Let God Be God (Part 2).
With the Jew’s rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul’s own ministry refocused on the Gentiles, he rhetorically questioned whether God had given up on His chosen people. Unquestionably, NO! Paul then launched into a defence of God’s historical commitment to a Jewish remnant: quoting his own salvation and His earlier promise to Elijah, and re-emphasising His unequivocal salvation by grace rather than through works. Although God’s faithfulness to the Israelites remains indisputable, since He first chose them by grace (Rom 11:1-6), how that would work out in the entirety of progressive human history is left to Yahweh’s sovereignty (Rom 11:34). In today’s tumultuous world, it is pertinent to bear in mind, as Paul reminded us, that our God not only saves, but is also the God of our history – nothing escapes His attention and all events ultimately work out to serve His eternal purpose in Christ (Rom 8:28-31; c.f., Col 1:16-17). The degree of our trust in His capacity as Lord of All, in the midst of our walk on this earth, is commensurate with our increasing experience in our relationship with Him; the wider that friendship within time, the deeper our trust.
Next, Paul discoursed on the ironic trajectory of God’s plan of salvation with the Jews and the Gentiles, where the latter’s acceptance of the gospel stirs up the former’s jealousy! The Jews remain the apple of God’s eyes, and our salvation (i.e., the Gentiles) is only the result of His kindness and grace. When they eventually turn around to accept their Messiah as Saviour, it would be like life from the dead – a miraculous ‘resurrection’ of the living dead (Rom 11:7-15). He reinforced this prospect with a double metaphor, in terms of Israel as a lump from the original holy dough and as a broken branch off a holy-rooted olive tree. One day, the Israelites will be restored to God; where the lumps will again be indistinguishable from the holy dough and the broken branches re-grafted into the holy-rooted tree (Rom 11:16-24). Lest as Gentiles, we become arrogant and conceited over our privilege as believers before the Jews’ ‘re-awakening,’ Paul cautioned that God’s original choice is still to include the Jews as part of the Christological Body. On hindsight, it is lamentable that our blind spots over our own pride and prejudices, despite the grace of salvation extended to us, is not limited to our spiritual concerns toward the Jews, but encompass the entirety of regrettable behaviours that invalidate the testimony of the Christ in us, indicative of the depth of our self-centred sinfulness.
How God will one day reveal Himself to the Israelites may be ambiguous to us, but not for a God who faithfully keeps His promises (Rom 11:26-27; Isaiah 59:20-32). God’s time scale is obviously quite varied, and His infinite patience and lovingkindness challenge our impatience and perseverance. And Paul determinately ends his exposition in doxological worship of Yahweh: in all His wisdom and knowledge, His unsearchable judgments and unfathomable ways (Rom 11:33-36). When we do eventually awake from our own worldly stupor to a life spiritually endowed in the eternal Christ, we will profoundly worship Him and compellingly treasure Him forever – for it is an unforgettable foretaste of what life in Christ may be like through eternity (Col 1:15-20).