God Gave Israel Its Spiritual Blindness, Part 1 (Romans Sermon 82 of 120)
October 09, 2005 | Andy Davis
Election & Predestination
I. Introduction: On Holy Ground
Turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 11. We are continuing our series in Romans, and we come to Romans 11:7-10 that you heard Chris just read. These are some amazing verses, and as I was thinking about them, I thought about the capability that God has given us of eyesight. I think that the human eye is one of the most extraordinary things in the universe. As a matter of fact, it's so complex and extraordinary that Charles Darwin, the originator of the Theory of Evolution, used it as an example of extraordinary organs that are so complex and so incredibly put together, that he doesn't know how they could have been evolved and so it troubled him.
The human eye has an incredible complexity to it. There are 7 million cones and 75 to 150 million rods at the back of your eye in the retina taking light from off my face and from this room and transferring it at this moment to chemical impulses that your brain is receiving a sight. You can see all different kinds of colors, different hues and shades you can see a tiny spark of light if somebody lights a match a 100 yards away, you can see that, or a little red LED on a cell phone from a long distance all the way to different shades and hues. You can tell the difference between the color of the leaves in August after a rain and the color of the leaves in September when they're a little bit more pale green and you know that they're just getting ready to turn. You can tell that difference because the eye can just take in literally millions of different shades, and intensities and wavelengths and just recognize them as color. The human eye is truly astounding. And so therefore, I think Darwin have every right to be suspicious that evolution could not have put this thing through. It is not an accident of biochemistry, coming up from a little pond of slime over millions and millions of years but rather eyesight is a personal gift from the creator God, the eternal God, that he gives as he chooses. And none of us deserves it, it's just a gift of grace, it's something he gives or he doesn't give according to his will.
Now, you may wonder why God wouldn't give it and that's a mystery, isn't it? If you think about it, this is exactly what God told Moses as Moses was standing on holy ground, he was told by God to take off his sandals, for the place where he was standing was holy ground. And brothers and sisters I have that sense with Romans 11:7-10. The doctrines that are taught here, are holy and high and difficult, and so there's a sense of the holy ground. And so Moses was told to take off his sandals for he's standing in the presence of almighty God. And God gave Moses a difficult mission to go back to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people go, and Moses was ruminating on this question, which was totally irrelevant to the mission. Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? That's irrelevant. "I will be with you," he was told. But he was saying, "I'm not really good at speaking actually." And so God said this striking thing to him in Exodus 4:11, "The Lord said to him, who gave man his mouth, who makes him deaf or mute?" Listen to this, "Who gives him sight or makes him blind is it not I, the Lord." Now, half of that, we embrace and we welcome, and we say, I praise God and my eyesight is a gift from God, but that's not all that God said there. Who gives him sight and who makes him blind? Why? Why would God form an eyeball in a human head that is incapable of receiving sight? Why would he do that?
That's the very question that the disciples posed to Jesus, you remember in John 9 when they came across a man who had been born blind. And they were deeply troubled and they were asking a theological question, who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind? Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." Now there is a deep question and a deep concept, there is actually a purpose to this man's blindness. There's a 'so that's behind it, there's a reason for it, a good and redemptive purpose. That God's power and his work might be displayed in his life and friends what is true in the physical realm with physical eyesight is also true in the spiritual realm with spiritual eyesight. God gives physical vision, or he does not, and he gives spiritual eyesight or he does not, and that is his purpose and he does all of these things so that the works of God might be displayed in history that he might be displayed as the giver of eyesight, the giver of spiritual sight, the giver of salvation that he might be worshipped as the only savior that there is.
