I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches to the world, and if their failure riches to the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are of my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, the branches are holy. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became partaker of the root and the fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Father, we thank You for Your word. We ask that You would continue to, Lord, open our eyes, that we would see these great truths that You have before us, Lord. Open our ears that we would receive them, and that our hearts would be open to what You want to speak to us, Lord. We pray that You would continue to transform us by the renewing of our minds, Lord, that we would be able to reflect and display Your great glory in this world. Lord, it’s certain, as we look around the world, Lord, as we see the news of what’s happening throughout it, Lord, we know that this world is in desperate need of Your grace. And we have already been the recipients of Your free grace, and so I pray that, freely as we have received, that we’d freely give it out to others, Lord. Open doors to us that we’d be able to carry Your grace and Your goodness to those that we know that have not yet received it. So, God, continue to work that into us as we consider who You are and how You work. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
Is jealousy ever a good thing? Now certainly jealousy is one of those things that, if you’re a parent, you would like to see it expelled from your children. Amen? The reality is that when we see it in our children, we see a reflection of ourselves, because we, by very nature, are jealous individuals. We recognize that jealousy is a vice and not necessarily a virtue. And yet here in the section of Scripture before us today, in Romans, we see that it was the apostle Paul’s aim to provoke people to jealousy. Specifically he tells us here that it was his aim to provoke his Jewish brothers and sisters to jealousy.
Our 18-month old daughter, Evangeline, she loves to provoke her brother and sister to jealousy. Now the reality is all of them like to do this is some way, but Evangeline gets an extra measure of satisfaction, it seems, out of provoking her older brother and sister to jealousy. Do any of you have kids like that, or do you remember your kids in that way, in some way? Let me explain to you how this works; and this happens at least on a daily basis. Ethan or Addison will be playing with some toys, and Evangeline will run over and she will grab one and she will run and hide. Normally she will run and hide in our closet. And her whole desire is that her brother and sister will chase her to come get it. And if they do chase her, if they take the bait, if they are about to catch her, she will throw whatever toy it is as hard as she can away from them with a smile on her face. She loves to provoke her brother and sister to jealousy. And if it wasn’t so obnoxious, it would be incredibly cute.
The reality is we love to do the same. I think that one of the reasons that Facebook thrives so much is that it is in us that we like to provoke people to jealousy. So we take pictures of the vacations that we’re on, and we say, “Wouldn’t you like to be here?” Or we’re sitting at a restaurant, and we take a picture of this great plate of food, and everybody around us “likes” it, and we know that they’re jealous of what we have in that moment. So I think that one of the reasons that Facebook is thriving is because of jealousy. We love to provoke people to jealousy.
Well, the question is: how do you provoke someone to jealousy? Well, it’s really quite simple – by displaying or demonstrating or enjoying something that you have or enjoy, that they don’t. All you have to do is enjoy the thing that you have that they don’t. And then as they watch you, because the heart of man is deceitful and wicked, we’re going to desire the very thing that someone else is enjoying. It’s an amazing study; it’s an amazing examination to engage in, to watch how this takes place with kids. If you’ve not had your own kids, I encourage you to teach in the children’s ministry, you get an opportunity to see this. You know there may be 50 toys in a room, and you’ve got two or three kids in there, and if one kid is enjoying a toy, the other kids want that toy, because that child’s enjoying it. And so there is that stir of jealousy within our hearts. But again, it is a vice, it is not a virtue.
