8-9 Acts 28:28) By the acceptance of the gospel by the Gentile the Jews would see the blessings that they would receive. This would cause them to turn to God themselves. The sin of the Jews had brought blessings to the Gentiles and there will be even greater blessings for all in the end. The Jewish nation will return to God and their number of believers will be complete. Together Jew and Gentile will be glad because of what God has done.
Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles. His teaching is that we become righteous by the means of faith. The Jews were trying to be righteous but they were trying to do it by their works. That avenue to salvation will never succeed as it is impossible for man to obey the law completely. The Jews seeing that God had accepted the Gentile would become jealous and would want also to have faith in Jesus Christ.
As Paul was sad that his countrymen had rejected the gospel he was happy that the rest of the world had the opportunity to have a relationship with God. In the End the result would be as wonderful as life from death. It was not only bodily resurrection that Paul was taking about but also passing from spiritual death unto spiritual life. (John 5:24) This may also be in reference to the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel. The dry bones coming alive again is symbolic that Israel also will come alive again. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
In this verse Paul uses two pictures to show that God would not turn away completely from the Jews.
The first piece of dough was a gift to God. (Numbers 15:17-21) If the first piece being holy to God is good then the rest of the dough would be holy and good also. Here the first piece means the first people who believed the gospel, the Jewish Christians. Because of their belief the rest of the Jews could become believers also.
A Trees root affects the whole of the tree. Here the root is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who are the fathers of the Jewish nation. The branches of that root were the Jews of Paul’s day. The Covenant that God made with Abraham was eternal and God would be the Lord of his descendants. (Genesis 17:7) Therefore, the Jews of Paul’s day and ours benefit from the promises God made to Abraham.
Olive trees were an important crop in the ancient world. Paul uses the Olive tree as an example or analogy of the Jewish nation and the Gentiles. Jeremiah used the Olive tree in his writings. The LORD called your name, “A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form”; With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are worthless.” (Jeremiah 11:16) Paul uses the technique of grafting to explain the way in which the Gentiles were brought into God’s graces. Farmers still use the practice of grafting today all over the world. Stronger trees may not always produce good fruit where a weaker three might. The weaker tree may not be able to yield much fruit so the farmer may graft the weaker branches to the stronger trees by removing the stronger branch and placing the weaker stem into it. This process would enable the stronger tree to produce plentiful good fruit.
The Jews refused to believe God and had lost their opportunity to have a right relationship with God. They were the branches that were removed from the tree. Gentiles who accepted God and believed in Him were able to have a real relationship with God. They were the new branches that were grafted into the tree and received the benefit of the good root. A similar description was used by Jesus in John chapter 15.
God had joined the Gentiles with His people the Jews. Paul then warns the Gentile believers that they must not be too proud now that they are of God’s people. Paul may have been worrying about the way the Gentiles thought about the Jews. Most Gentiles did not understand the Jewish people and laughed at their traditions. Paul was trying to avoid the Gentiles in Rome from having the wrong attitude towards the Jews. Christianity came from the root of the Jewish faith and Paul did not want the Gentiles to forget that truth. Paul did not want the Gentiles to look down upon the Jews because they were the branches that were removed from the tree. It would not be a true statement that the Gentiles have taken their place. Paul warned the Gentiles that if God had removed some of the branches He could also remove some more. The Gentile branch can only remain in the Kingdom if they stay committed in their faith. (Hebrews 3:14) Paul did not mean that the Gentiles could lose their salvation as God is able to protect them. (Jude 1:24) The Gentiles as well as the Jews have been chosen by God to be His special people. Both are His royal priest and belong to His Kingdom. (1 Peter 2:9) Their lives have been changed completely by God. (1 Peter 2:10)
To the Jews that had refused to believe God have been dealt firmly with by God. To the Gentile God has shown His kindness. Therefore, the Gentile must remain loyal to God. The Gentile does not deserve salvation and have only received it by God’s grace towards them. It was the Jew first that God had chosen as His special people and had made His covenant with them. The promises God made with the Jewish nation still stand today. Paul eagerly awaited the day when his own people, the Jews, would believe in the gospel message of God and for God to make this happen.