Why would God thereby give spiritual blindness to anyone? That is the question. That is the question of Romans 11. God loves to take away blindness. Jesus did that in John 9, he took away the blindness of that man who had been born blind and I can't imagine the joy, it must have been for him at that late date of his life to see color for the first time. What it must have been like for him as a fully grown man to see his first sunset, that's incredible, God loves to take away blindness. But the question we have to ask is, Why would God give blindness specifically a spiritual blindness? Specifically, why is it that the Jews do not see Jesus in the Old Testament? Why is it that they don't see Jesus as their Messiah and their Christ? We believers in Christ we see him, don't we? We know that he's the Christ, when we read Isaiah 53, we see Jesus there. Why don't they?
That is the question that Romans 11 is dealing with, and I want to just give you a simple concept, Simple to say, but difficult to grasp. God gave Israel their spiritual blindness. That's what Romans 11:8 is teaching. God gave Israel their spiritual blindness and beyond that as we'll see in the rest of the chapter in Romans 11, he has a purpose in doing it. He has a good and glorious purpose in doing it and I'm not going to get into all of that today, it's going to be the unfolding of Romans 11 of what God's purpose is in this spiritual blindness. But today, I want to say it simply in a plain way. God gave Israel their spiritual blindness, that is what the Lord says here in Romans 11.
II. The Contextual Question: Why are the Jews rejecting Jesus Christ in large numbers?
Now let's get our context, again, as we try to understand Romans 9 through 11, the question that Paul is dealing with in these chapters, Romans 9, 10, 11 is this issue of why the Jews were not embracing Christ as their Messiah. It is a big problem. And the question that goes, it goes even deeper. The question is, how can God who seems to have made all of these marvelous promises to the Jews has he forsaken them? Has he broken his promises? Has God's word failed? And if God's word is failed to the Jews, how do you know it's not going to fail toward you as a gentile believer? That's a big issue.
And so Paul takes it on and on in Romans 9, 10, 11 that is his answer to this whole problem of Jewish unbelief in Christ. His first answer in Romans 9, specifically in verse 6. It is not as though God's word has failed for not all who are descended from Abraham are Abraham's. They are not all who are descended from Israel are actually Israel. There is a physical nation of Jews physically descendant from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but then there is the spiritual Israel, the remnant within and they are the elect, and God chooses them unconditionally. Romans 9 teaches that very plainly, we've been through Romans 9, carefully. And Paul's first answer of this question is the issue of individual personal election by God, sovereign election, unconditional election.
But the second answer that he gives in Romans 9:30-33, and then in chapter 10 is that Israel has pursued their own righteousness. They've pursued self-righteousness and thereby they stumbled over what God was doing, they stumbled over Christ, they couldn't believe in him, they couldn't accept him because they were trying to establish their own righteousness. God was establishing a simple and straight forward Gospel of salvation. A Gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ apart from works, that anybody can receive simply by hearing and believing. You just hear you believe you're justified from all of your sins. But it was something they could not accept.
Now Romans 11 is Paul's more or less, final answer to this immense problem of the Jews, and he begins right from the start in verse 1 by saying first of all, God has not rejected the nation of Israel, and I believe in Chapter 11, he's dealing with the future of the nation as a whole, he's dealt with individual Jews up to this point in chapter 9 and 10 but now he's dealing with the whole nation.
And he said it's not as though God has turned his back on the nation, either because I'm an Israelite. The fact is that there are Jewish believers in Christ, and if God had forsaken the Jews entirely if he had turned his back on them there would be none. Nobody gets saved, except God works it. Simon Peter was told this, this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in Heaven, nobody can be saved, except by the sovereign work of Almighty God. And you know why, because salvation is a miracle, it's a miracle to be born again and to live for ever and ever, it's something only God can do. Isn't that a marvelous thought? But he's saying, if God had forsaken the Jews entirely there would be no Jewish believers but there are in every generation there are. God has reserved a remnant, the 7,000 that have not bowed the need of Baal, he's held on to them, they are his in every generation, he's got his Jewish believers in Christ. They're precious. Just like the 7000 that had not bowed the need of Baal. They are his remnant.
