So here is what I ask. Did God turn his back on his people? Not at all! I myself belong to Israel. I am one of Abraham's children. I am from the tribe of Benjamin.
God didn't turn his back on his people. After all, he chose them. Don't you know what Scripture says about Elijah? He complained to God about Israel.
He said, "Lord, they have killed your prophets. They have torn down your altars. I'm the only one left. And they are trying to kill me."#1(1 Kings 19:10,14)#2
How did God answer him? God said, "I have kept 7,000 people for myself. They have not bowed down to Baal."#1(1 Kings 19:18)#2
Some are also faithful today. They have been chosen by God's grace.
And if they are chosen by grace, it is no longer a matter of working for it. If it were, grace wouldn't be grace anymore.
What should we say then? Israel did not receive what they wanted so badly. But those who were chosen did. God made the rest of them stubborn.
It is written, "God made it hard for them to understand. He gave them eyes that could not see. He gave them ears that could not hear. And they are still like that today." #1(Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 29:10)#2
David says, "Let their feast be a trap and a snare. Let it make Israel trip and fall. Let Israel get what's coming to them.
Let their eyes grow dark so they can't see. Let their backs be bent forever." #1(Psalm 69:22,23)#2
Again, here is what I ask. They didn't trip and fall once and for all time, did they? Not at all! Because Israel sinned, those who aren't Jews can be saved. That will make Israel jealous of them.
Israel's sin brought riches to the world. Their loss brought riches to the non-Jews. What greater riches will come when all Israel turns to God!
I am talking to you who are not Jews. I am the apostle to the non-Jews. So I think the work I do for God and others is very important.
I hope somehow to stir up my own people to want what you have. Perhaps I can save some of them.
When they were not accepted, it became possible for the whole world to be brought back to God. So what will happen when they are accepted? It will be like life from the dead.
The first handful of dough that is offered is holy. This makes all of the dough holy. If the root is holy, so are the branches.
Some of the natural branches have been broken off. You are a wild olive branch. But you have been joined to the tree with the other branches. Now you enjoy the life-giving sap of the olive tree root.
So don't think you are better than the other branches. Remember, you don't give life to the root. The root gives life to you.
You will say, "Some branches were broken off so that I could be joined to the tree."
That's true. But they were broken off because they didn't believe. You stand only because you do believe. So don't be proud. Be afraid.
God didn't spare the natural branches. He won't spare you either.
Think about how kind God is! Also think about how firm he is! He was hard on those who stopped following him. But he is kind to you. So you must continue to live in his kindness. If you don't, you also will be cut off.
If the people of Israel do not continue in their unbelief, they will again be joined to the tree. God is able to join them to the tree again.
After all, weren't you cut from a wild olive tree? Weren't you joined to an olive tree that was taken care of? And wasn't that the opposite of how things should be done? How much more easily will the natural branches be joined to their own olive tree!
Brothers and sisters, here is a mystery I want you to understand. It will keep you from being proud. Part of Israel has refused to obey God. That will continue until the full number of non-Jews has entered God's kingdom.
And so all Israel will be saved. It is written, "The One who saves will come from Mount Zion. He will remove sin from Jacob.
Here is my covenant with them. I will take away their sins." #1(Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33,34)#2
As far as the good news is concerned, the people of Israel are enemies. That is for your good. But as far as God's choice is concerned, the people of Israel are loved. That is because of God's promises to the founders of our nation.
God does not take back his gifts. He does not change his mind about those he has chosen.
At one time you did not obey God. But now you have received mercy because Israel did not obey.
In the same way, Israel has not been obeying God. But now they receive mercy because of God's mercy to you.
God has found everyone guilty of not obeying him. So now he can have mercy on everyone.
How very rich are God's wisdom and knowledge! How he judges is more than we can understand! The way he deals with people is more than we can know!
"Who can ever know what is in the Lord's mind? Or who can ever give him advice?" #1(Isaiah 40:13)#2
"Has anyone ever given anything to God, so that God has to pay him back?" #1(Job 41:11)#2
All things come from him. All things are directed by him. All things are for his good. May God be given the glory forever! Amen.