The mystery that Paul speaks of has two components: 1) Israel has experienced a partial spiritual hardening, and 2) that hardening will last only for a divinely specified period of time.
Paul informs his Gentile brothers and sister of the future plan that God has for the Jews. Many of the prophets wrote of this plan. (Isaiah 60:1-14 Daniel 12:1 Micah 7:11-12 Zachariah 8:1-23) From this prophecy Paul was sure that God’s plan was to save the Jews.
Paul uses an old Proverb to issue another warning to the Gentiles. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7) Paul is warning the Gentiles to not become too proud and to not trust their own wisdom but to trust and believe in the wisdom of God’s plan. The unbelieving Jews may act like enemies but Christians are to love their enemies because God loves them. The Christian Gentiles are supposed to impress the Jews by means of their faith and love towards God. The Jews also then will want to receive God’s kindness. This is the plan of God to save the Jews. Paul is saying that the Jews will not always oppose God. When the full number of the Gentiles that will be saved has been accomplished, then God will save the Jews that remain. (Zechariah 13:8-9)
Paul uses words from Isaiah to support this idea. He uses the Greek translation (called the Septuagint). Isaiah 59:20 says, “The Savior will come from Zion (Jerusalem).” This may refer to the time when Jesus came. Zion was the place from which the gospel came. But God only saved the first of the Jews at that time (Romans 11:16). His future plan is for those Jews that remain. And he will bring about his plan when Christ returns.
Paul is thinking about the second coming of Jesus. This is when God will take away the sin of Israel. (Isaiah (27:9) At the Lord’s Supper Jesus spoke of the New Covenant. Jesus’ death on the cross would bring about the New Covenant and the promises of God would then become true. (Matthew 26:28) People would receive the benefit of the New Covenant when they invite Jesus into their lives. The Jews can also receive the benefit of this New Covenant. They can know the kindness of God because of Jesus.
Because of the unbelief of the many Jews of Paul’s day they opposed the first Christians. These Jews acted as if they were enemies of the Christians. But God loved these Jews. God had chosen the Jews to be His people. God will not forget the promise that He had made to their fathers the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is not like people and will bring about the things that He has promised. (Numbers 23:19)
The Gentiles in the past did not obey God but now because of the Jews unbelief the Gentiles can now receive God’s mercy. Because of the mercy that the Gentiles can now receive the Jews themselves will receive God’s mercy.
Both the Jew and the Gentile have sinned and Paul has shown that there is no difference between the two. All can receive God’s salvation. People who are unable to obey God are prisoners of their sin. Until they accept and receive God’s salvation sin will control their lives. The scriptures say that the whole world is like prisoners. This is because sin controls everybody in the world. (Galatians 3:22) The only way out of this prison is through God’s mercy which can free everyone who trust Him.
God’s wisdom and His decisions are two things that Paul praises. It is not possible for man to understand the ways of God. The word ‘wonderful’ shows that God’s wisdom is far greater than the wisest thoughts of any wise person. His judgments are better than the judgments of the wisest human judge. A Jude night know of the actions of whom he is judging but only God knows the heart of man, his true intentions and the reasons for his actions.
In this verse we see two passages that show us that God’s ways are not our ways and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him?” (Isaiah 40:13) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Paul looks to the words of Job that God cannot possibly owe man anything. (Job41:11) Whatever we could give to Him had come from Him. David knew this as well, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.” (1 Chronicles 29:14) “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) God was in the beginning and He will be in the end. All of creation is of His procession and He alone belongs the glory. People should never be proud as all that they have done is because of the provision of God. People need never live as if they do not need God. Paul ends this chapter with praise to God. All should praise Him for who He is. All should praise Him for what He has done.
(Romans 12:1–16:27) The final five chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans is an explanation of how believers are to live in the light of the first 11 chapters. Through the grace of God the believer has been given so much that Paul exhorts us to live them out in obedience.