But God has hardened the rest of Israel as he said he would, and he covered the issue of hardening with Pharaoh's heart in chapter 9, Now, he brings it up again here in Chapter 11, Israel's hardening therefore is a part of God's eternal plan. And therefore I say to you very plainly that every single human being on the face of the earth either gets election or hardening from God. One or the other. We all get something from God, God's not passive, he deals with each one of us, deals with us, and we either get election and salvation from it or we get hardening. And so it was also with the Jews. There's no difference and God has a purpose in that. We're going to see that purpose in the rest of the chapter. Not today, but I'll tell you already what it is, it is that gentiles might be saved and that Israel might be humbled and in the end saved that God might get the glory that everyone gets saved the same way by mercy alone and that is what God is working, that is his ultimate purpose.
III. Israel’s Stupor and Blindness
Now first, we need to take on this issue of Israel's stupor and blindness. And we start right at the beginning of Paul's ministry. Paul was called by God to be the apostle to the gentiles, but from the very beginning of Paul's ministry, he had to face Jewish opposition to Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, when Ananias he went to lay hands on Paul that he might have his sight again, his sight might be restored, and he might be baptized into the fellowship of believers, Ananias didn't want to go. That's a tough ministry to go and baptize Saul of Tarsus, he didn't want to go because he had heard that this man is a vicious persecutor, and so he was. But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the gentiles and their kings," listen, "and before the people of Israel." Yes, he was apostle of the gentiles, but he had a ministry to Israel. And so in every city, he went to the Jew first and then to the gentile. He went to the Jew first, he went to the synagogue first, he was ministering to Jews.
Paul’s Evangelistic History with Israel
Well, it started right from the beginning, as soon as Paul was in the city of Damascus and he had been baptized, he had miraculously received again his sight, he began to preach boldly in the synagogue in Damascus that Jesus was the Christ, the Jews didn't know what to make of him. They expected Saul to come but they didn't expect this. They were shocked, they were stunned, they were amazed and then they plotted to kill him.
Well, that was the first in the long and vicious journey. It was so bad that Paul had to be lowered in a basket at night over the wall of Damascus, so he could make his escape. Well, where does he go? He goes to Jerusalem, and there the Grecian Jews tried to kill him, and so they hustle him off back to Tarsus and it says, "Then all the churches in Judea had peace," because everywhere Paul went, he just stirred people up, especially the Jews. When he began on his missionary journey in Acts 13, in Cyprus it was Elymus, a Jewish sorcerer that opposed him and Paul had to deal with him. When he goes to Pisidian Antioch it says that the Jews filled with jealousy talked abusively against the gospel and they had Paul expelled from the city. He goes to Iconium then, and some Jews believed but the rest stirred up the gentiles and plotted to have Paul stoned. In Lystra they actually accomplished that. Some Jews believed but the rest of the Jews stirred up the gentiles and actually had him stoned. He was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead. Some people believe he was dead, and God raised him from the dead, so he could continue his ministry. Picked himself up out of a pile of stones and continued to minister. He goes to Thessalonica and there, the Jews formed a mob and stirred up a riot in the city trying to kill Paul.
He goes to Berea, and there they are more noble-minded and they search the scriptures and a lot of them come to faith in Christ. But some Jews from Thessalonica come down stirrup the people and have Paul expelled, they'd like to kill him in Berea. He goes to Corinth, and the Jews opposed Paul there and became abusive, but God thwarted their plans and told him that he would have some space or some protection around him so that he would not be killed and so that he could minister and for a year and a half, he ministered in Corinth. In Ephesus Paul tried to reason with them in the synagogue, but they became obstinate. So Paul left them, and rented a lecture hall where he could carry on his ministry, the lecture hall of Tyrannus. He worked there for two years. In Greece again the Jews made a plot against him to show just as he was about to sail for Syria, so he couldn't go on the boat. They were going to get on the boat with him and assassinate him there probably, so he had to go overland. He goes to Jerusalem, and some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and assumed that Paul had brought a gentile into the temple, so they started a riot, and tried to kill him. They tried to pull him limb from limb.
