When we started studying Romans this summer, the opening comment from a friend of mine after reading the opening of Romans was: “I’m not sure what to think about the Jews.” I love honesty like that. And Paul continues to touch on the subject momentarily throughout Romans, but then in chapters 9, 10, & 11, he settles down to address this issue once and for all. Now we are not going to try to understand all that God thinks about the Jews, or even all of what Paul thinks about the Jews. We are just going to address one thing that broke my heart.
“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” (Romans 11:25)
When I was in college, I took a class in Ancient Hebrew Thought. It was basically a class on Genesis at a secular institution. My professor was a brilliant Jewish man. I learned so much from him. But at the end of the class, for all his brilliance, he did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah toward which his faith pointed. I’ve never understood that. I’ve thought about it for almost 20 years now. But in studying this summer, it finally started to become clear. God has chosen to harden the hearts of many Jews to the truth until such a time that “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” It doesn’t matter how brilliant they are. God decided to harden their hearts in order to save the rest of the world. That’s why he couldn’t understand. Not because he was stubborn, but because God is stubbornly pursuing the hearts of the Gentiles.
“Rather through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” (Romans 11:11b)
God has made salvation distant to many Jews in order to win the hearts of the Gentiles, but then also plans to use our faith to win the Jews to Him as well. It makes me wonder if we are living lives that would make Jews jealous? Or are we just criticizing them for being wrong? Are we reaching out in love, building relationships, or just treating them like a cult of unbelievers? Because whatever the current status of their faith is, they are still God’s chosen people. And if He wants to use us to win their hearts, are we living lives that they would want? Like the new song by Casting Crowns, do they feel loved by us or do they just know us by what we’re against?
This really changed my heart. I’d love to hear your ideas.