Sunday, 29 September 2013
But to Israel he says:
“All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.” Romans 10:21
Paul closes chapter 10 with a quote from Isaiah 65:2. “But” shows the contrast to the preceding verse –
“I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
This is the “no-nation” to whom the Lord was made manifest; the gentile people who weren’t even a part of the covenant community. In contrast to them Israel is now highlighted. God had “stretched out” His hands “all day long” to them. They had His laws, the temple, the covenant care and protection, and the history which they could look back on as evidence of God’s hand of care upon them. And yet they were a “disobedient and contrary people.”
Even from the earliest moments after the giving of the law, they were in rebellion against Him. They had seen the miraculous – having been delivered from Egypt by the ten plagues. Then they saw it again in the pillar and the cloud and the parting of the sea. A short time later, they beheld the glory of the Lord at Mount Sinai and they received the law. And yet, during the entire time, they complained. Soon enough, they were in gross violation of the law they were given when they set up and worshipped a golden calf.
And the record of disobedience continues throughout the pages of the Old Testament. Occasionally a good judge or king would come along and set them on a good path, but in short span, they would again turn away from the Lord. “All day long,” is a way of saying, “through the duration” or “without ceasing” God “stretched out” His hands to them. This is a term which gives a sense of almost begging. “Please pay heed. Return to Me and I will return to you.” Rather than responding, they remained rebellious, disobedient, and contrary to what He expected of them.
This last verse then shows why their rejection came and explains why the message of salvation through Christ was thus turned to, and accepted by, the gentiles as is noted in the previous verses. What was offered as a gift of grace was shunned by the same people who had, for so many centuries shunned Him. Is this the end of the story for Israel then? Did they turn so far from God that they would never again receive His favor? Chapter 11 will continue on with Paul’s thoughts on his beloved people; his countrymen according to the flesh.
Life application: God is merciful and longsuffering, but there is a point when He knows it is no longer of use to stretch out His hands to those who turn from Him or shun Him. And this is certainly true even with saved believers who fail to walk in a manner worthy of His greatness. We need to evaluate our walk with the Lord continuously and ensure that we are living in accord with His precepts.
Heavenly Father, how can I expect Your blessings or mercy when I ignore You constantly? And how can I ask You to bless my nation when we fail to acknowledge Your greatness? Rather, help me to first set You as my highest delight and my constant joy. And help those in my country to exalt You above all else. In so doing, I know that the blessings will come and the mercy will flow forth. Amen.