And then some other Jews formed a conspiracy. And bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had murdered Paul. Finally he ends up in Rome and the Book of Acts ends with him meeting with the Jewish leaders explaining the Gospel. Some of them believed and some of them didn't, and began to oppose him. And the Book of Acts ends with the warning from the Book of Isaiah that they would believe and not be hardened. That is the history of Paul's ministry in the Book of Acts, and how consistently the Jews opposed to him.
And why do they do that? Well, it's because of the blindness, it was because the spirit of stupor, it was because of the deafness. They could not see Christ in what Paul was presenting in the law and in the prophets, in the Scriptures. They couldn't see it, and so they were blind. Paul's summation of the ministry you really can see in Romans 7:11 "What then," it says, "What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain but the elect did, the others were hardened." And so there is the elect, but then there's those that are hardened.
And so, it is at the present time. At this present time as Paul says in verse 5, "So too at the present time, there is a remnant." So to at this present time, there's also a remnant in our day and there are also Jews that reject. There are many, many Jews as we've mentioned: Messianic Jews, Jews for Jesus, that have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are our brothers and sisters, they are delightful people who have retained the knowledge of Jewish heritage and Jewish customs but have believed and embraced the New Covenant of faith in Jesus Christ. Estimates of Jewish Christians in the US, over a 100,000 that's a good number but still really very small, percentage-wise. Most Jews reject the Gospel, perhaps bitter by gentile antisemitism. And let me tell you something, one of the major themes of Romans 11 is how ridiculous and how wicked is gentile antisemitism. It's a form of arrogance that Paul's going to be ministering directly against it in Romans 11, how wrong it is for the gentiles to boast over the Jews. But it has happened again and again and because of that there's some bitterness, some memory.
You remember a few years ago when Mel Gibson came out with his film The Passion of the Christ, there was a great hue and cry about the possibility of antisemitism coming from this film. At that time Abraham Foxman, who was president of the Jewish Anti-defamation League, was vocal about the possibility that Gibson's film might stir up reprisals and attacks against Jews all over the world. And this is what he said, "For almost 2,000 years in Western civilization four words legitimized, rationalized and fueled antisemitism. Those four words are 'the Jews killed Christ.'" And that's what he's afraid was going to come up as a result of Gibson's film. Well, this history of Jewish antisemitism connected with the Jews and the killing of Christ while neglecting the fact that Pontius Pilate, sentenced him to death, and so in the providence of God, both Jews and gentiles worked together that Jesus would be killed is perverted and wicked in sight of God.
Now the film as far as I know, didn't produce any great antisemitism but it was a great concern. Frankly, most Jews that I know, and most Jews in America today are really actually secular people. They don't attend worship services, statistics show, the majority of them do not. Majority of them do not read the Scriptures, the Old Testament. A majority of them, do not know much even of their Jewish heritage. As a matter of fact, there was a story in the San Jose Mercury News talking about the union of Orthodox rabbis from the United States and Canada formally declared that 80% of the US Jews who are reformed or conservative "are not Jewish." That's what their own rabbis were saying because there was a secularizing tendency in American Judaism.
Deepest Issue: The Old Testament Does Not Speak Christ to Them
So what is it at the present time the situation hasn't changed at all. There is a blindness, there is a rejection of Christ. They do not see God, they do not see Christ, when they read the Scriptures, they do not understand that these things testify concerning Christ. The deepest issue is that they do not see Jesus in the Old Testament prophecies.
In Isaiah 53, it says, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Yet, we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted, but He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed, we all like sheep of gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Does that speak Jesus to you? Well, it speaks Jesus to me, but it does not speak Jesus to the Jews that read it. On the website that I've mentioned before, Jews for Judaism, an obvious response to Jews for Jesus. The website there said that the best interpretation of Isaiah 53 is that it refers to the Jewish nation as a whole. The Jewish nation as a whole has in some sense, suffered for the sins of the world, the Jewish nation as a whole is like a lamb led before God for the slaughter.
