God's Purpose in the Stumbling of Israel, Part 1 (Romans Sermon 84 of 120)
October 23, 2005 | Andrew Davis
Sovereignty of God, Israel's Rejection of Jesus
I. Review: Israel’s Stumbling Over Christ
We continue to look in Romans 9-11, at one of the deepest and most perplexing problems connected with the gospel and that is the problem of the Jewish rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. We have seen that the Jews do not see in the prophecies of the Old Testament, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the way that we do, led by the Spirit. And we have seen that this spiritual blindness over the last two weeks that we've been studying was actually a judgment by God, it was given by God. God gave them a spirit of stupor, God gave them eyes that do not see. God gave them ears that do not hear to this very day. That's Romans 11:8-10. But what we haven't answered is why, why would he do such a thing? And that's what verse 11 till the end of the chapter, deals with. What are God's purposes in the hardening of the Jewish nation? Now, we've seen already that this blindness, this hardening, is not universal, that there are some Jews and that there will be in every generation, some Jews that believe in Jesus as their personal savior, the Apostle Paul was one. He said, "I am an Israelite myself, I am a believer in Jesus and I'm Jewish, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews," he called himself.
And so the hardening, the blindness is not universal. There are some Jews in every generation, who are chosen by God to believe in Jesus. But it says very plainly in 11:7 that what the Israelites sought to establish through their own righteousness, they did not establish. The elect did, but the others were hardened. And so therefore, we have two categories of the Jews, those that are elect the chosen ones, who have come to faith in Christ. The rest are hardened. But what we haven't answered is, why that hardening has come. In verse 11:11, up through the end of the chapter is the answer. And what we're going to see is that this spiritual blindness that's come on the Jews is part of an incredible and complex plan of God, which will culminate at the end of the world in something glorious and majestic. All of it done to the glory of God. And we're going to see that something so devastating as the rejection of the Jews, of their own Messiah, is actually part of a glorious plan of God, that God has a plan for the Gentiles, God has a plan for the Jews, and overall God has a plan to display his own glory in all of it. And that's what Romans 11:11 is all about.
Now, it's not easy, as some of you have told me. And we've been discussing how deep and complex Romans 9 through 11 is. Well, that means we're right where we need to be. Because the one who wrote it said that. "Oh, the depths of the rich is the wisdom and the knowledge of God, how unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay Him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever, amen." That's how we end in Romans 11. So we should not imagine as we travel through those verses that Paul was referring to when he talks about that that we're going to be sipping on milk. That we're going to be just tasting the light things of God, we are not. And here, as we go from 11, verse 11 on, we're trying to find out what God's purpose is concerning the nation of Israel.
II. Paul’s Question: Have They Stumbled In Order to Fall?
And the question that Paul asks here is what does the future hold, what does the future hold for the nation of Israel? Where are we going with the Jews, what does the future hold? Has Israel stumbled so as to fall beyond recovery the NIV gives it.
New American Standard translates verse 11. "I say, then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they?" expecting the answer? No, and Paul answers it immediately. May it never be. We should not imagine that this stumbling, this blindness, this deafness, this stupor that's come over the Jews, their inability to see in Jesus, the fulfillment of all of their prophecies, we shouldn't imagine that this is going to go on forever, God is not through with the nation of Israel yet, he has yet more glorious plans. And so that's what we're looking at. Look at verse 28 and 29 at the end of the chapter toward the end, Israel is still special. Israel's still set apart in God's mind, Israel's still foremost in God's plans, as you look in verse 28 and 29, it says, "as far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account. But as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the Patriarchs. For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable." In other words, God has called the Jews to be His own nation, and in a mysterious way, is going to continue working in and through this nation to the end. Now, some of you have told me that your favorite verse in the Old Testament is Jeremiah 29:11, and you see Jeremiah 29-11, in many different places, put up on posters, little magnets on stationary all those kinds, not every verse in the Bible gets that kind of treatment, I've noticed, but there are some that are just cherished and they're special. And Jeremiah 29:11 says this. "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Well, that is coming true here in Romans 11. God has great plans for the Jews. He's not finished with them, yet.
And what is in the future? Well, it's a mystery. That's exactly what the Apostle Paul calls it. Look at verse 25-27 of chapter 11. "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceded. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved." That does not mean every individual Jew that has ever lived for 2000 years will end up in Heaven. That's not what he's saying, but I believe what he's saying is, at the end, at the end of the world, God will work a miracle of revival among the Jews, so that they will come to recognize Christ as their savior.