And yet Paul, here in this passage, he says, “It is my aim to stir my brothers and sisters to jealousy.” Why? Such an endeavor seems childish, at the very least it seems carnal. So look what he says with me, if you will, Romans chapter 11, verse 11: “I say then, have they,” speaking of the children of Israel, because that is the focus of these chapters – chapters 9 through 11 – “have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
“For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry.” Why? “If by any means I may provoke to jealousy,” second time, “I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some.” “I want to make my siblings jealous!!” is what Paul says here in this passage, just like Evangeline. “I want to make my siblings jealous.” That seems childish, it seems carnal, and yet Paul shows here that there is a time in which jealousy can be a good thing. Again, the context of this passage is in regard to Israel. These chapters, 9 through 11, are. The children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the people called Israel, they were, in Paul’s day, as they are in ours, largely unbelieving. And as a result of their unbelief, they were not saved, and Paul tells us here in this passage that it was his desire that they would be saved. Why were they not saved? Well Romans chapter 10, verse 10 tells us there: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” And his Jewish brothers and sisters, although some of them were saved, the large mass of them, the large majority of them, had not believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and they had not confessed Him as Lord. Therefore, they were not saved. Paul says, “My earnest desire, my deep joy would be their salvation.” Although they were the family through which Jesus, the Messiah, would come, although they had such great opportunity and access to the Gospel of grace, they were largely lost – both 2,000 years ago and today. The majority of people who are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not saved. Now, you may think “there’s a lot of people in the world that are not saved,” and yet we need to recognize that this group of people, this people group, is the very people that God chose that it was going to be through them that the promised Messiah, who brings salvation, would come. So if anyone had opportunity, if anyone had access, it was this people group. And yet, largely, they are not saved.
And so Paul asks the next inevitable question here in this section of Scripture. As we’ve already considered throughout the book of Romans, the entire book is basically built upon Paul’s anticipated objections that his readers will bring to him. So here, his anticipated objection is: “Have they stumbled that they should fall?” Or another way of reading it would be, from the New Living Translation: “Did God’s people,” the children of Israel, “did they stumble so that they would fall beyond recovery?” Has their failure to receive Christ as Messiah, has their rejection of Jesus as their King and as their Lord, has it meant that they are beyond recovery? Are they eternally lost because they have not received the Christ? Is it that this people group – we’re speaking about the whole group of people, not the individual people who call themselves descendants of Abraham – but is it that this people group are so far from God that they will never, ever receive the Lord? Now we’ve already considered, as we opened Romans chapter 11 last week, that no, that’s not the case, because there were many people who were Christians who had Jewish heritage. The author of this book, the apostle Paul, was one of them. Every single one of the early Christians, for the first about 10 years of the church, were all Jewish by birth. The Gospel had not gone out to the peoples of the world until Acts chapter 10. So from Acts chapter 1 til Acts chapter 10 most, actually all of the believers were Jewish by birth.
But had this group of people stumbled that they would fall beyond recovery? Well the first thing we need to ask is: How did they stumble? Paul speaks here of them stumbling, how did they stumble? Well look back to chapter 9; Romans chapter 9, look at verses 32 and 33; Romans 9:32, there in about the middle of the verse Paul says this: “By the works of the law…” The context is: they sought for righteousness. “By the works of the law they sought for righteousness. For they stumbled at the stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone, a rock of offense, and whoever believes on’” what? “…Him.” So this stumbling stone is not an actual, physical rock, but an individual. And we recognize that this individual, this One that was set there in Zion to bring salvation, this Him is Jesus, “and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’” Jesus came to the Jewish people first – to the Jew first and then to the Greek, to the Gentile. In fact how many of you here this morning are Gentiles, non-Jews? Look around. Look around. Salvation has come to the Gentiles in a big way!! And we’re very thankful that that is the case. But, by nature of proximity, by nature of the fact that Jesus came of the line of Abraham, the Gospel came to the Jew first. And because of all the blessing that God had blessed them with, because of the covenant that He made with them, that is why He first brought the Gospel to them. And yet, it was there, on the day that Jesus was condemned to die by Pontius Pilate, that he brought Jesus, who had just been beaten before a gathered multitude of Jews there in the city of Jerusalem, and said, “Behold your King.”
And they said, “We will not have this man to rule over us.” They rejected Him as their King.
Pontius Pilate had Jesus crucified, and above His head was an inscription in several different languages of the day: “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.”
And there was a group of people that came to Pontius Pilate and said, “Take that down, or at least say, ‘He said that He was the King of the Jews.’ We do not want this man to rule over us.” And so they rejected Jesus, the Messiah, the One who fulfills Old Testament Scriptures about His first coming, and will fulfill Old Testament prophecy in His second coming. So they stumbled because they stumbled upon Jesus. They refused to believe in Him.