Well, the Jews have suffered greatly but are the Jews innocent and pure? "He committed no transgression, nor is any sin found in their mouth." How can that be said? Their own prophets testify against them that this is not so. Moses said ahead of time, that it would not be so. And frankly, right in the middle of Isaiah 53, Isaiah says it's not so, for he says this, "For the transgression of my people he was stricken." Who are Isaiah's people? They are the Jews and therefore Jesus is the Savior and the only savior, the Jews have. For the transgression of Jews He was stricken, and for Gentiles too. But they don't see it, they don't see Jesus in Isaiah 53.
Neither do they see Jesus in Daniel 7, "The Son of Man vision," where it says, "In my vision at night, I looked and there before me was one like a son of man coming with the clouds of Heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power. All peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." Who is the Son of man? He is led into the presence of the Ancient of Days on the cloud of heaven. But all nations and all nations worship him, but he's not the Ancient of Days in this vision. He's the son of man. Who is he?
I was on a plane flight back from China, and there was a Jewish woman sitting to my right, pinned between my seat and the wall of the plane, but I was gentle with her, I think, anyway, I don't know. But we had some incredible conversations about... I just stuck to the Old Testament. Psalm 22, pierced hands and feet; Psalm 16, "You will not let your holy one see decay." I mean just all the best scriptures, went to Daniel 7, she'd never heard of the Son of Man vision, never heard of it. Attend synagogue worship every week in Brooklyn, New York. I said, "When you get back," she talked about her Rabbi in Brooklyn, I said, "When you get back, ask your Rabbi this question, 'Who is the 'son of man' in Daniel 7?" Just ask him that question.
I think Jesus is asking you that question right now. They don't see, they don't see Jesus in the "Son of Man" vision. The Jews for Judaism site said this also, is in some sense, Israel, in some sense, the Jewish people. Alfred Eder Shin, who was a convert to Christianity from Judaism in the 19th century, wrote an incredible work, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. He cited 456 passages in the Old Testament which Jewish commentators in the Talmud, ancient Jewish commentators had identified as messianic; including Daniel 7, including Psalm 110, including Psalm 16 and some of these others. They had identified them as messianic. The Jews were almost unanimous in agreeing that the Son of Man passage in Daniel 7 was messianic, the Talmud said this. In the Babylonian Talmud, the Jewish Rabbi Akiva said that the throne set up in the heaven was one for the Ancient of Days and one for the son of David.
Well, another Jewish commentator, criticized him and said, "That's blasphemy." How can you have a throne for the Son of Man right next to the throne of the Ancient of Days? But they didn't fully understand the deity of Christ, the incarnation, but they were right there, and they said, "It's messianic. But after after Christian evangelists, and apostles began to use these passages to prove that Jesus was the Christ, they turned and said that they're not messianic. There was a blindness that came over. Jesus faced it even in his own day, He said in John 5:39-40, "You diligently study the Scriptures, because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me. Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." And Paul says in effect a veil is over their hearts whenever the Old Testament scripture is read. It says in 2 Corinthians 3:14-16, "But their minds were made dull, for to this day, the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away."
IV. Israel’s Stupor and Blindness Caused by God
Now the question is: Israel's blindness, their stupor, their deafness, their inability to see Christ in these passages; what is the cause of it? And Paul's answer here is stunning. Look at verses 7 and 8. It says, "What then, what Israel sought so earnestly, it did not obtain but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written. God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear to this very day." Now, Paul has already mentioned hardening in Romans 9. He talks about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, and summarizes it in Romans 9:18. He says, Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden. As I said, Every human being gets either mercy or hardening from God, one or the other.
