Sunday, December 27, 2009

Romans 9-11 (Part 10)

7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

This passage heralds back to 9:30-32: 30What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.

Israel sought righteousness through the Law, but did not obtain righteousness. Rather, God’s choice imputes righteousness to believers. Paul introduces the concept of “the rest”. God’s election creates a group that excludes the rest.

8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them: 10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.

Here Paul quotes from Isaiah 29:10: 10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

Here God pronounces judgment on Jerusalem for their sins. He is about to allow the Assyrians to capture Jerusalem. As part of this capture and punishment, God blinds Israel.

Paul is also quoting from Deuteronomy 29:4: Yet the LORD hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

Again, God is punishing Israel by hardening them. This time it’s because they did not believe that God could turn over Canaan to them. God punished the Jews unbelief by having them wander around the desert for 40 years. Following wandering around for unbelief, God addresses those who did not learn from that punishment by hardening their hearts.

Paul also quotes Psalms 69:22 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. 23 Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. 24 Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. 25 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. 26 For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. 27 Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.

This Psalm is about Christ and His crucifixion. As a punishment for their sins, the Jews that crucified Christ were hardened and iniquity was added to their iniquity.
Paul uses these three examples to demonstrate that Israel was hardened before because of their sins and unbelief and they are being hardened now for their sins, unbelief and rejection of Christ.

11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?

The phase me eptaisan hina pesosin is difficult to translate and can either be understood as have they stumbled that they should merely fall or have they stumbled that they should irrevocably fall? Paul is not denying that the Jews fell, which he states in verse 22 using the same word in Greek pipto. Paul is asking a rhetorical question about God’s intention of hardening the Jews. This is too be understood either as a denial of God’s intention being falling for the sake of falling or a denial that a irrevocable fall was part of God’s plan. A denial of an irrevocable fall makes more sense given the rest of the verse and the overall theme of restoration. So the passage is saying: “Have they stumbled that they should irrevocably fall? God forbid!”

The “them” refers back to Israel, so salvation came to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. God is using the Gentiles to bring the Jews back to Him. Paul contrasts the Jews diminishing with their fullness. The number of saved Jewish nationals is down, but in the future the number of saved Jews will increase to the fullest. The phrase “riches of the world” is talking about the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul and others turned to the Gentiles from the Jews, because of the Jews rejection. Acts 13:46 would be a classic example of this.

Paul gives the reason and extent of the hardening of Israel. God uses their hardening to add the Gentiles into the promise, but that does not mean Israel is entirely rejected. God’s purpose in hardening Israel and making them vessels of wrath was not destroying them for destruction’s sake, but rather to bring salvation to the Gentiles. Their hardening was not permanent.

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