God Has Not Rejected Israel (Romans 11:1-10)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, August 22, 2021
One fine day in 1941, Violet Bailey and her fiancé Samuel Booth were strolling through the English countryside, deeply in love and engaged to be married. A diamond engagement ring sparkled on Violet’s finger—her most treasured possession.
Their romantic bliss suddenly ended. One of them said something that hurt the other. An argument ensued, then escalated. At its worst point, Violet became so angry she pulled the diamond engagement ring from her finger, drew back her arm, and hurled the treasured possession with all her might into the field.
The ring sailed through the air, fell to the ground, and nestled under the grass in such a way that it was impossible to see. Violet and Samuel kissed and made up. Then they walked and walked through that field hunting for the lost ring. They never found it.
They were married two months later. They had a child and eventually a grandson. Part of their family lore was the story of the lost engagement ring.
Violet and Samuel grew old together, and in 1993 Samuel died. Fifteen years passed, but the ring was not forgotten. One day Violet’s grandson got an idea. Perhaps he could find his grandmother’s ring with a metal detector. He bought one and went to the field where Violet had hurled her treasured possession 67 years earlier. He turned on his metal detector and began to crisscross the field, waving the detector over the grass. After two hours of searching, he found what he was looking for. Later, filled with joy and pride, he placed the diamond ring into the hand of his astonished grandmother Violet. The treasured possession had come home.
Think about losing something like that. Well, in the passage we are going to look at Paul responds to those who thought Israel was lost. Israel was not lost. Like God preserved the engagement ring, God preserved a remnant of Israelites.
My theme today is:
Israel has not been rejected, God preserved a remnant.
- One source shares: In Rm 9, Paul introduced the themes of election of some of the offspring of Abraham to be His children of promise and the hardening of others. In chap. 10, he emphasized the need for faith in Christ. In chap. 11, Paul weaves together all of these themes, and argues that there is still a future for ethnic Israel in God’s program.
- How did we get to this point?
- In Romans chapters 9 and 10 Paul has been writing about the Jewish People, Israel. He has been answering the question about why the Jewish people, the Israelites, have rejected Jesus.
- Paul has been making the case that God had told them this would happen.
- In Romans 10:6-21, last week’s message, Paul wrote about preaching the Gospel and then also he used many Old Testament passages to again show that God said that not all would believe.
- Now, we come to Romans 11:1-10.
- Israel’s rejection is not complete or final.
- In verse 1 Paul very directly asks a question.
- Paul is answering an unseen objector.
- Look at verse 1, Romans 11:1: I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
- Paul asks the question and then he is absolutely emphatic in the response. “By no means.” Of course, he has not rejected His people.
- Paul considers himself part of the remnant that has been preserved.
- One source shares: “Had God cast away His people, then above all He would have cast away the Apostle Paul, who had opposed Him with all his might” (Luther, Romans, 139). Cranfield thinks Paul’s reference to himself is meant to argue that if God had really cast off Israel as a whole he would never have chosen an Israelite to be his apostle to the Gentiles (Cranfield, Romans, 2.544).
- Paul then gives an example. Look at the example. Paul uses himself as an example.
- Paul, himself, is an Israelite. Paul is a descendant of Abraham. Paul knows his tribe as well, Benjamin.
- One source shares: Moses referred to Benjamin as “the beloved of the Lord” (Deut 33:12). Morris notes that Benjamin was the only son of Jacob born in Israel, that Jerusalem was situated on land belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, that Benjamin was the only tribe remaining faithful to Judah, and that the first king of Israel came from the tribe of Benjamin (Romans, 398–99). Käsemann refers to the tradition that says Benjamin was the first of the tribes to cross through the Red Sea (Romans, 299).
- God did not reject Paul.
- Look at verse 2, Romans 11:2: God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?
- Paul restates to make his case. “God has not rejected His people.” But Paul adds, “people whom He foreknew.
- God foreknew Israel.
- Psalm 94:14 is a cross reference.
- Now, Paul uses an example of Elijah.