And so the Jews, some of them got mercy, some of them were hardened and the same thing here in verse 7. What Israel sought so earnestly, it did not obtain but the elect did, the others were hardened. Paul says it again in Romans 11:25, look down further on the same page in Verse 25, he says, "I do not want you to be ignorant to this mystery brothers so that you may not be conceited. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in." So there's this hardening.
The Key Concept: God Gave them the hardening
Well, the key concept is where does this hardening come from? Well, the text says it comes from God. The key words here are: "God gave them." Do you see it in verse 8? God gave them a spirit of stupor, God gave them eyes so that they cannot see, God gave them ears so that they could not hear to this very day.
Now I believe that they close their own eyes. I believe that. I believe they made a choice, and they close their own eyes. Jesus says so. In Matthew 13:15, it says, "This people's heart has become callous. They hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and I would heal them." They closed their own eyes, that is true. Furthermore, another scripture teaches us that Satan blinds our eyes. Satan actually has the power in some way, through his world system to blind people's eyes. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, "The god over this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God."
But friends, yes, individual sinners blind, their own eyes. Yes, it is true that Satan blinds their eyes. But that's not what Paul is talking about here. Here he ascribes it ultimately to God Almighty, to God Himself. Notice the connection between 7 and 8. It says, at Verse 7, "the rest were hardened." Verse 8 begins, "as it is written," so he's going to explain the hardening. That's what he's getting at here in verse 8, he's explaining the hardening. Now verse 8's quotation, he's about to quote, he really is mixing elements from Deuteronomy 29:3-4 and Isaiah 29:10. And he changes it a bit, he actually intensifies it. Deuteronomy 29, Moses said to Israel at that time. Listen to this: "With your own eyes, you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord, listen, has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.”
So there is something that God has not given them, He's not given them an understanding of mind, not given them eyes that see, not given them ears that hear. Well what, what is it they didn't see? Well, they had seen 10 miraculous plagues in Egypt, astounding plagues. They had seen a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. They had seen water walled up on the left and the right, they had seen God do astounding things. They had seen water from a rock, they had seen manna every morning miraculously appear to feed millions of people every day for 40 years. They had seen miracle after miracle, and Moses said, Still, you don't see.
You still don't know him, you still don't see. And so they were in some sense blind. Actually, Paul intensifies it. What Moses said God did not do, Paul says God did, he gave them eyes that do not see and he gave them ears that do not hear and it says very plainly, in Verse 8, God gave them a spirit of stupor. This is a quote from Isaiah. It's related to drunkenness, you can imagine somebody who's had too much to drink way too much to drink, slumped over a table disgusting, filthy, wretched and you go pick the man up by the scruff of the neck and shake him. And ah, you just can't get anything out of him, just not there. That's what Isaiah 29:10 is talking about, there's a spirit of stupor. They don't see spiritual truth and there's nothing you can say that will get through to them. That's what Isaiah 29:10 is talking about. Romans 11:8 says God gave it to them, He gave them a spirit of stupor. He gave them this blindness, He gave them this hardness.
It's a similar statement made in John Chapter 12, actually directly parallel to Deuteronomy 29. Deuteronomy 29 talks about all the Exodus miracles, all the plagues, all of the things that they saw. John 12 talks about all of Jesus' miracles, all of the things He did. The signs and wonders to prove the deity of Christ. Walking on water, feeding the 5000, raising the dead, healing a man born blind, casting out demons with a word; incredible power. A river of miracles. What more evidence could there have been? And this is what John says, a summary of Jesus' public ministry in John 12:37-40 "Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet, 'Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?' [That's Isaiah 53] For this reason they could not believe, because as Isaiah says elsewhere, 'He has blinded their eyes and deaden their hearts so that they can neither see with their eyes nor understand with their hearts nor turn, and I would heal them.'"