III. God Has a Purpose in Israel’s Stumbling
So therefore, the main idea we have here is that God has a purpose in Israel's stumbling. And that purpose is glorious.
Now, this may be a troublesome thought to you, it may bother you as a matter of fact, that God has a good purpose in something so dreadful. Just to consider the good purpose of Israel stumbling out of fellowship with God, stumbling through not believing in Christ, means we must be talking about God. Does the devil, who does harden hearts and who does blind eyes, does the devil have any good purpose in doing that? He does not, for Jesus said in John 10, "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly." And so the devil can have no good purpose in the hardening of the Jews and the blinding of their eyes against Christ though he does that work. 2 Corinthians 4 says He's the God of this age and He's blinded their eyes. They themselves have no good purpose in turning away from Christ, they just don't believe in Him, they're not convinced. They're not persuaded, and so they harden their own hearts, and they blind their own eyes, but to no good purpose. But Romans 11 is talking about good purpose, glorious purpose in all of this, that must be God. For God alone can turn something glorious and bring something glorious out of this sin.
Now, look at the layers of purpose in verse 11, He says this. "I ask them, did they, the Jews stumble in order that they might fall beyond recovery? Not at all. Rather because of their transgression. Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious." Do you see the purpose? We've got levels of purpose. First of all, he says... Did they stumble, in order that... That's purpose? What is the purpose in their stumble? They stumble, so that they might fall beyond recovery may it never be. Well what is the purpose?
Well, he gives us in verse 11 the initial purpose. They stumbled so that salvation could come to the Gentiles, they stumbled out of fellowship with God, they stumbled on the stumbling stone of Christ so that we Gentiles could receive the gospel. That's what Paul says. There's a second purpose, and you get it again with this language in verse 12. "Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?" And then he says, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. This is what we call an infinitive of purpose. Like I went to the store to buy some milk and some eggs. I came to Durham to study at Duke University. I came to Haiti, to work with Dr. Philippe. These are statements of purpose.
Well, it says that salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. So there's a layer of purpose. First Israel stumbles so that the gentiles can believe the gospel, then the Gentiles believe in the Gospel makes Israel jealous so that they'll come back to Christ. Those are the levels and the layers of purpose. We also see it in the how much more language, in verse 12. Verse 12 says, "If their transgression means riches for the world and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring." In other words, look at what I've done with Israel's transgression. Look what I've done through Israel's sin, I've brought riches to the Gentiles, I've brought riches to the ends of the earth. But if I bring riches through their transgression, think what will happen when I bring their fullness. What will it be, but life from the dead.
What a glorious thing that is. And so there is this complex level of purpose. We get these statements again and again. Look at verse 19. In verse 19-20, it says, "You will say 'branches were broken off, so that, that's purpose I might be grafted in.' That is true." In other words, unbelieving Jews who did not trust in Christ, were in some sense broken off from the continuing people of God, the olive tree, they were broken off so that the Gentiles could be grafted in, and Paul says that is true, that is exactly what has happened. Again you get it in verse 25.
"Lest you be wise in your own conceits. I want you to understand this mystery brothers. A partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." Again, there's a measuring out a purpose behind the Jews rejecting of Christ. And again, in verse 30-32, "just as you were at one time disobedient to God, have now received mercy because of their disobedience." That's purpose. Verse 31, "So they, too, have now become disobedient, in order that, that's purpose, by the mercy shown to you, they also may now receive mercy. Verse 32, "For God has consigned all to disobedience, in order that, that's purpose, He may have mercy on them all." Layer upon layer of purpose in the Jews rejecting Christ, and that purpose is God's. This leads us to a deep and a difficult concept and it is this: The God who hates evil, and who cannot even look upon sin for his pure and holy eyes, yet in a mysterious way ordains evil for His own glory, and for the joy of His people. That is the doctrine here, The God who hates evil, who cannot be tempted by evil. He actually ordains it for his own purposes.