And so Paul’s question here is: So has God caused them to stumble so that they would be falling and lost for good? Paul’s answer that he gives here to this objection is the same answer that he’s given nine previous times in the book of Romans – “Certainly not!” God forbid! May it never be! May it never even cross our minds! Now, remember the reason that Paul is even objecting or anticipating this objection. It comes from Romans chapter 8, the last couple of verses of Romans chapter 8. Look with me if you would at Romans 8:38, Romans 8:38. Paul declares this great truth at the close of what is many people’s favorite passage of the Bible, Romans 8, verse 38, he says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God. How many of you today are thankful for that promise? Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Now, what about Israel? God had said to them, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” And yet if you look at all outward appearance, if you take a look at Jewish history, especially from the time that Paul wrote these words until now, if you consider all the trials and the difficulty and all the hardship that they have faced as a people, you would have to conclude this people seems as though they don’t have the love of God. When you consider the holocaust, when you consider the pogroms, when you consider all the different things that they have faced, being expelled from their land in 70 A.D. by the Romans, being almost destroyed by the Romans later on in 120 A.D. during a revolt against Rome. You go throughout their history and if you look at all the difficulty that they faced, you might ask the question, “Are they really under the love of God?” The reason you’d ask that question is because a lot of times we equate the blessing of God with the love of God, and we equate the lack of blessing, or maybe even suffering and trial, as Him not loving us. But maybe that has more to do with our wrong perception of things than it does with what is actually real and true. But still people question the veracity of this claim that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God. And yet it seems as though the people who descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not experiencing the love and blessing of God. And there are many Jewish people today who actually think that as well. Many of them have become atheistic; they don’t believe in God any longer because they say, “If there is a God, and we are His people, then what has happened to us? Why are we experiencing what we are experiencing?”
But Paul indicates in this last section of Romans chapter 11, this last section of Romans 9 through 11, that the story regarding the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not over. The story is not over, God still has a plan. Now, four things I want you to consider with me in these four verses – Romans chapter 11, verses 11 through 14. Four things that I want us to consider, you may want to write them down.
Number one, if you’re taking notes: Israel’s current condition is temporary. Israel’s current condition is temporary. How do we know that? Well, read with me again, if you would, Romans 11:11; Paul says there, “I say then, have they,” the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “have they stumbled in order that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has gone to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches to the world, and if their failure riches to the Gentiles,” notice this, “how much more their” what? Say is loudly. “…their fullness!” Paul, inspired of the Spirit of God, speaking prophetically here says, “There is coming a day when we will see Jewish fullness as it relates to salvation in Jesus Christ.” Now we need to recognize that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ. So if descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are going to receive eternal salvation, it will only be in and through Jesus. It will not be because they have kept the law. It will not be because they are descendants of Abraham. It will be because they believe upon Jesus. But Paul speaks prophetically and says listen, there is a day, although, by all outward observation, it would seem to indicate that the Jewish people are largely lost, there is a day when he says there will be a fullness of the Jews coming to salvation.
Well not only that, skip down about 15 verses to verse 25, look at this, Romans 11:25: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery.” It may be a mystery; we may not completely comprehend it or be able to wrap our minds around it. “I don’t want you to be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness,” the same thing that we saw last week has come upon the Jewish people, a hardness, a callousness, “blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles are come in. And so,” verse 26, “all Israel will be saved.” Now we’ll get to those words in a few minutes, and consider what is meant by them. But at the very least, we need to recognize: number one, that Israel’s current lost condition is temporary.