- Verse 3, Romans 10:3, is from 1 Kings 19:10 and 14. Look at verse 3-4, Romans 10:3-4: “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
- Verse 4 comes from 1 Kings 19:18.
- This is about Elijah talking to God after he conquered the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19:20-40). Elijah conquered these prophets, but then Jezebel wanted to kill him, so he was running scared.
- Elijah talks with God and says, “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”
- Elijah felt alone, but he was not.
- God responded.
- Paul even says, “What is God’s reply to him?”
- God had 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Baal was a false God they worshipped.
- Paul goes deep in the Old Testament scripture to make the case which he shares in verse 5. God preserved a remnant.
- Look at verse 5, Romans 11:5: So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
- What is Paul saying?
- God has not rejected all Israel.
- Some Israelites will be saved.
- God has kept a remnant.
- In one source a footnote shared the following: Nygren points out that the existence of a remnant in any age depends not upon the character of the people but wholly on God’s purpose and election. Thus “ ‘remnant’ and ‘election’ (λεῖμμα and ἐκλογὴ) are interchangeable concepts. A ‘remnant’ is not just a group of separate individuals, taken out of a people doomed to overthrow; it is itself the chosen people, it is Israel in nuce” (Romans, 392–93).
- This remnant is chosen by God, and how are they chosen, by grace.
- It is not about works.
- Look at verse 6, Romans 11:6: But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
- If we earn our salvation it is no longer grace.
In his book Connecting Christ, Paul Metzger retells the story of the friendship between the Jewish writer Elie Wiesel and the French Christian writer Francois Mauriac. While in Auschwitz, Wiesel was torn from his mother and sisters and forced to watch his father get beaten to death by Nazi guards. After the war, Wiesel chose to keep silent about his traumatic experiences. But as a young writer, Wiesel had the chance to interview Mauriac, a prominent Christian writer and former leader in the French Resistance movement. Though he respected Mauriac, Wiesel arrived at Mauriac’s apartment with an ulterior motive: he wanted Mauriac to help him meet the Prime Minister of France, which would have been a boost to Wiesel’s emerging writing career. In a 1996 interview here’s how Wiesel recounts their first meeting:
Mauriac was an old man then, but when I came to Mauriac, he agreed to see me. We met and we had a painful discussion. The problem was that [Mauriac] was in love with Jesus. He was the most decent person I ever met in that field—as a writer, as a [Christian] writer. Honest, sense of integrity, and he was in love with Jesus. He spoke only of Jesus. Whatever I would ask—Jesus.
Finally … when he said Jesus again I couldn’t take it, and … I was discourteous, which I regret to this day. I said, “Mr. Mauriac … ten years or so ago, I have seen children, hundreds of Jewish children, who suffered more than Jesus did on his cross, and we do not speak about it.” I felt all of a sudden so embarrassed. I closed my notebook and went to the elevator. He ran after me. He pulled me back; he sat down in his chair, and I in mine, and he began weeping. I have rarely seen an old man weep like that, and I felt like such an idiot. I felt like a criminal. This man didn’t deserve that. He was really a pure man, a member of the Resistance. I didn’t know what to do. We stayed there like that, he weeping and I closed in my own remorse. And then, at the end … he simply said, “You know, maybe you should talk about it?”
He took me to the elevator and embraced me. And that year, the tenth year, I began writing [Night, my novel about the Holocaust]. After it was translated from Yiddish into French, I sent it to him. We were very, very close friends until his death.
Later in his life Wiesel declared that it was Mauriac, the man “who declared himself in love with Christ,” who influenced him to share his story and become a writer.
- Paul gives substance to his claim about a remnant (verses 7-10).
- Look at verse 7, Romans 11:7: What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened…
- Paul asks a question, it is as if he is asking a question in order to explain what he means.
- Israel failed, they missed the mark. They were seeking the Messiah, but they missed.
- The elect, that is the chosen one, the remnant did obtain it.
- The rest were hardened.
- We have talked about this.
- There is a mystery to this, but it does seem that most hardened, also hardened their own hearts.
- Look at verse 8, from Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4. Romans 11:8: as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
- “As it is written” means that he is going to quote Scripture.