God Ordains Sin for Good Purposes: Two Clear Examples
Joseph and his brothers
Now, there are two clear examples of this in the Bible, you may stumble over this, you may say, "This is difficult." How could God ordain something evil, how could God establish something evil? Well, clear example of this is Joseph and his brothers, in the old testament. You remember the story, Joseph was one of Jacob's 12 sons, seemed to have gotten Jacob's heart. Jacob loved him because I think he was Rachel's son. Rachel had difficulty having children. Jacob loved Rachel and so, when Joseph was born Jacob chose him, it seems and gave him this coat of many colors, and his brothers hated him, they were jealous of him, they wanted to kill him. And they intended to kill him, but instead in the sovereignty of God, they decided to sell him as a slave to Egypt. And so he was sold as a slave into Egypt. Now, after Jacob had died, by this time Joseph was the second most powerful man of all of Egypt. He's in charge of everything, the lives of his brothers are in his hand, and they know it, they come groveling in front of Joseph and beg him.
Oh, please don't kill us for what we did. Just before your father died, Jacob, he said, please be generous to your brothers. I don't know if he ever said that. The brothers were given to lying, but at any rate, they came and they were very worried about what Joseph would do now that Jacob was dead. But Joseph made this incredible statement, reverberates through time. In Genesis 50:20, he said this, "As for you, you meant it for evil, against me, but as for God, he meant it for good to bring it about, that many people should be kept alive as it is today." Now, that is profound and deep.
You meant, God meant. You intended, God intended. You purposed, God purposed. Your intention, your meaning, your purpose is different than God's, but God had an intention, a meaning, a purpose in this wicked action. Now, it will not do to say, what you intended for evil, God turned and worked out for good. That's not what it says, it's the same word, both before and after. The same intention, the same meaning word. Now, some of you have heard the saying when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I've seen it up on those inspirational posters. They never inspire me. I think of them as a little bit cliché. I look at them and say, "What am I getting out of this, when life hands you lemons... " What do we mean by that saying?
Well it... Ultimately it's an admission that we don't control our own world, we don't get to choose the stuff that comes toward us. And so we have to have a basic optimism so that when life hands you something sour, and it seems useless that you actually know how to turn it around and do something good and make lemonade with it. Can I tell you something? Life doesn't hand God anything. Our God is a king, our God is a sovereign, He is an emperor, it doesn't hand him anything. He chooses, He decides, He is the king. And so, that's saying they work for us and you can get something good out of it, but it does not work for God because what they meant for evil, God meant for good. Now the highest example of this, we're going to find is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is, in my opinion, the most purely wicked act that there has ever been in history. Why? Because Jesus was the only truly innocent man that there has ever been. He committed no sin, no deceit was found in His mouth, and yet they crucified him wickedly. It was a wicked act. It was a sin. It was a transgression and there were all kinds of people involved. Have you noticed?
There was Judas. What did he mean? What did he intend? 30 pieces of silver, he was motivated by greed. What about Annas and Caiaphas the high priest? What did they mean what do they intend? Greed, Jesus was cutting in on their business by cleansing the temple, over turning the tables of the money changers. That bothered them. They were like mafioso and he was cutting in on their business and so they were motivated by greed, and by power and revenge. Annas and Caiaphas. What about king Herod who wanted to see a miracle, he was motivated by boredom and a desire for entertainment and then when he could get nothing out of Jesus, he sends him back to Pilate for political motivation. And the two of them from that day on, were friends. And what about Pilate, what did he intend? What did he mean in the death of Jesus? I believe he wanted nothing to do with Jesus. He would have loved nothing better than just send Jesus on his way because his wife had suffered a great deal in a dream, and he was afraid of Jesus, and he had heard about Jesus' Miracles and I think he thought Jesus was in some sense a God incarnate. Not "the" God, he didn't have the Jewish way of looking at things, but he thought that Jesus was deity when he asked him, "Where did you come from?" He's afraid of Jesus, but he's even more afraid of the Jews, because they were going to tell Caesar, so he's motivated by fear, he's motivated by convenience and he washes his hands of Jesus and out he goes. Those are their purposes and they have to stand accountable each one for their own intentions and purposes.
But God had a higher purpose. And you know what God's purpose was? To save me from my sins and you too if you trust in Him. That our salvation might be worked there by the greatest wickedness and sin there has ever been in history, and God intended it. He meant it, he planned it for our salvation, before the foundation of the world. And so it is that God actually can ordain and establish sin and evil while himself not tempting or dragging anyone to do sin, and wickedness, and evil. But intending it for a glorious purpose.
