June 24, 2007
THE MYSTERY OF ISRAEL’S BLINDNESS
“I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in...and so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written...” (Romans 11:25-26).
Paul here addressed Gentiles, whose apostle he was, yet it seemed his all engrossing burden was Israel, not these Gentiles! Listen to his words, “I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles...” But note his caution to these Gentiles, “lest ye should be wise in your own conceits.” He wants them to understand that God’s outreach to them was certainly not to get them saved nor because the “children had first been fed.” It seemed the children (Israel) had no appetite for the offered food.
What to do? God’s last resort was to provoke Israel to jealously. Moses had said “I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you” (Rom. 10:19). Yet Israel’s jealousy was not aroused by the “little flock” during the Lord’s earthly ministry. Had they “stumbled that they should fall? By no means, but rather through their fall (failure to listen) salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy” (Rom. 11:11). That was how God was using the Gentiles to whom Paul had ministered, yet even this seemed to little avail. So Paul pulled out all the stops, “If by any means I may provoke to jealousy them which are my flesh (Israel), and might save some of them” (Rom. 11:13-15). The Gentiles had every reason to thank God for His overabounding mercies to them, yet God was also using them to make Israel jealous!
One last effort was the olive tree, some of whose branches were broken off, and wild olive branches inserted in their place. Lest we think Paul did not understand grafting, he said it was “contrary to nature,” for the grafted insert is always of the desired fruit, and God was not looking for a crop of wild olives! God was doing what few horticulturalists know–inserting a wild graft to arouse new life in a tree whose fruit was lagging. These Gentiles were reminded that the root supported them, not they it! They stood by faith and partook of Israel’s spiritual things gladly sharing their carnal things in exchange...so Israel would be jealous of their enjoyment of the blessings they were spurning. (See Rom. 15:27).
Thus the secret was that Israel’s blindness would continue until the fulness of the Gentiles was realized. After that, “all Israel will be saved”!
Ivan L. Burgener