God Has Not Rejected the Jews (Romans Sermon 81 of 120)
September 25, 2005 | Andy Davis
True Israel, Election & Predestination
I. Introduction: A People with every reason to be extinct... and yet they live!
So we come to Romans Chapter 11 and we come to another great section in Paul's unfolding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And we've been seeing in Romans 9-11 how Paul is dealing with the problem of the Jews, specifically why it is that the Jews are almost universally rejecting Jesus Christ, their Christ, their king, their Messiah. Now, as we look at the Jews in history, it's really quite an astonishing story, isn't it? If you think about the Jews as a nation, they make up a vanishingly small percentage of the world population, but they have an overwhelming influence and on human history. If you look at an amazing percentage of Fortune 500 companies are started by and run by Jewish people. A remarkably high percentage of graduates from Harvard and Yale and other institutions of higher learning come from a Jewish background. A high percentage of PhDs awarded in this country every year are to Jewish people. Also, amazingly high and striking percentage of Nobel Prize winners come from a Jewish background. Most presidents, when they put their cabinets and their high level officials together, they want to have a representation of the population as a whole, it's good politically to do that, but you look at the cabinets of the last four Presidents and those at the highest levels of government, an overwhelming percentage or a large percentage come from a Jewish background.
But as I look at the Jewish nation, one of the most amazing things about the Jews to me, just looking at it spiritually and looking at it scripturally, is that they still exist at all. It's really quite remarkable that they're even here at this time, the Jews as a nation were begun when a wandering Aramean named Abram was called by God. He had no children, his wife was barren. They tried for decades to have children and to no avail. And even after 20-plus years after a promise was made to him, still no children. And by this time, his name has changed from Abram to Abraham, and God had shown him the stars in the sky, and he made a promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless is a sand in the sea shore, but there's no evidence of that yet because Isaac hadn't been born. It's really astonishing that the Jews even came to existence at all. And that's one of the points that Paul makes earlier in Romans, is that God calls into existence things that are not. He has that power to do it.
But not only that, He has maintained and sustained the Jews as a recognizable people through centuries, even through millennia of hostile history, and that's really quite remarkable. The fact of the matter is the Jews, through their sins, just like we Gentile sinners, through our sins, merited the wrath of God, and any of us could have been erased from history any time by the sovereignty of God, but God has not done that with the Jews, nor will He. Other tribes and other nations of peoples, Gentiles have become extinct. For example, if you look at Deuteronomy 7-1, there's a listing there of the seven nations that the Jews expelled from the promised land: The Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Do you have any Jebusite friends? Have you ever met a Hittite? Have you ever spoken to a Hivite? Who are these peoples? They have become extinct. Any of their seed that were left were blended into other Gentile cultures and they are lost.
The same is true even in North American history. Some of you have read the book by James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans. What happened to The Mohican people? Well, they became extinct as a nation around the time of the French and Indian War. But the Jews, despite repeated crusades and inquisitions and pogroms and genocides and holocausts still maintain an identity. And not only that, wherever they are around the world, they maintain a distinct Jewish identity. The question is, why? And Romans 11 I think gives a stunning and deep and mysterious answer to that question, and that is that God is not through with Israel yet. He's not through with the Jews as a nation yet. Now the context here of Romans 11 is Romans 9-11 where Paul is dealing with the question of the Jews. Why are they almost universally rejecting Christ? In Romans 9, he gives an answer from God's sovereignty, that God is sovereign over human salvation. God elects people to be saved not on the basis of anything they have done. "Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad…" God sovereignly elects and chooses people, that's from that perspective, Romans 9 looking down, the sovereignty of God. And so God's word hasn't failed Israel because "not all who are descended from Israel are Israel," and those that God has chosen, they are indeed saved.
Then Romans 10 gives more of a human explanation, that the gospel is essentially simple, that all you have to do is believe in Christ, it's that simple. But the Jews desiring to retain their own righteousness, to be saved through their own obedience to the law, rejected God’s righteousness and stumbled over the stumbling stone, Jesus Christ. And God has been holding out His hands offering salvation. It says in 10:21, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." The Jews had heard, they had rejected. So that is more of a human point of view.