IV. God’s Purpose for Gentiles
Now, what is God's good purpose in the hardening of the Jews? What good thing could come from it? Well, I've already mentioned one. And the first that Paul mentions is salvation for the Gentiles. Next week, God willing. I'll talk about the last two which is salvation for the Jews, and glory for God's name. We'll get to that next week. But God had a purpose for the Gentiles. Look at verse 12. "If their transgression means riches for the world and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring?" The transgression of the Jews and rejecting Christ has meant riches for Gentile believers around the world. We've gotten rich on it, friends.
We've gotten rich on mercy, we've gotten rich on Grace, we've gotten rich on the wisdom of God's plan. And friends, we are standing to inherit an infinitely greater amount of wealth and riches than we have even at this present time for the Holy Spirit is merely a deposit guaranteeing our full inheritance. We're going to get still richer yet. The riches of glory in Christ Jesus are ours because of the transgression of the Jews, that's what Paul says, "We got rich on it." We got riches on reconciliation. Verse 15, "if the rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be, but life from the dead."
Why did the Jews have to disbelieve so that the Gentiles could believe?
Now you may ask at this point a deep question. Why did the Jews have to disbelieve so that the Gentiles could believe? I don't see the connection. Why couldn't God have worked out a plan so that both Jews and Gentiles together could believe? My answer is I don't know. I don't know. All I know is the purpose is given there and it says there's a connection, but I will speculate, I have two levels of speculation. First of all, Jesus would never have been crucified, and second of all, even if he had, the Gospel would never been preached to Gentiles. That's my guess.
So, bear with a minute or two of speculation. First of all, Jesus would never have been crucified. Let me bring you to the moment where he is convicted by the Jewish authorities. Jesus stands in front of the high priest, the high priest represents the Jewish nation, the high priest says, "Enough of these false witnesses this isn't working. They can't get their stories together. Let's cut to the chase."
He asked Jesus... Jesus directly. "I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One." Remember what Jesus said in Mark's gospel, "I am." That's God's name, that's the name that the angel of the Lord spoke to Moses out of the flames of the burning bush. "I am." But Jesus didn't just leave it to that, He said in the future, "you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." He quoted Daniel 7, to help the high priest see, how someone could be both son of man and son of God at the same time. I am.
Now the high priest has been brought to a pass hasn't he? He's been brought to a fork in the road, he has one of two options. You know what they are? He can either fall down and worship Jesus at that moment, or he can kill him for blasphemy. There's no other option. Jesus left him none. If he, representing the Jewish nation, had embraced Jesus as the Messiah as the king, he would never have been crucified. You say Why? The Romans wanted nothing to do with him? Pilate said, "Am I a Jew? It was your own people who handed you over to me. What is it you've done?" He didn't want anything to do with Jesus.
And yes, we gentiles through Pilate’s washing of His hands and His cowardice, we are culpable in the death of Christ. God ordained it that both Jew and Gentile worked together that Jesus be crucified. But I'm just saying the scripture says in John 18, Jesus would never have been crucified because Pilate would have dismissed him. So speculation one, we would not have even had to crucified Christ. Therefore we have atonement. But second of all, even if we had a gospel, would the Jews have preached it to Gentiles?
Would they have gone out and sacrificed? And we've learned all you have to do is simply believe this gospel that Jesus dead on the cross is your salvation, Jesus risen from the grave is your eternal life. All you have to do is believe this, you don't have to do any great religious works, you just have to hear and believe this gospel. It's a Jewish message. Salvation is from the Jews. And so therefore it was going to be carried by Jews, and we learned in Romans 10 that beautiful feet were going to take it across mountain ridges, and across oceans and proclaim this message. Because faith comes from hearing. Would they have done it? I don't think so.
I think there was so much hatred built up. A wall of division between Jew and Gentile. So much hostility that the Jews would have either been apathetic to gentile salvation or they would have desired like Jonah frankly, that the Gentiles go ahead and be destroyed. Why was Jonah so angry, why was he so upset? He didn't want Nineveh saved. So would the Jews have taken the gospel to the Gentiles? We were studying the book of Acts in Sunday school, and we're talking about how the Jewish apostles and the early church super saturated Jerusalem with the gospel.
I mean they went house to house. Everybody heard many times, many times they heard, then they heard, and they heard they're not going anywhere, They're staying in Jerusalem until Stephen got martyred, and the Sanhedrin persecuted them because of they... The Sanhedrin, did not believe in Jesus, and they're scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, and began preaching like Philip did in various other places.
