Thursday, April 17, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Forty

Here is my translation of Chapter 11:
"Well, then Paul, has God rejected His own people, the nation of Israel?" NO! (see earlier notes) I myself am an Israelite, a physical descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected His own people, those He chose before creation. Do you remember what the Bible says about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, "My King, they have killed your commissioned spokesmen and torn down your places of worship. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too!"
But do you remember God's reply? He said, "NO! I have 7000 others who have refused to worship demons!"
It is the same today, for a few of my fellow countrymen have remained faithful because of God's unmerited gifts--His undeserved mercy in choosing them and since it is through God's kindness, then it is not by their good deeds, for, in that case, God's favor would not be what it really is--free and wholly undeserved.
So this is the score: Most of my fellow countrymen have not found the favor of God they are searching for anxiously, but a few have, the ones chosen by God, but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Bible says,
"God has put them in a deep sleep.
To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see,
and closed their ears so they do not hear."
Likewise, David said,
"Let their smorgasbord become a trap,
an ambush that makes them think all is well.
Let God's gifts cause them to fall
and let them get what they deserve.
Let them be stricken blind so they cannot see,
and let their backs be bent (like a blind man groping) forever."
Did God's people stumble and fall without hope of getting back up? NO! They were rebellious, so God stretched out His hand to the Gentiles but He wanted His own people to become jealous and grasp His hand themselves. Now if the Gentiles have been blessed because my fellow countrymen turned down God's offer of rescue, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it.
I am saying all of this especially for those of you who are not Jews. God has commissioned me to be His ambassador to the Gentiles, I want you to understand this, for I want, somehow, to make my fellow countrymen jealous of what you non-Jews have, so I might rescue some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered to rescue the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more awesome! It will be life for those who are dead! and since Abraham and his children were set apart for God's great plan, their children will also--just as a batch of dough is set apart for God because a piece of it is used in worship for if the roots of a tree are set apart for
God's purposes then the branches will be too!
But some of these branches, from Abraham's tree, that is, some of my fellow countrymen, have been pruned off and you non-Jews, who were branches from a wild olive tree have been grafted in, so now you also receive the divine favor God promised Abraham and his physical descendants, sharing in the rich life giving substance from the root of God's special olive tree. BUT, do not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch not the root.
"Well, Paul," you may say, "those branches were broken off to make room for ME!" Yes, but remember those branches were sliced off because they refused to follow our King, and you are there because you do follow. So, don't be too proud of yourself, but fear what could happen for if God did not spare the original branches then he won't spare you either!
Note how God is both kind and harsh. He is harsh toward those who rebel but kind to you if you continue to trust in His mercy BUT if you stop trusting then He will slice you off and if my fellow countrymen repent then they will be grafted in again for God has the power to graft them back into His tree.
So, if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into the tree He planted and cared for, He will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.
My family, please understand this mystery so that you will not become arrogant. Some of my fellow countrymen have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of non-Jews come to follow our King. All Israel will be saved as the Bible states:
"The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem,
and He will turn Israel away from ungodliness.
and this is my covenant with them,
that I will take away their sins."
Many of my fellow countrymen are now enemies of the Good News and this benefits you non-Jews, yet they are still the people He loves because He chose their ancestors--Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for God's gifts and call can never be withdrawn. Once you non-Jews were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against Him, God was merciful to you instead. Well, now they are the rebels and God's mercy has come to you so that they too will share in God's mercy. For God has jailed everyone in rebellion so that He could have mercy on everyone.
MAN! How great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!
"For who can know the Lord's thoughts?
Who knows enough to counsel Him?
and who has given Him so much
that He needs to pay it back?"
For everything comes from Him and exists solely by His great power and is intended for His glory. All worship to Him forever! Amen!