He has blinded their eyes, He has deaden their hearts. Who can John mean but God himself? But you don't have to wonder in Romans 11, Paul says it directly, Paul's answer therefore to the grief, the grief and the agony of Jewish rejection of Christ is that God has given them, the spirit of stupor, and the blindness. Now there is a purpose for it. And we're going to talk about it in Romans 11. All I want you to see this morning, is that He did it. Now originally, this was going to be a three part sermon. This morning as I was going through it, I said, "My goodness." And you probably saying the same thing, you know it's 12:10, and you're saying, "My goodness, were only two points through this three point outline." The third point is so deep and so weighty, that it really deserves full treatment next week. It has to do with how God did it, and how a table of blessing can become a stumbling block.
And it's a message I think we Americans need to hear almost as much as any message that I've worked on and so I'm not going to hurry through it. There is a way that our blessings can become our curses that they can blind us and deaden us spiritually. I think that's what happened to Israel as well. We'll talk about that next week this week. This week all I want you to do is just understand the simple words, God gave them.
Now, by way of application, I want to say this, I was listening recently to a John Piper sermon on Romans 9, 10 and 11. And he was talking about the way that Americans approached Bible truth. And I read a lot of good books that helped me understand church life and a lot of good perspectives and I learned but I'm hearing more and more about relevant preaching. Relevant preaching.
Well, let me tell you something, I never have a yearning to be irrelevant, I don't like to be irrelevant. I guess youth call it random. What a random thing. I don't desire to come up here and be random. I actually am kind of methodological I'm just going through and taking the next passage and preaching what it says. So there's a certain pattern there, but when we get to this issue of relevant preaching you know what they're really meaning? Pragmatic, practical preaching. Preaching where I'm told 10 things I can do to improve this problem area of my life.
Right? I'm having marital troubles, what do I, what are four things, three things, two things, I can do to help me be a better husband, okay? What are some things I can do to be a better parent? I want to make more money, or I'm having trouble financially, I've got physical problems. How can I cope with my chronic illnesses or that of a spouse or a loved one? I've got problems in my life, and friends I am not in any way saying that everyday life isn't hard, it is.
But John Piper was talking about the arrogance of the pragmatism in thinking that either the preacher or the hearers can actually know what they need, that we can actually figure out what we need to hear in order to get our problems fixed and solved.
You know what I think you need and I need? I need the word of God. Because all scripture is useful and beneficial and health producing. And therefore, I don't presume to tell a physician, "Would you give me this prescription, or that one?" This is not... Well there may be some input I might have on what this medication did to my body last time, but I wouldn't presume to tell them what to mix into the medicine, how much less would I tell God, Please tell me what I need to hear so I can fix these four problems, that are immediately pressing in my daily life. All Scripture is relevant, and especially something right in the middle of Romans. It must be relevant. So therefore, what could the relevance be to you, of knowing that God gave Israel it's spiritual blindness.
I asked that question, this one as I was going through this message. And I had a kind of a mental vision of God seated on His throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple, and these seraphs, these burning angels before whom I would really be tempted to worship are covering their faces in His presence. And He dwells in unapproachable light, and He is awesome, and He is exalted and all heaven is circled around Him and focused on Him. And I realize the relevancy of that vision, that God is an awesome, powerful King, and I am a created being. I am a servant. I am saved by grace alone, and if I can see Jesus in Isaiah 53, it's because God gave it to me to see it.
If I can see Jesus's hands and feet pierced, in Psalm 22, it's because God gave it to me to see it. It's the very thing that Jesus said to Peter, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. God has willed to show you himself.
And what could be more relevant than that, to know that there is a King who rules over every detail of life and it's not an accident or a tragic circumstance that these Jews are rejecting Christ. It is part of a deep and mysterious redemptive plan that God holds the powerful key to, and when He wants, He will release salvation for the Jews, and they will turn to Him, and they will embrace Him. In the words of Zechariah, They will look on him, and they will see him for the first time, and they will mourn for Him as for an only son, and they will embrace Him. And Paul says in Romans 11, what will that be, but life from the dead? Close with me in prayer.