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The Purpose of Israel’s Blindness

 EDITOR’S NOTE: Romans 11 reveals God’s future for Israel. Misunderstanding this important doctrine creates many problems for students of God’s Word in general and Bible prophecy in particular. This is Part 2 of a three-part series from Larry Stamm based on Romans 11. Part 1 is available here.

Romans 11:11-24 

After Paul deals with the misperception that God has cast away His people in Romans 11:1–10, he then explains the amazing purpose for Israel’s blindness in Romans 11:11–24. Verse 11 says, “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” 

Ah, the purpose of Israel’s blindness: so that salvation would extend to the Gentiles or nations of the Earth, as was foretold by the prophet Isaiah. God’s plan from before the foundation of the Earth was to reveal Himself to the world through the Messiah of Israel. In Isaiah 49:6, seven hundred years before Jesus walked this Earth as a man, God spoke through the prophet these remarkable words: “And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” Jesus, in John 8:12, refers to Himself as the Light of the World. 

The purpose of salvation for the Gentiles is to provoke Israel to jealousy. Bible commentator Harold Hoehner wrote, “It is similar to offering a toy to a child who then refuses it. However, when the toy is offered to another child, the first child then wants it.” 

Then in verse 12, Paul continues, “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?” Hoehner adds, “So God’s aim for the Jews is not their fall but their recovery. Gentiles are saved not only for their sake but for the sake of Israel. Gentile salvation is a means to an end.” 

In other words, Israel’s fall means salvation for the nations, and ultimately, that blessing of salvation to the nations will rest upon Israel. In Romans 11:17–24, Paul warns Gentiles against pride and arrogance because Israel rejected the Gospel. He talks about two olive trees—the wild olive tree representing Gentile Christians and the olive tree, also called the Natural Branches, which represent national Israel. Some of the branches of Israel were removed. He explains the relationship between the two in Romans 11:17–18: “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” 

God always preserved a believing remnant of Jewish people from the olive tree, Israel. Olives were an important crop in the ancient world. Although the trees often lived for hundreds of years, individual branches eventually stopped producing olives. When that happened, branches from younger trees were grafted in to restore productivity. Paul’s point is that the old, unproductive branches, representing unbelieving Israel, were broken off and branches from the wild tree, representing Gentiles, were grafted in. This is the cultivated olive tree in verse 24—made of Jew and Gentile. This is the church, made up of Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus. God has made one new man out of the two. You and I, whether we’re Jewish or Gentile, if we know Christ, we are one in Him. 

When Paul writes of the wild olive tree partaking of the root and the fatness, he’s simply saying Gentiles are partaking in the richness of God’s covenant He made with Abraham in a spiritual sense. You and I as believers in Jesus, are spiritual seeds of Abraham. I, as a Jew, am also a physical seed of Abraham. 

But the important thing for anyone is that they become the spiritual seed of Abraham. Jesus said that unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). He was talking about a spiritual birth. To experience that new birth, a person must believe in Jesus. And as I like to tell people, it’s not about your Jewishness, nor your Gentile-ness—it’s about your Jesus-ness. Do you know Him? 

What Paul is saying is this: Don’t be prideful because you’re a Gentile believer amid Israel’s hard heart. It’s because of Israel that God has brought forth the Savior of the world and it’s because of the blessing of salvation to the nations that will precipitate salvation to Israel in the future! 

In Romans 11:23-24, Paul refers to that time when the natural branches will be grafted back in: “… if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” 

What he’s saying is that in the future, the nation of Israel will repent of their unbelief and fully embrace Messiah Jesus. Certainly, the misperception that God is finished with Israel throughout church history has created an environment for Christian anti-Semitism to abound at various times. I need only to mention the pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Crusades to remind us that the Christian church doesn’t have a great track record in dealing with Jewish people. 

Yet Jesus said in John 10:18 about His own life and death, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Jesus was born to die—for our sins. This was God’s plan before the foundation of the world. The Jews aren’t “Christ-killers.” Rather, my sins and yours were the reason Jesus died. He took the judgment and wrath we deserve upon Himself. He died so we could live. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 

Now, what does it mean to provoke my Jewish people to godly jealousy? It simply means to love them with the very love of God. Specifically, this includes showing the love of God through your actions and sharing the love of God through your words. Showing the love of God will happen when you experience and express the fruit of the Spirit in your life. 

We all need to effectively share the Gospel, not only with Jewish people we know but with anyone who needs the Lord. We’ve got the Gospel message, which is good to save. We have the Word of God that doesn’t return void, and we have the Holy Spirit, who reveals the truth to people, convicts people of sin, and does the work of saving those who trust in Christ. 

Today, may we provoke Jewish people and others to godly jealousy, so they might want to know Jesus. 

Watch for Part 3, “The Plan for Israel’s Salvation,” from Romans 11:25–36. 

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Larry Stamm

Larry Stamm is the founder and director of Larry Stamm Ministries, author of Jewish Roots of Christianity and a regular contributor to the Watchman on the Wall broadcast. He is a Jewish Christian in love with Jesus the Messiah and the Word of God. Larry Stamm Ministries exists to make the gospel of Jesus a confident topic of conversation for every Christian.

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