Sunday, 6 October 2013
What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Romans 11:7
The previous verses were speaking of grace being grace – unmerited favor apart from works. This is the state of the remnant Jews who are a part of God’s election. Based on this, Paul now asks, “What then?” What is the result for the rest of the Jews who are not a part of this process of election? For an answer, Paul now cites them as “Israel.” In other words, the majority is spoken of as the whole. “Israel has not obtained what it seeks.”
The nation has failed to attain the very thing for which is was continuously noted. In the world of the Roman empire, the majority of the people groups sought after power and wealth. Although this was certainly the case with many individual Jews, the overall aim of the nation wasn’t power or wealth, but righteousness. However, in their search for attaining righteousness, they became blinded to the only One who could make them righteous.
We could ask, whose fault was this? Directly from Scripture, we can see that it was a national, self-inflicted wound because there were individuals who in fact did recognize Christ’s coming. Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, heard and believed. Simeon and Anna who saw the Child when He was brought to the temple recognized Him.
From this springboard came the apostles and disciples and others noted in the gospel record. After the resurrection, 3000 were saved on the day of Pentecost. These and others recorded in the gospels and Acts show that even though Israel failed in this regard, a portion of the nation obtained the favored status of God’s election; they became the elect. But if the remnant is the elect, then there is an opposite side to the coin. Paul explains that “the rest were blinded.”
The word used for “were blinded” is the Greek word epōrōthēsan. It comes from a word which was applied to bony formations on joints; a callus or a spur. The thought then is something that is petrified or covered with a callous. In the New Testament, it is used only five times, each in a figurative sense. John 12:40 uses it when citing Isaiah –
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” John 12:40
Here we have a question to consider then. “How were they hardened?” The Bible doesn’t tell us. In the case of the elect, it says that they have obtained that status “according to the election of grace” (v. 6). Thus it was of God. However, in the case of those who were hardened, the Bible only notes that it is so, but without designating the source.
Those who recognized the Messiah were given grace; those who rejected Him were hardened. What can be inferred then is that the action is passive on the part of God concerning their hardening. To understand this, think of a group of people stuck in a large pit in the ground. In the pit are the instructions to get out of the pit, but they lack the skills to fully comply with the instructions. In the instructions though, it tells that a way will be made available by the author who wrote the instructions for them to get out of the pit.
Eventually, the author of the instructions lowers a line down for the people. Those who recognize that this is the pre-mentioned way of getting out of the pit take hold of the rope and are pulled out. Despite this, there are those who stubbornly set about and continue to work on the instructions, never realizing that those instructions, though complete, are incapable of getting the people out of the pit, not because the instructions were faulty, but because the skills needed to comply with them were lacking. Only what the instructions promise – the rope – could do it. They become so obsessed with following the instructions, that they actually miss the grace of the rope. Eventually, the pit consumes them. What they sought they did not find, and it was solely their own fault for failing to lift their eyes and see that a way had been prepared for them. The hardening was passive – “Ok, have it your way…”
Life application: The instructions from God, in fact, point to the proper means of being reconciled to God. The law was intended to lead the people to understand their need for Christ, but in their zeal for the law, they missed its purpose. This still happens today. People fail to see Christ as the fulfillment and the end of the law and attempt to reinsert the law where it doesn’t belong, thus condemning themselves. Christ is the end of the law for all who believe; therefore, believe and be saved.
Heavenly Father, what good is the law unless the law has an end. Shall I spend eternity attempting to do what is impossible? Can I ever be free from this bondage? The answer is “Yes!” In Christ, I am free. The law is fulfilled in Him and He is the fulfillment of it! I thank You for His work on my behalf. I receive the work of Christ, the Author and Finisher of my faith! Amen.