But now here in Romans 11, I think we shift back to the high view, the big view from the sovereignty of God perspective. And whereas up to this point I think we have been primarily speaking of individual people, individual salvation, what happens to individual Jews, what happens to individual Gentiles, "Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame," "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved," that's speaking individually, here I believe, in Romans 11.
II. Paul’s Assertion: God Has Not Rejected the Jews
He's now speaking corporately. He's looking now at the whole nation, the Jewish nation, and saying, and seeing, does God have a future for the Jews? In Romans 11 the answer is overwhelmingly yes Look what he says in verse 1, "I asked then, did God reject His people? By no means." So Paul there asked a profound question. He asked a question followed up on the last verse of Chapter 10 concerning Israel, he says, "All day long I've held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." You may think God's been holding out His hands all this time now finally saying, "Enough is enough, I'm not doing it anymore. I have reached out to you for centuries and now I have turned away from you forever." Paul says that's precisely what God has not done. God has not rejected His people. The answer actually comes in the negative. No, "by no means." "God has not rejected His people" has he?" And then he goes head and answers it, "By no means," or "May it never be."
Now, the grounds for rejection abound. All you have to do is look at the history of the Jews and see how many times they had provoked the Lord to anger. For example, at the beginning of their consciousness as a nation, as they were coming out of Egypt in the Exodus, they came to Mount Sinai and there they made the golden calf. And God was angry enough with the Jews to destroy them entirely at that point. It says in Exodus 32:9-10, "'I have seen these people,' the Lord said to Moses, 'and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone, so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them, and then I'll make you into a great nation.'" Well, that's what God said right there at the time of the golden calf. Then more than 40 years later, Moses said this to the Jews. As they're about to enter the promised land, the book of Deuteronomy 9:6 and following, "Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness," speaking to the Jews, "It is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. Remember this and never forget how you provoked the Lord your God to anger in the desert. From the day you left Egypt until the day you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord. At Horeb you aroused the Lord's wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you."
So this is the repeated characterization of the Jews right at the very beginning and then throughout the prophetic history in the Old Testament, we see it again and again. Isaiah said that they were as rebellious as Sodom and Gomorrah. Jeremiah was commanded not even to pray for them before the time of the Exodus... Or the exile Babylon. Daniel poured out his heart and soul in Daniel 9 in prayer for his own people and for their sins. Nehemiah, after the restoration back to the promised land, after the exile to Babylon, prayed this, in Nehemiah 9:29-30 it says, "You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your own ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly, they turned their backs on you. They became stiff-necked and refused to listen. For many years, you were patient with them. By your spirit you admonished them through your prophets, yet they paid no attention."
And around the exact same time as Nehemiah, Ezra the priest was so frustrated with the fact that the Jews had, even at that point, a tiny remnant had come back, a little over 40,000 of them compared to several million, maybe 5 or 6 million in the time of David in the census, 5 or 6 million down to 40,000 in the promised land, a tiny little remnant has come back and Jewish history in the promised land can continue, and even then they're still violating the Old Covenant by intermarrying with pagan women. And Ezra was so frustrated that he pulled out his own hair in prayer. I've mentioned before, that's nothing compared to Nehemiah, who pulled out their hair. Either way, hair was getting pulled out. Either Ezra's pulling his hair out or Nehemiah pulled their hair out, but there was this intensity. How can it be, after all of this, still the sin is there?
Are we any different, brothers and sisters? Are we not also stiff-necked? Are we not also rebellious against the Lord's commands? How many times has He been good to us? How many times has He commanded us, and we do not bend that neck into the yoke of Jesus Christ? We can't point any fingers, but this is the clear testimony of the history of the Jews. Christ himself told the parable of the vineyard and the tenant farmers, in which the owner of the vineyard sends one messenger after another to these tenant farmers, and all they do is kill the messengers, and then they kill the son when he sends the son. Clearly a history of the Jews. And Jesus in his sevenfold woe in Matthew 23 culminated this way: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house has left you desolate, for I tell you that you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" And then Jesus left the temple, Jesus leaving the temple symbolically a picture of the desolation of Israel and its temple. When Jesus left, he was the glory of Israel.
