Friday, 27 September 2013
But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says:
“I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” Romans 10:19
From a general statement about the universality of the going forth of the gospel, Paul now speaks only of Israel. “But I say, did Israel not know?” The question for us to consider is, “Did they not know what?” And so we are directed back to verses 16 and 17 –
“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
The answer to the question then is two-fold. First, it is speaking of the going forth of the gospel, which was then to be heard and accepted. Did Israel not know that the gospel would go forth and thus what the consequences of rejecting it would be? Secondly, it is a question which demands an affirmative answer. “Yes, they knew.” And they knew it from their own lawgiver, Moses.
“First Moses says” indicates that the very basis of who they were as a people, the Torah which was received and then passed on to them by Moses, hints at the truth of the situation. In support of this, Paul cites Deuteronomy 32:21 –
“They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.”
Israel had provoked the Lord by what is “not God” and therefore, He would provoke them by what is a “no-people.” And so it is. The message of Jesus Christ cannot be claimed by a single group of people. No nation has authority over it, nor does (despite frequent claims to the contrary) any single denomination, sect, or cult have authority over it. The gospel is found anywhere and in any person who will honor the true God through Jesus Christ.
Through this no-nation, which is in fact a collective group under a single Headship, God will provoke Israel to jealousy. And he will move them to anger “by a foolish nation.” The word “fool” is used in various ways to indicate a lack of understanding, but also one who denies God (see Psalm 14:1) or one that refuses sound instruction or is morally corrupt, such as in the Proverbs. In this context, it is being spoken of as a nation of people who had no revelation or perceptive knowledge of the true God.
From this no-people, completely inferior in the understanding of God, would come Israel’s provocation to jealousy and movement to anger. Peter speaks of such a nation in his first epistle –
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9
The reason for this provocation and movement is obvious. It is not to shame them into condemnation, but to spur them towards salvation. Paul will continue to cite this line of thought concerning Israel’s disobedience throughout the coming verses. Then he will show that the intended effect of God will eventually be realized in Israel. As this hasn’t happened to Israel as a nation yet, then it must be (despite preterist claims to the contrary) future to us now.
Israel will behold the splendor of the Lord, call on Him, and become the nation to whom Christ will return some wondrous day in the future.
Life application: Does Israel of today merit God’s blessing? No. But God has returned them for His reasons and they are being worked out despite their failing to acknowledge Him. When one fights against Israel, they fight against God’s plans for Israel and thus they fight against God. Think that one through and then determine to stand with, support, and pray for Israel.
Lord Jesus, the people exiled for so long have returned; the language which was dead for millennia is again spoken; the land which lay waste is now fruitful – the desert blooms and the springs of water flow; and the scrolls hidden in a cave for eons were found, proving the ancient oracles You spoke. How can I deny the wonder of Your hand upon Israel. Though they haven’t yet called on You as a nation, I stand with Israel. Amen.