- The first line was quoted from Is 29:10 and the last lines are adapted from Dt 29:4.
- God gave them over… God let them go their own way.
- They had eyes but could not see and ears that could not hear. Paul quotes from Moses here. First he quoted from Isaiah and then Deuteronomy, which would be Moses.
- Later in verse 25 of this chapter, Romans 11:25 Paul will say that a partial hardening has come upon Israel.
- Paul has made his case from Isaiah and now he will make his case from David. Verses 9-10 come from Psalm 69:22, 23. Look at verses 9-10, Romans 11:9-10: And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”
- Paul takes this passage and applies it to Israel. Israel had darkened eyes and became a servant to others.
- MacArthur shares: A person’s “table” was thought to be a place of safety, but the table of the ungodly is a trap. Many people trust in the very things that damn them.
- One source shares: The Jews regarded Psalm 69 as Messianic in Paul’s day (cf. John 15:25). The quotation from this psalm (vv. 22–23) records David’s desire. He wished that his enemies’ table (i.e., blessings) would become something that they would stumble over. The enemies in view were the Lord’s enemies as well as the king’s since he was the Lord’s anointed. This is really what had happened to the Israelites who had set themselves against God by rejecting His Son. Inability to see clearly and bondage to the Law had resulted (cf. Act. 15:10). The Greek phrase dia pantos usually means “continually.” It probably means that here rather than “forever.”333 Paul would explain that Israel’s obstinacy and bondage would not last indefinitely (v. 26). Paul explained that God had brought upon the Jews what David had prayed would happen to his persecutors.
- One source shares: The Jewish nation missed salvation because they sought for it by works. The elect portion was given mercy, but the majority was hardened in unbelief; OT citations are given to show that God has judged his people.
- augustine: Behold mercy and judgment—mercy on the elect, who have obtained the righteousness of God, but judgment upon the others who have been blinded. And yet the former have believed because they willed it, while the latter have not believed because they have not willed it. Hence mercy and judgment were executed in their own wills.
- We must remember that we do not know the Lord’s mind, the Lord is still at work (verses 1-10 and also later in verse 34).
- We must not be like Elijah and think that we are the only Christian(s) left (verses 3-4).
- Many times, we do think that we are alone as the only Christian, but we must be encouraged. God is with us and many times there are more Christians supporting us than we realize.
- Further, even if we are missionaries, and we are truly the only Christians, in that case, people are praying for us.
- We likely have more Christians around us in the workplace.
- We likely have more Christians around us in the school. Maybe if we speak up they will too.
- Notice, the remnant in verse 5 is chosen by grace. We must remember God’s sovereignty and God’s grace. God’s grace is amazing. The remnant is not about what they did, or do, and neither is our salvation.
- Verses 8-10 uses references from Isaiah 29:10; Deuteronomy 29:4 and Psalm 69:22-23 to remind us that God has been consistent with His promises. We must worship the Lord remembering that He does not lie or change His mind (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29).
I read the following:
We have a sterling silver tea set at home that a family member gave us as a reminder of her love for us. It’s quite old and beautifully made, and it sits on a stand in our dining room. There’s only one problem: we can’t use it. Before she gave it to us, she had it chemically coated so that it wouldn’t tarnish. Hot water will ruin the finish.
God’s not looking for sterling silver tea sets. He’s looking for rough-and-tumble clay pots—the kind that can be used everyday. He’s looking for the kind of pots that don’t need to be tucked away in a china closet, but can be sent out into a crash-bang world, carrying within them the life of Christ. The church was never meant to be a china cabinet, where precious pieces could be safely stowed out of harm’s way. The church was meant to be a working kitchen, where well-worn pots are filled again and again to dispense their life-giving contents to a thirsty world.
 Source: “It wasn’t all bad,” The Week (2-15-08), p. 4
 Source: Paul Metzger, Connecting Christ, (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pp. 73-74
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 11:8.
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 11:9.
333 333. Cranfield, 2:552.
OT Old Testament
 Source: Bryan Wilkerson, “Unbreakable?” PreachingToday.com