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Israel’s failure—yet remember the faithful few

11 This leads naturally to the question, “Has God then totally repudiated his people?” Certainly not! I myself, for one, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and of the tribe of Benjamin.

2-3 It is unthinkable that God should have repudiated his own people, the people whose destiny he himself appointed. Don’t you remember what the scripture says in the story of Elijah? How he pleaded with God on Israel’s behalf: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, and torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life’.

And do you remember God’s reply? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’.

5-6 In just the same way, there is at the present time a minority chosen by the grace of God. And if it is a matter of the grace of God, it cannot be a question of their actions especially deserving God’s favour, for that would make grace meaningless.

7-8 What conclusion do we reach now? That Israel did not, on the whole, obtain the object of his striving, but a chosen few “got there”, while the remainder became more and more insensitive to the righteousness of God. This is borne out by the scripture: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day’.

9-10 And David says of them: ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them; let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always’.

In the providence of God disaster has been turned to good account

11-12 Now I ask myself, “Was this fall of theirs an utter disaster? It was not! For through their failure the benefit of salvation has passed to the Gentiles with the result that Israel is made to see and feel what is has missed. For if their failure has so enriched the world, and their defection proved such a benefit to the Gentiles, think what tremendous advantage their fulfilling of God’s plan could mean.

13-14 Now a word to you who are Gentiles. I should like you to know that I make as much as I can of my ministry as “God’s messenger to the Gentiles” so as to make my kinsfolk jealous and thus save some of them.

15-16 For if their exclusion from the pale of salvation has meant the reconciliation of the rest of mankind to God, what would their inclusion mean? It would be nothing less than life from the dead! If the flour is consecrated to God so is the whole loaf, and if the roots of a tree are dedicated to God every branch will belong to him also.

A word of warning

17-21 But if some of the branches of the tree have been broken off, while you, like shoots of wild-olive, have been grafted in, and don’t share like a natural branch the rich nourishment of the root, don’t let yourself feel superior to those former branches. (If you feel inclined that way, remind yourself that you do not support the root, the root supports you.) You may make the natural retort, “But the branches were broken off to make room for my grafting!” It wasn’t quite like that. They lost their position because they failed to believe; you only maintain yours because you do believe. The situation does not call for conceit but for a certain wholesome fear. If God removed the natural branches for a good reason, take care that you don’t give him the same reason for removing you.

22-24 You must try to appreciate both the kindness and the strict justice of God. Those who fell experienced his justice, while you are experiencing his kindness, and will continue to do so as long as you do not abuse that kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off from the tree. And as for the fallen branches, unless they are obstinate in their unbelief, they will be grafted in again. Such a restoration is by no means beyond the power of God. And, in any case, if you who were, so to speak, cuttings from a wild-olive, were grafted in, is it not a far simpler matter for the natural branches to be grafted back onto the parent stem?

God still has a plan for Israel

25-27 Now I don’t want you, my brothers, to start imagining things, and I must therefore share with you my knowledge of God’s secret plan. It is this, that the partial insensibility which has come to Israel is only to last until the full number of the Gentiles has been called in. Once this has happened, all Israel will be saved, as the scripture says: ‘The deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins’.

28-29 As far as the Gospel goes, they are at present God’s enemies—which is to your advantage. But as far as God’s purpose in choosing is concerned, they are still beloved for their fathers’ sakes. For once they are made, God does not withdraw his gifts of his calling.

The whole scheme looks topsy-turvy, until we see the amazing wisdom of God!

30-32 Just as in the past you were disobedient to God but have found that mercy which might have been theirs but for their disobedience, so they, who at the present moment are disobedient, will eventually share the mercy which has been extended to you. God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all.

33-35 Frankly, I stand amazed at the unfathomable complexity of God’s wisdom and God’s knowledge. How could man ever understand his reasons for action, or explain his methods of working? For: ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his counsellor?’ ‘Or who has first given to him and it shall be repaid to him?’

36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever, amen.