Secondly, if you’re taking notes, Israel’s current condition has resulted in salvation for Gentiles. Their failure, their loss, has resulted in the Gospel coming to – raise your hands again Gentiles, come on, look at that – salvation has come to the Gentiles. Why? Because of Israel’s rejection. Again, Romans chapter 11, verse 11, we read there: “Through their fall…salvation has come to the Gentiles…[their fall] is riches to the world, their failure is riches to the Gentiles.” Now, one of the unfortunate realities about the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is that they had failed to fulfill one of their purposes as a people. In Exodus chapter 19; you remember the story in the book of Exodus: the children of Israel coming out of their bondage in Egypt. You know just this last week, my kids discovered, especially Ethan discovered that there was a new movie on Netflix – The Prince of Egypt, and I think we’ve watched it 30 times this week. So it’s like fresh in my memory. But how many of you guys remember the coming out of the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt? And then they come to Mount Sinai. And there in Exodus chapter 19, I believe it’s right around verse 6, God prophesies, He proclaims over this people: “You are to be My priests, a holy nation!” Their purpose, one of their purposes was to be the nation through which God would display His glory to the world. They were to be priests, bringing God to the world, and bringing the people of the world to God. And yet, as you discover, as you follow their history in the old covenant, in the Old Testament, they largely failed to fulfill their purpose. But God, through Israel’s stumbling, at the stumbling stone – Jesus – through their stumbling, God has worked, He has engineered to bring salvation to non-Jews, which was always God’s plan. God has always had a burden and a heart and a love for all people – “For God so loved the” what? “…the world.” We don’t read that: For God so loved this small group of people called the Jews only. No! “God so loved the world.” His heart has always been for lost people, and will always be, until He comes and establishes His kingdom. And so God, through the stumbling of Israel, has engineered that salvation would come to non-Jews, which was always His heart in seeking out the lost.
But how did this come about? How is it that salvation would come to the Gentiles through the Jewish rejection of the Messiah? Well, if you study through the book of Acts – you remember there in Acts chapter 1 that Jesus meets with His Jewish disciples who were believers in Him, the risen Lord, and He says to them, “You are going to be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” “You’re going to go into all the world,” Matthew 28, “and make disciples of all nations.” “You’re going to go and preach the Gospel to all creatures,” Mark chapter 16, verse 15. And so Jesus’ commission to His disciples was to GO, GO to all the world. As you begin reading the book of Acts – Acts chapter 2 – they received the Spirit of God, and God starts the church, He begins to build the church – 3,000 people come to faith that day. But they’re all Jewish Christians. Then you come to Acts chapter 5 – 5,000 people come to faith, but they’re all Jewish Christians. And for the first seven to ten years of the church, they stayed in Jerusalem. But Jesus had said, “You’re going to be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.” After almost ten years, the church remained in Jerusalem, and was predominately, it was entirely Jewish Christians. It would seem, if you were to take a snapshot of the church ten years into their history, that they were failing just like Israel had failed to fulfill their purpose.
So what happened? Turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 8. Acts chapter 8; look at what God does. The majority of the Jewish people were rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, and yet the church was still comfortable, if you will, there in Jerusalem. Acts chapter 8, verse 1; you remember in Acts chapter 7, the end of the passage there, a very prominent leader in the church was killed by being stoned with rocks, his name was Stephen. Here we read in Acts chapter 8, verse 1: “Now Saul was consenting unto [Stephen’s] death.
At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at” where? “…Jerusalem; and they were all” what? “…scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” So what happens? Ten years in, the church is all Jewish, it’s all in Jerusalem. If anybody wants to know about Jesus, they’re going to have to come there and hear about Him. And so the large part of the children of Israel are rejecting Jesus as Messiah, they begin to persecute the Christians, and it causes them to be pressed out into – God said, “You’re going to be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, but Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts.” Two chapters later, Acts chapter 10, we see the Gospel makes its first move unto Gentiles, in the house of Cornelius through Peter the apostle.
So through the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, and ultimately a persecution that came from the Jews against Jewish Christians, those Jewish Christians were forced to go out into the world. And we who sit here today, 2,000 years later, are the recipients of that. God works in what? Oh, you know that one! What does Paul say in verse 25 of Romans chapter 11? “I don’t want you to be ignorant of this mystery.” God works in mysterious ways. He does things that sometimes don’t make sense to us.