Stephen, one of the original seven deacons, recounted all this history in what I think maybe one of the most brilliant sermons in history. And he very subtly and cleverly crafts a message that draws the hostile audience in to listen to a recounting of Jewish history, but every time he's subtly making a point that whenever God raises up a deliverer, like Joseph referenced to his brothers, or Moses in reference to the time of the Exodus, or Moses again when the time came to enter the promised land, the Jews rejected, wouldn't listen and turned away, even in some cases sought to kill the messenger or the deliverer, like Joseph. And he culminates his message, Stephen does, in Acts 7:51-52: "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears, you are just like your fathers, you always resist the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the righteous one. And now you have betrayed and murdered him. You who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
That's what Stephen said. And it is true, it's a summary of Israel's history. Israel's constant pattern of rejection of the messengers now culminated in the murder of the Messiah, killing their king and their Messiah. Now, God saw to it that Gentiles were also involved through Pilate and the Romans. All of us stand guilty, there's no difference between Jew and Gentile in that matter. But Stephen culminates it, as does Paul before the Sanhedrin, and Peter as well, saying, "You killed the author of life," you killed your Messiah. This is a constant pattern.
Now, friends, all of this was ample ground for God to have rejected the Jews as a nation forever. God had the power to do it, there was certainly provocation to do it, but God has not done it, nor will He. And that's what Romans 11 is about. The Jews will continue as a nation until the end of time. And why is that? Because God wants to display His glory in turning them to Christ. Isn't that marvelous? I can't keep the secret. Of course you've read it, it's no secret. The Jews as a nation are going to be turning back in a marvelous way and embracing Christ at the very end, we will see that.
III. First Proof: God Is Still Saving Jews
Now, Paul's clear assertion here is that God has not rejected His people. He says, "May it never be." I like the King James Version, gives us, "God forbid that He should turn away and reject His own people." But then he needs to substantiate it and he gives three levels of proof. The first level of proof is that God is still saving Jews. God is still saving Jews. Look what he says. "May it never be. I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin." That's what he says. Paul's life and his calling as a Jewish Christian is evidence and proof that God has not rejected His people. Now, for the third time in Romans 9-11, Paul identifies himself with the Jews. He does at the beginning of Chapter 9, he does it at the beginning of Chapter 10, and now here again at Chapter 11, he identifies himself with the Jewish people. Paul was still Jewish when he wrote this, he was a Jewish Christian, a Jewish Christian. Now I came across a group called Jews for Judaism. You perhaps heard of Jews for Jesus, this is a response to Jews for Jesus. They are Jews for Judaism, and basically they say that Jews for Jesus makes as much sense as Buddhists for Jesus. You can't be both Jewish and Christian, so they say.
But Paul would vigorously deny that, and again and again, he gave his Jewish credentials. It was important for him to maintain that and to say that he was still Jewish. In Philippians 3:5, he says he was "circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law of Pharisee." Or in Galatians 1:14 he says, "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age, and I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers." No one could refute the genuineness of Paul's Jewish credentials. He establishes them again and again.
Paul’s Primary Point: Every Jewish Convert to Christ is Evidence
Fact of the matter is all of the early Christians were Jewish, all of them were. If you look at the upper room after Jesus was raised from the dead, he had 120 believers there after Jesus ascended into heaven. They were all Jews. The original church in Jerusalem, they're all Jews. On the day of Pentecost, all of those people who had come for that feast were Jews. The first church were all Jews, so those 3,000 converts, they were Jews. After Peter and John heal the beggar in the temple, the number of men grew to about 5,000, they were Jews. After the selection of the early deacons in Acts chapter 6, it says a large number of the priests became obedient to the faith. They were Jews as well.
