Did God reject his people?

Fredy Winkler

In the well-known chapters 9 – 11 of the Book of Romans, Paul reasons with his people, Israel, and asks them in 11:1, “Did God reject his people?”

He absolutely denies the possibility of that, because God always fulfills His promises. It was Israel’s blindness, however, climaxing in their rejection of the Messiah and Savior who was sent by God, that caused deep sorrow for Paul. In fact, the matter causes him so much anguish that for the sake of his people, he is even prepared to bear on himself their curse for rejecting Christ. He knows of course that this is purely hypothetical, just as it was when Moses wanted to bear God’s rejection on himself after the scandal of the golden calf.

In Romans 9:4-5, Paul lists God’s gifts to the Israelites, which they sadly rejected but which could have made them righteous before God. In verse 32, Paul then asks, “Why not?”

In his own answer, he refers to Isaiah 28:16, when he writes, “Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 9:32-33).

Paul’s deep sorrow is because he realizes that his people missed their high calling and purpose. His only comfort is the knowledge that God did not reject His people and that a remnant of Israel believes.

“So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5). In this verse, Paul is speaking of the time in which he lived, but in all the centuries since then, there has always been a remnant of Israel that believes. That is still true in our present time.

Paul later uses the symbol of the natural olive tree, into which the wild branches are grafted. There has been some discussion as to who is represented by the natural olive tree. Is it Israel? In my opinion, the image of the olive tree symbolizes Israel’s priority before God, as described in Romans 9:4-5. Through our belief in Jesus, we Gentiles are also given priority. Paul further describes this in verses 25-27: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one, and, In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.’”

As to what is meant by “remnant,” there are also various opinions. To answer this question, we must refer to Scriptures and to what Paul says about this subject. The apostle speaks of a “mystery” (Romans 11:25). He explains that the hardening of Israel will end when the fullness of the Gentiles is come. In other words, it will occur as soon as the rapture happens. During the events that will occur then, God will prepare, protect and save a remnant of Israel.

Paul warns those who are grafted into the natural olive tree, through their belief in Jesus, to remain humble (Romans 11:17-25). “For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either” (verse 21).

At the present time, we are seeing a hardening and falling away from the faith in the Christian world. The warning from Paul has probably never had a truer ring than it does in our time. In today’s Christianity, there is only a remnant that is faithful to the Lord.

This falling away from the faith in the Christian world is another clear indication that the time of the “fullness of the Gentiles” has nearly come. May the warning from Paul be motivation to stay faithful to the Lord, until He comes again.

News from Israel - 04/2018

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