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So we have learned that there are two Israels, formed as a result of two different ways of “hearing” the Word of God. One hears the Word in a way that quickens true faith, and the other hears (after a fashion) in a way that hardens the heart in a persistent but wrong-headed pursuit of God—because it is a pursuit of God on our terms, instead of on His.
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (Rom. 11: 7-11).
Summary of the Text
What then is the result? Israel has not obtained it (v. 7), but the election has obtained it (v. 7). This means that the election here were those Israelites who heard to the salvation of their souls. Those who did not hear were Israel in the other sense, Israel according to the flesh. And so the election (which included Paul) obtained, while the rest were blinded (v. 7). This fulfilled the Word from two places—Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10, quoted in verse 8. David also points to the same reality in Psalm 69:22-23), quoted here in vv. 9-10. This being the case, Paul asks if they have stumbled past the point of no return (v. 11). Is the apostasy final? His answer to this is his standard may it never be, rendered here as God forbid. This answer sets up the discussion to follow, where we learn how Israel according to the flesh will eventually be brought back, to be grafted back in. In the meantime, they have stumbled for a time, and that stumbling resulted in salvation coming to the Gentiles, which in its turn will provoke the Jews to jealousy, and cause them to return again to the true Israel (v. 11).
In Every Age
Israel was “going about” to establish her own righteousness, and they were ignorant of the righteousness of God. This means that they were seeking something—righteousness—which they were not really seeking. To use the words the Lord used, they already had their reward. They got what they were seeking, but they didn’t get what they were seeking. This is because they heard without really hearing. This is because they were sons of Sarah who were really sons of Hagar, sons of Abraham who were really sons of the devil. They were Jews who were not Jews. This is the dividing line that separates the believer from the unbeliever in every age.
Chosen By Grace
So the election obtained it, and as Paul has just emphasized, they obtained it by grace. They were the remnant chosen by grace. This means that God was the one doing the choosing, and that they were not the ones doing the choosing. When men choose God, it is not really God they choose. When men choose righteousness, it is not really righteousness they choose. When men do the pursuing, they soon veer off in another direction entirely. Paul was chosen by God, and not another of his classmates in Gamaliel’s school, entirely and solely because God determined to do it this way, and He made this determination according to “His good counsel and will” (Eph. 1:11).
The Rest Were Blinded
Those who were not chosen were left to their own devices. Those who were not sought out by God were left to their own pseudo-seeking of God. The Bible calls this a blinding. When God lets men go, God is giving them something—He is allowing them to eat their own cooking. Remember that in chapter one, the wrath of God is described as God “giving them up.” Here God is striking them with a judicial blindness, a spirit of stupor. And in that stupor, what do they see? They see exactly what they insist upon seeing. God gives them over to their own vision of things. They see what they want.
In Deuteronomy 29:4, the Israelites had not been given a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, despite the fact that great miracles had been done for them (v. 3). Isaiah 29 is a chapter that is filled with this truth—God gave a stupor to their prophets and seers. And in Psalm 69, we see that the whole thing relates to Jesus. In Psalm 69:4, those who hate Christ hate Him without reason (v. 4; Jn. 15:25). In v. 8, rejection by His brothers was prophesied (John 7:5). In verse 9, we see the zeal of the Lord for the Temple (Jn. 2:17) and Paul applies the latter half of this verse to Christ as well (Rom. 15:3). A prediction is made of the gall Christ was offered on the cross in v. 21 (Matt. 27:34). The context swirls around the treatment that the Jews gave to their Messiah, and in that context, David says “let the table set before them become a snare” (vv. 22-23). And verse 25 is applied by Peter to the fall of Judas (Acts 1:20).
So we should see that the counsel of God’s will in this had been settled 700 years prior (Isaiah), 1000 years prior (Psalms), and 1400 years prior (Deuteronomy). God’s gifts and His refusal to give those gifts stand outside the give and take of history. History cascades from His decrees, and not the other way around.
Reformation from God
So how much of Israel was really Israel was in the palm of God’s hand—so that grace might be really grace. And in every age of the Church, it has been the same. How much of the Church is really the Church is in the hand of God. And so we must turn to Him.