And even after the gospel kind of officially came to the Gentiles in Acts 10 with the conversion of Cornelius the Centurion, Paul went out and ministered, and the first place he went every time was to the Jewish synagogue. Again and again he carried out this approach, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. And when he did that, God blessed with the conversion of some Jews. Acts 14:1, for example, at Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue, and there they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. Isn't that marvelous? What a harvest of Jews, a great number of Jews believed. And then again, in Acts 17:10 and following, "As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now, the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness, and they diligently searched the scriptures to see if these things were so. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men." Did you hear that? Acts 17:12, "many of the Jews believed."
The fact of the matter is, the church has grown up from a Jewish olive tree. That's the image. It's a Jewish tree, and we have been grafted into it. And it continued, never stopped being a Jewish olive tree. The early converts to Christianity were all Jews. What is the point? Well, Paul's point is this: no one, and I mean no one, comes to faith in Jesus Christ apart from the will and the working of God Almighty. Salvation is a supernatural act of the power of God. Only God can make Christians. Paul's logic here is, "God hasn't rejected the Jews, I'm a Jew." What he's saying is, "If God had rejected us, I would not be a Christian, I would not be saved." Nobody comes to faith in Christ apart from the working of God."
Paul’s Secondary Point: His Astonishing Conversion and God’s Sovereign Grace
A secondary point that Paul makes here is his own astonishing conversion and his ministry is evidence of God's sovereign grace working through the Jews to reach out to Gentiles. Paul wasn't just any Jew, you know. He was a ladder-climbing Jew. He was the kind of Jewish man who wanted some day to be as high as you could get in the Jewish hierarchy. Obviously, he couldn't be a high priest from the tribe of Benjamin, but he could get up very high in the Sanhedrin, and he was ambitious. But God called him not only to be a Christian, but he also called him to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Now, you might think, "This doesn't make any sense. We got to have Peter as the apostle to the Jews and a noteworthy Gentile convert to be apostle to the Gentiles. That would make sense." But it didn't make sense to God, it's not God's way. God chose a Hebrew of Hebrews, a truly Jewish man who was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples the day he was converted.
God wanted to show his sovereign power, so He takes this Jewish man through and through, and makes him the Apostle to the Gentiles. And so it has been even up to this present day. In every generation there have been Jews who have trusted in Christ, and have believed in Christ as their personal Savior, their personal Messiah. One estimate has as many as 250,000 Messianic Jews around the world, 250,000. And these are folks that have maintained their Jewish identity, they have synagogues, they aren't connected in any major way with the Christian church except by fellowship etcetera, but they are Jews who have realized through the scripture, that Jesus is their Messiah.
There's a beautiful example of this in the 19th century with a man named Joseph Rabinowitz. He was a Russian Jew of great learning. He was sent to Palestine in the 19th century to see if he could buy some land for the Russian Jews. They gave him money and they wanted him to go and scope out some land that he could buy in the Promised Land. Well, he went to Jerusalem and he was sitting on the Mount of Olives. Somebody had told him, "If you want a really good guide book to Jerusalem, you need the New Testament. So take the New Testament and read it as a guide book, just as a guide book to Jerusalem. So he's sitting there on Mount of Olives and he's reading the gospels for the first time. The only Jesus he had ever known was the Jesus of the Romans and of the Greeks who were persecutors of the Jewish people. That's all he knew, and what a tragedy that is, and we'll talk about it another time, Gentile persecution of Jews. It makes no sense whatsoever. But that's all he knew. He didn't know the True Christ. But as he was reading the New Testament, he was reading the Gospel of Matthew and of John, as he's looking at that, he realized something. He said, "You know why our nation is having such trouble, why the Jews are having such difficulty? Because we have rejected our Messiah. We have not believed in Jesus." He went up on that mountain a Jewish rejecter of Christ, he came down a Christian, and still a Jew.
