In our women's Bible study this weekend one woman asked, "We have our work cut out for us, don't we?" She said this in regard to some passages in the book of Romans. Let's examine one of them today and see what work my friend was talking about.
Romans 11:7-11 (KJV)
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 stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
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.
In verse 7 we see that Israel has not obtained what she sought. What is it that Israel is after? The end of the verse gives us a clue. "The election has obtained it, but the rest were blinded." This is referring to eternal salvation. Those of us who have received forgiveness of our sins through grace by faith are the election. Those who have not are blinded. This means that they are unable to understand the gospel and virtually have a curtain covering their eyes. They cannot perceive the truth. Most of Israel is in this condition as well as most of the world. Verse 8 goes on to describe this blindness as a stupor that exists until "this day". This condition existed during the days of Paul, but actually continues to our current modern day. In verses 8-10 Paul tells us that these verses come from the Old Testament. Isaiah 6:8-10 and Psalm 69:22-23 are the references.
Isaiah 6:8-10 (KJV)
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Psalm 69:22-23 (KJV)
Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake.
Does Israel's blindness or stumbling mean that they fall permanently? Are the blessings of eternal salvation removed from the Jews? Paul's answer in verse 11 is, "God forbid!" Verse 11 states that through the fall of the Jews salvation came to the Gentiles. For those of us who are Gentiles it was this stumbling that made our salvation possible. We should be so grateful for this plan of God!
It is at the end of verse 11 where we find out what the Gentiles' job is now, since we have had salvation extended to us. We are to "provoke Israel to jealousy". What does this mean? In some way we are to cause the Jews to become curious and jealous about our relationship to God so that they will desire to enter into the same kind of relationship that we have. But how do we do this? Judaism sees Christianity as a false religion begun by a false prophet. Because of this understanding Jews rightfully reject Christianity (See here:). Somehow we must convey that Christianity is not a false religion and it was not a NEW religion begun by a false prophet. Yeshua is the Messiah of Judaism. Is it possible that we as Christians need to show Judaism how to be God's people, that we obey the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob more completely than what they are doing? I believe that large numbers of Jews will not come to faith until we Christians are obeying Torah better than the Jews themselves. In this way we will provoke them to jealousy. They will look at our obedience, see our salvation, and will say something like, "Hey, that salvation belonged to us, we want it back!"
Next, we'll discuss the plan of God and how our job of "provokers to jealousy" fits in.