Our last study began with God’s election of Israel as His chosen people. In Chapter 10 we’ll see how they came to be rejected.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4)
With all his heart Paul wanted the Jews to receive the gospel message. Remember, last time he said he would give up his own place in eternity if he could get them to accept theirs. (Romans 9:3) But like many legalists in the Church today, the Jews of Old Testament times overlooked God’s message of Grace, searching instead for a set of requirements they could fulfill to earn a righteousness of their own.
Don’t misunderstand. Our Lord didn’t abolish the Law. (Matt. 5:17) He brought it to completion by obeying both the letter and the spirit of its requirements, and by fulfilling its prophecies. Having been released from the Law’s condemnation by His obedience, everyone who believes is now free to accept God’s righteousness, a righteousness imputed to us by faith.
Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” [Lev.18:5] But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” [Deut. 30:13-14] that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” [Isaiah 28:16] For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Joel 2:32] (Romans 10:5-13)
When Moses offered Israel the choice of life or death in Deut. 30, he said it was neither too difficult for them to comprehend nor beyond their reach. They didn’t have to ascend into heaven or descend into the depths of the sea to get it. The words were in their hearts and on their tongues. (It has always fascinated me that the Hebrew name for the Book of Deuteronomy is “haddebarim.” It means, “The Words.” Maybe that’s why Jesus quoted from it more than any other book of the Bible.)
And it’s even more so with us. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Agree that He’s God become man, our Creator incarnate. Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Remember, Paul was writing to people who were already saved, and now he explained what their beliefs meant.
Here’s why believing in the resurrection is necessary. When Jesus went to the cross, all of our sins were placed upon Him (Colossians 2:14). When that happened, God had to abandon Him (Matt. 27:46), His eyes being too pure to look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). But when Jesus came out of the tomb He was seated at the right hand of God (Ephes. 1:20) Put it all together and you’ll see that if even one of our sins placed upon Him remained unpaid, He’d still be in the tomb. He could not exist in the Presence of God. Put another way, if all of our sins were placed on Him and if He’s now in the Presence of God, then all our sins must have been paid for on the cross. Every one of them. So His resurrection is proof of ours. If you don’t believe in His then you can’t believe in yours.
From the wellspring of belief in our hearts the words of our salvation come flowing out of our mouths. Jew or Gentile, it’s all the same.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” [Isaiah 52:7] (Romans 10:14-15)
When reversed, this series of questions lists the steps toward salvation. Messengers are sent from God proclaiming the Gospel. The people hear and believe, call upon the name of the Lord, and are saved.
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says,
“Lord, who has believed our message?” [Isaiah 53:1]
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” [Psalm 19:4]
Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
“I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” [Deut 32:21]
And Isaiah boldly says,
“I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” [Isaiah 65:1]
But concerning Israel he says,
“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”[Isaiah 65:2] (Romans 10:16-21)
In using a quote from Psalm 19 Paul was claiming that in addition to all the messengers God sent them, the heavens themselves brought the Gospel story to Israel. Indeed our knowledge of the Hebrew Mazzaroth, corrupted by Babylon into the Signs of the Zodiac, shows that God wrote the Gospel in the stars as a means for his ancient people to teach their children.
And if the Gentiles, considered to be spiritually ignorant, could understand it, surely Israel had no excuse. God didn’t form the Gentile nations and live among them like He did the Jews, but they found Him nonetheless, while Israel, with God in their midst, lost Him.
They had no one to blame but themselves. Having worked to the point of obsession to establish their own righteousness, they overlooked the most important ingredient, faith. Having rejected Him, they became the rejected.
But as we’ll see next time, it won’t be forever. As He had Jeremiah tell them, He will never forget His chosen people.
This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name:
“Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.”
This is what the LORD says:
“Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,”
declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:35-37)
Then, just to be sure there’d be no misunderstanding, He had Ezekiel say it this way.
“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever. ” (Ezekiel 37:26-28)
In our next study we’ll see how these prophecies will be fulfilled when Israel is brought back to God. And we’ll also see that even during the centuries of rejection God has used His chosen people to bless all of humanity, fulfilling His promise to Abraham. Selah