He went back to Russia, and he established a synagogue, and over the door of the synagogue, he had this written in Hebrew. "Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this, God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." That's what you read as you went into Rabinowitz's synagogue. That's Peter's message in Acts 2:36. He was a great teacher of parables, Joseph Rabinowitz was. He was a leader of the Russian Messianic Jewish movement. He concocted parables that would help explain to the Jews their need for Christ, like this one: "Two foolish people were traveling in a four-wheeled wagon. Noticing that the wagon was moving heavily, they examined it and found that a wheel was missing. One of the foolish people sprang out and ran ahead forward along the road saying to everyone he met, "We have lost a wheel, have you seen it?" At last, a wise man said to him, "You're looking in the wrong direction. "You should seek the wheel back where you might have left it behind." This is the mistake that Jews have been making all of these centuries. The four wheels of Hebrew history are Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus." That's the parable. We need to look back in our history for our Messiah, not look ahead and wait for him yet to come. This is the way he preached. Powerful isn't it? I'd like to hear more of his parables, but he had a powerful impact and many of the Jews were converted through his ministry.
What is the point? If God had rejected His people, if He had forsaken the Jews, there would be no Joseph Rabinowitzes, there would be no Saul of Tarsus, there would be no Felix Mendelssohns and any of the other Jews who have come to faith in Christ. It would just never happen. And why is that? Well, Jesus said it plainly, in John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." And again, the apostle Paul said this, 1 Corinthians 12:3, "No one can say Jesus is Lord except through the Holy Spirit." And so, argument one, God has not forsaken His people, the proof is there are always, in every generation, a remnant of Jews who have trusted in Christ as their Messiah.
IV. Second Proof: God’s Foreknowledge and Faithfulness
Secondly, God's foreknowledge and His faithfulness. Look what he says, "God did not reject His people whom He foreknew." God is faithful to His promises. He is faithful also to His covenant." Paul is actually here quoting scripture. This is Samuel's farewell address in 1 Samuel 12:22. He said this, Samuel the prophet said this, "For the sake of His great name, the Lord will not reject His people because the Lord was pleased to make you His own." God has a reputation to uphold. His reputation is of a faithful promise keeping God. And for the sake of His own name, He will not reject His people. He has a reputation to uphold. Now, again and again in the Old Testament, God threatened to destroy the Jews. Remember how He said this to Moses? "I will make you a great nation." Remember what Moses said? He said essentially, "But if you do that, the Egyptians will hear about it and they'll think you couldn't bring your people into the promised land. God, you have a reputation to uphold. You can't do this."
Jeremiah argued in the same way, Jeremiah 14:20-21, he says, "O Lord, we acknowledge our wickedness and the guilt of our fathers. We have indeed sinned against you." Listen to how Jeremiah prays: "For the sake of your name, do not despise us, do not dishonor your glorious throne. Remember your covenant with us and do not break it." Do you see how Jeremiah is praying there in Jeremiah 14? "For the sake of your name, for the sake of your reputation, for the sake of your character and your throne, don't throw us off as a people." God is well aware of all those things, far more than Moses or Jeremiah ever was. He knows that He has linked His name to this Jewish nation, and He will not forsake them.
Paul talks about God’s foreknowledge. God did not reject His people whom He foreknew. Now, don't stumble here, okay? We've already met the doctrine of foreknowledge earlier in Romans Chapter 8. There, I believe Paul was talking specifically about individuals, individual people. And listen to what he says in Romans 8:29-30: "For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined He also called, and those he called he also justified, and those He justified He also glorified." Individual people, God foreknew them unto personal salvation. I think what's going on here though, in the context of Romans 11, is God's foreknowledge of the Jews as a nation. They are His foreknown people corporately. Now, that doesn't mean that individual Jews can't be lost. We already covered that in Romans 9, but as a nation, they are still His people. It says in Amos 3:2, "You only have I known among all the families of the Earth." The only nation that God knew in a covenant sense, like in a marriage, are the Jews. God has a reputation to uphold, and therefore He will not turn His back on the Jews.