Peter himself did, not want to go to Cornelius and preach them the gospel, remember? The Lord had to show him three times a vision of a sheet, let down with all kinds of filthy animals that represented the Gentiles, in my opinion. Get up Peter. Kill and eat. Three times, Peter says "No way." Well, he says, "No Lord I've never even anything impure and unclean." And then the Lord says to him three times, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." When he goes to Cornelius's house, and breaks Jewish law by entering that Gentile home, to preach in the Gospel, he says, "Now I know how clear it is, that God does not show favoritism but accept people from any nation who believe him and do what is, right." That's what it took to get Peter to go to a gentile. Chapter 11. A whole recounting of Chapter 10 is there for only one purpose, Acts 11, to teach us how hard it was for Jewish Christians to accept the idea of Gentile believers. Very tough. And then along come the Judaizers party, that said... No, no, this is too easy. The Gentiles have to become Jews, they got to be circumcised in order to be saved. Do you not see how difficult it would have been for the Jews to evangelize?
Now, I told you that was just speculation. The Bible doesn't tell me, but it does say branches were broken off so that you, a wild olive shoot could be grafted in. That's what it says. And so God's initial level of purpose in all of this is so that the Gentiles might get rich on the Gospel. Now next Week, God willing, we're gonna see what his purpose is for the Jews and ultimately what his purpose is for the glory of His own name.
What application can we take from this? Well, I want to bring you to Hurricane Katrina. Our church has voted to embrace an adoption relationship. Kind of a partnership will be a better word with Bayview Baptist Church in Gulfport. But after Hurricane Katrina left its track of devastation there was all kinds of theological speculation in its wake. Have you read any of it? Really fascinating. All the theology that's done on the wake of a hurricane. Most of it bad, I have to be honest with you. How could a good and loving God really be in charge of everything when this wreckage is left behind? How can it be? As a Matter of fact, John Piper writing an article talks about Daniel Shore, who is a National Public Radio senior news analyst. He linked the devastation of hurricane Katrina with the concept of intelligent design, which he disagrees with. He would like evolution and only evolution taught in schools. This is what Daniel Shore said, "If this, [the hurricane] was the result of intelligent design, then the designer has something to answer for."
Oh, was that striking. It's like a cold slap in my face to read that. Can you imagine the designer God answering to Daniel Shore? Can you imagine the scene at the end of the book of Job, reversed? Where Job is answering the... Asking the questions, and God's got to answer Job. Oh no, God answers out of a whirlwind and we keep our mouth shut and we listen to what he has to say for He is mighty, and He is sovereign, and He is exalted.
But you know what struck me? How prone I am to do the same thing that Daniel Shore does. I do it almost knee jerk reflexively. As soon as something happens that I don't like in my life, I begin to look upward and say why? As though he needs to tell me why. As though he needs to give me an answer of why this or that or the other happened, whether financially or in a medical situation, or an unanswered prayer or some disappointment in this disappointing life, we immediately look up to God. Big issue or small. And we say why. Give me an answer. You have something to answer for God. I think Romans 9 through 11 is a good corrective to that problem. Wouldn't it be better for us, who know so little about life in the world just to put ourselves humbly at the feet of God? Just humbly say, "Whatever you're doing, even if it's the deepest and the most complex plan and I can't figure it out, even if I can't trace out your hand through all of what you're doing in my life, I trust you, Lord. I trust what you're doing, I trust what you're doing in this medical situation, I love when you're not answering prayer. They may die, they do die. I still trust you, Lord, I trust what you're doing in my financial life, I trust what you're doing with my job, I trust what you're doing with my children, I trust what you're doing in the things that pertain to me. I'm not going to murmur against you, I'm not going to complain. I can't trace out your ways. They're too high for me, they're too complex for me. I just trust you." To me. I think that's a comprehensive application of Romans 11.
Secondly, simply this, you've seen today, the testimony of four individuals who trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and have testified by baptism. Where are you with God? Someday, opposite from Daniel Shore, someday you will have to answer to the almighty, Someday you will have to give an account of your life to Him. Are you ready? Are you ready, for that searching penetrating questioning where you'll have to give an account for every careless word? Are you ready? Have you trusted in Christ, Do you believe in Him? Is He your savior? Close with me, if you would, in prayer.