This (Israel) Looks Like That (Me)

Israel: an eternal monument to God’s magnificent mercy

“For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy” (Romans 11:30 ESV).

“For just as you.” Who? Gentile Christians. “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy.” What is God saying? This looks like that. The Jews’ salvation looks just like Gentile salvation. How? The starting point is the same. Disobedience. “You were at one time disobedient to God.” This is everyone’s pre-salvation status before God. We all were sinners. We all were disobedient to God’s law and desires. We are sinners by nature and by choice.

So, when we look at the general Jewish population scoffing at the claims of Christ, it’s like looking in a mirror at our pre-Christian selves. Perhaps not as hostile, but none of us were born righteous no matter how good your Christian parents may have been.

“So, they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.” (Romans 11:31)

How were we saved out of our spiritual hardness? “By the mercy shown to you.” Mercy. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. Mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve. Both get at the same truth that sinners don’t deserve forgiveness from God; we deserve wrath and judgment and hell. Gentile Christians have received this mercy by the millions upon millions. It is the same mercy God gives Gentile Christians that will some day be given to the Jews.

Again, why? Why do it this way, God?

“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:32).

God’s purpose in the salvation of the Jews and the Gentiles is the same and is the purpose behind why he does everything that he does. Namely, the glory of God. I can’t wait to get to Romans 11:36, but look a few verses ahead for the textual support, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” This is the best summary perhaps in the entire Bible of God’s ultimate purpose in all that he does. “To him be glory.”

So how does this apply to Jewish salvation and Gentile salvation? “God has consigned all to disobedience” (Romans 11:32). The Greek Word for “consigned” means to hem in, to cause something to happen by restricting it. You fisherman will like this—the word is used for catching a fish—not by line and hook, but by net. God has netted all humanity in the constriction of sin. This is no accident. God purposed Adam and Eve’s sin even while they were personally responsible. He ordained your sin and status as sinner before him. We all are in the same net. All consigned to disobedience. Why God? It’s not our preference. Not our plan. Why God?

“That he may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11:32)

Imagine with me for a moment that in heaven someday everyone there was saved by God’s mercy except one. There’s one person there who got there by their own moral effort. Just one. Millions of others got there by grace, but one was able to make it on their own. How does that change the value of God’s mercy?

It shatters it. If just one is there by personal merit, God’s mercy becomes a way to be saved, not the only way. Valuable for sure, but not in an ultimate sense. We’d likely make a great hero out of the one. He’d be elected every year as president of the HOA. We’d put him on a pedestal. He’d be a big deal in heaven (or she, more likely a she). If there was just one.

But what if rather than one there is none? Not one single person in all of the new heaven and new earth is there by their own merit or effort. Now who do we worship? There’s only one. God. What do we worship him for? Undeservable, unearnable, irrevocable mercy.

J.C. Ryle wrote this in 1867, “[The Jews] are reserved and preserved, in order that God may show in them as on a platform, to angels and men, how greatly he hates sin, and yet how greatly he can forgive, and how greatly he can convert. Never will that be realized as it will in that day when “all Israel shall be saved.” [1]

What people group is more famous in all of history for their antipathy to the gospel of Jesus Christ than the religious Jews? Isn’t this how God works to magnify his mercy by showing mercy to the last people you’d expect? To have the very people who hated the gospel now believing it? Surprise!

This is how God works. I read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of this and it’s brilliant,

“From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God’s enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God’s overall purpose, they remain God’s oldest friends…There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.”[2] (The Message)

Isn’t that good? God’s open door of mercy to us will be the same door of mercy the Jews will walk through as well. For now, they are on the outs, but someday they will join us on the inside.

Are you on the outs with God?

This whole passage is describing God’s mercy toward those who are on the outs with him. While not a Jew/Gentile thing for you, is it a fair description of your posture and position toward God? This could be caused by a habitual sin. Could be bitterness against God for something in your life. Could be any number of things, but you and God are on the outs. Can you see in the story of God and Israel that God has mercy for those on the outs with him? Generationally on the outs. World famously on the outs. Doesn’t matter to God. He has mercy on whom he has mercy and he opens the door to you today.

Will you step through it? Can your heart step through it? How? Mercy is something we receive. God offers it as a gift. Perhaps pray right now in your heart, God I’ve lived long enough on the outs with you. Today I desire to be on the ins. I do believe Jesus died for my sins. Won’t you forgive me and receive me into your salvation?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] As quoted by John Piper, “Five Reasons I Believe Romans 11:26 Means a Future Conversion for Israel,” www.desiringgod.org, February 16, 2012.

[2] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Rom. 11:25–32). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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