V. Third Proof: God’s Pattern of Sovereign Grace
The third proof is God's pattern of sovereign grace in raising up an elect remnant. And here we look at the case of Elijah. Look at verses 2-4: "Don't you know what the scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he appealed to God against Israel? 'Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left and they are trying to kill me.' And what was God's answer to him? 'I have reserved for myself 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.'" Now, Paul here is remembering back on to one of the darkest moments in Jewish history, a time of great apostasy. Now he's dealing in his present time with the problem of the apostasy of the Jews away from their Messiah. And so he reaches back to a time, the time of Elijah, when the Jewish nation, it seems almost universally, had rejected the true God, Yahweh, their own, their true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It was during the time of King Ahab, an evil and a weak man who married a pagan woman, Jezebel, who became really an example of a wicked pagan queen who had great influence over King Ahab. She was a wicked woman, and an idolater. And under her influence the whole nation veered away from worshipping the true God and embraced worship of Baal and of Asherah. As a matter of fact, Jezebel was slaughtering the priests and the prophets that stood up to her. Elijah comes on the scene somewhat mysteriously, 1st Kings 17 verse 1 out of nowhere. Never heard of him before, just Elijah the Tishbite appears and says, "There will not be rain except at my word," and he disappears again. Just a mysterious and a powerful figure. He's really calling down covenant curses on Israel for forsaking God. And one of the curses was that the sky would be like iron and the ground beneath to be like bronze, that there would be a drought and a famine.
Well, you know the story of Elijah, in as much as it would be delightful to trace it out. This represents the lowest point of Eliah's personal history. He's already had the confrontation with the prophets of Baal, and Jezebel said says, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you survive this night." She's going after Elijah, she's going to kill him. And so he runs for his life. He's in the middle of a desert, he lays down under a broom tree, he just wants to die. He's finished, he's done. And then he gets up, he gets a little strength, gets something to eat, an angel brings him some food, and he ends up in a cave. And he is frustrated, he's at a low point. He knows that Jezebel has 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah sitting at her table every night to eat. He knows that she has vowed to slaughter him, and he says this in verse 3, "Lord they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left. I'm the remaining candle. It's flickering in a hurricane wind, it's going out Lord. There's not going to be any believers left, none, when they kill me, and they're going to kill me."
And so, for all the greatness of Elijah, for all of his great power and faith, he is really quite self-focused at this moment. He's looking inward. He's looking at his own ministry, he's looking at his own life. He's not aware of anybody left in Israel that's worshipping the true God. And even as great a prophet as Elijah was, he can still forget God. He can forget God's sovereignty, forget God's great power.
A quick application, we'll talk more about it in a minute, never underestimate what God is up to. Never measure what God is doing in the world by what you see with your own eyes is happening around you. Jesus in John 5 that God is always at His work to this very day, and he too is working. He's always doing something. Well, what's the concept here? Well, that God has the sovereign power to keep alive a remnant of His people, a remnant chosen by grace who will not forsake the true God. He's got that power. And even in the time of Jezebel He's got 7,000. Look what He says, "I have reserved for myself 7,000." They're mine. They're my chosen possession. They are my treasured possession, and no one can snatch them out of my hands. I have saved them, I have preserved them. They are mine. I have reserved for myself."
Now notice, He does not say, "There happened to be statistically 7,000 who of their own free will have decided to maintain a commitment to Yahweh during this time." That's not what He says. He says, "I have reserved for myself 7,000 who have bowed the knee to Baal." And what is the application Paul takes in verse 5? "So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if it is by grace, then it's no longer by works. If it were, grace would no longer be grace." God's sovereign grace, God's pattern of protecting a remnant by His sovereign grace. And so too at the present time, there are Jews that are believing in Jesus as their Messiah and that is not an accident. It is by God's sovereign plan.
Now, what does grace mean for the future of Israel? Well, If salvation were simply by the vicissitudes of the human heart, if God just kind of sets up a salvation shop and gets some good advertisement going and just hopes that people will come today, what are the odds that Jews are going to turn to Christ? The London bookmakers are always making odds about all kinds of amazing things. It's remarkable. They're probably like one of the most gambling people I've ever heard of. They'll bet on anything, not just sporting events. I wonder if you said, "Alright, what are the odds that at some point in the future, the overwhelming majority, if not the whole of the Jews alive at a certain time in a generation will turn and embrace Jesus as their personal Messiah, what odds are they going to give?" But we don't live in a universe that's governed by odds. We live in a universe that's governed by God the Emperor, God the king, and He has decreed that that will happen. And the only way we can know for sure that this mystery is going to take place is by God making it happen.
Look at 11:25-27. He says there, "I do not want you to become ignorant to 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. As it is written, 'The deliverer will come from Zion, he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.'" Do you see the sovereign power of God? Do you see how God isn't searching the human heart to see if He can find some goodness or some frame or disposition in the human heart, and based on that, He will act and move. God creates what there was not before. And God by His sovereign power has the power to raise up a remnant. It's just in the final generation that remnant's going to extend to the whole of the Jews that are alive that day. God has that kind of power. And he's got that kind of power also in your life.
What can we take for application from this? Well, I already touched on this slightly. I want to go back to it. Never doubt that God is at work in your life. Don't doubt that God is at work in the world. And don't doubt that God is at work among the Jews. God is at work in all of these things. What I've found, just speaking very personally, is that God delights in hiding His work from us. It says in Isaiah 45:15, "Truly, you are a God who hides Himself, O God and Savior of Israel." We don't know what He's doing. And He does that for His own purposes. Why does He do that? Well, I think it's especially true in the ministry. Suppose you knew all of the eternal ramifications, the good ones, of you leading people to Christ or going on mission trips, of all the eternal good things that are going to come as a result of you. Would not your heart be tempted to say, "Yeah, I really am something after all. I've always had too low a self-esteem, but now I actually think I'm something. Actually, the more I think about it, that's pretty amazing. Hey, don't stand too close to me, please. Don't touch me, I'm too holy for you."
We have this arrogant streak inside us. God will not have it. He will not have us boast over the things that we accomplish. And so He works inside of a kind of narrow band. If we were getting too up in our own estimation, He will hide from us, for a long time even, any impact of our ministry. If we're getting too low, He will show you glimpses of what the word of God is doing through you. But we have a command in a couple of places concerning this matter. For example, Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Don't give up even if you don't see the outcome of your ministry. Or 1 Corinthians 15:58, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." Don't get discouraged. Don't give up when you don't see the fruit. God is at work around you all the time. If so great a man as Elijah couldn't see it, sometimes you're going to feel it too. I'm the only one, I am the only one. You are not the only one. God's sovereign power will see to that.
Second of all, be humble to God's sovereign grace. God didn't search you to try to find out what He liked about you before He chose you. He chose you because He chose you. It is grace and not by works. If it were by works, then grace, friends, would no longer be grace. God has chosen Jews and Gentiles only by His sovereign grace. It says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "It is by the grace of God that I am what I am and His grace to me was not without effect." And then again in 1 Corinthians 1:29, "It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus." Ponder that, "It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus."
Thirdly, can I urge you to be active in evangelizing Jews? We're going to talk more about this over the next number of weeks that we study this book, but I found this tendency that when I'm witnessing, somebody will say to me immediately, "Oh, I'm Jewish," as though I'm so say, "Oh okay, well, I'm sorry." My methodology may change. I may approach it differently, but I'm not going to give up.
Do not make the theological error that some of our Christian brothers and sisters are making, that Romans 11 teaches that the Jews don't need the gospel. How in the world would we become to that? What I believe Romans 11 is teaching that at some point the Jews will believe the Gospel, not that they don't need it. And therefore Paul says in this very chapter, "I make much of my ministry in the hope that I might get some of them jealous and arouse them to faith in Christ." Don't forget Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Don't forget that Paul says I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. Don't forget the dangerous game that Jews are playing by rejecting Christ, from the scripture, hardening their hearts. Who knows how long they individually have where they can repent and turn?
So be active in evangelizing Jews. And be hopeful about Israel's future. Sovereign grace guarantees a great and final day. I look on it almost like the fourth of July fireworks, right? And at the very end, there's this big... What do you call it? Big "brrrrr" at the end. I don't have any words, you know what I'm saying. They hold back about 30% and they just throw them all up at the end. I just look on that as what's going to happen. "For if their rejection is riches for the world and their transgression is riches for the Gentiles, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" It's going to be glorious. It's going to be magnificent. And therefore you should rejoice in Jewish Christians. They're some of the most delightful people you'll ever know. Get to know some of these folks from Jews for Jesus, or Messianic Jews, and find out how God works in their lives to bring them and their families to Christ. Close with me in prayer.