Well, we see that Israel’s current condition is temporary. Secondly, Israel’s current condition has led to, or resulted in the salvation of non-Jewish Gentiles. Number three: A great gathering of Jews unto salvation in Jesus will come one day. There will come a great gathering of Jewish individuals to faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Israel’s current condition is temporary, as we know from the text, there is coming a day where there will be a mass gathering of Jews unto salvation in Jesus. Let me tell you, we’ve not seen this yet. It hasn’t happened. But there is coming a day. How do we know? Well, Romans chapter 11, verse 12: “Now if there fall is riches to the world, and their failure riches to the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” This word fullness it indicates a numerical gathering of Jewish individuals –descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to faith in Jesus Christ. And as we already considered, Romans 11: 26 – “So all Israel will be saved.” There’s coming a day where a great gathering of descendants from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are going to come to salvation, but salvation is only found in who? Jesus! Not because of their descent from Abraham; not because of their ceremonial keeping of the law. They will be saved through Jesus. Which means that there’s coming a day when Jews are going to believe in Jesus en masse. So their current condition is temporary; their current condition has resulted in salvation going to Gentiles like you and I. This we know, that one day many will come to faith among the Jews.
Number four, if you’re taking notes: Israel’s gathering unto the Messiah will mean even greater blessing for the world. How do we know that? Again, back to Romans 11, verse 12: “Now if their fall,” if their rejection of Jesus has brought about “riches for the world, if their failure has brought about riches to” non-Jews, “the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” When they come to faith, great things are going to happen, is what Paul is saying. Now remember, Paul is speaking prophetically, and we need to recognize, any time we study prophesy in the Bible – and much of the Bible is prophetic, speaking about future events – but any time we study prophesy in the Bible, we need to recognize that much of it is a mystery. God gives us, if you will, like little points on the paper, and we can connect the dots and maybe see a slight outline, a slight trace of what’s going to come to happen, but it’s not perfectly clear. We don’t completely understand it. How do we know that? Well, you may remember in John chapter 2, Jesus said to a group of people in Jerusalem, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
And the people said, “This temple has taken forty-six years to build! How will you build it up in three days?”
And then John gives us commentary, the author of the Gospel says, “But this He spoke of His body, which after He rose from the dead, we understood.”
You see, He speaks this word prophetically, and they go, “What’s He talking about? He’s talking about this building?”
No, that’s not what He’s talking about. After He rose from the dead three days after He was crucified, they said, “Okay, now we understand, He was speaking about the temple of His body.”
You see there is so much prophecy in the Bible, but we don’t have everything clearly put together. So much of it we have to grab from different places in the Scriptures, and come together and say, “This is what we believe the Lord is saying.” And God, through the apostle Paul is saying that one day a great gathering of Jewish individuals are going to come to faith in Jesus, and it’s going to mean super great blessing for the world.
Well the question is: How is that super great blessing going to come? Look at verse 15, Paul continues, Romans 11, verse 15: “For if their being cast away,” the Jewish people, “is the reconciling of the world,” non-Jews, “what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Paul speaks of resurrection. He says their rejection of Jesus has brought about the reconciling of non-Jews that they would come to faith. But when they accept Him, it’s going to bring resurrection. It’s going to bring life from the dead. The acceptance of Jesus as Messiah will come one day when a great multitude of descendants of Israel will come to faith in Jesus and be saved. Paul proclaims that the result of this is going to mean a resurrection experience, a great experience; greater than reconciliation coming to non-Jews like you and I. I suggest to you that what Paul is announcing here has very prophetic implications, that when Israel comes to faith en masse, something great is going to happen. What is it? There is, I believe, a day coming when these Jewish people are going to see something that brings them to faith, and the result of it is going to be resurrection, and the answer, I believe, is found in the book of Zechariah.
Turn in your Bibles to the book of Zechariah. It’s the second to the last book of the Old Testament, right before Malachi – Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew – Zechariah chapter 12. The prophet Zechariah, living about 500 years before Jesus was born; just a little more than 500 years before Paul would write these words that we’re reading in Romans chapter 11; 2,500 years ago from today. The prophet Zechariah, in chapter 12, verse 9 spoke and wrote these words – Zechariah 12, verse 9: “It shall be in that day.” What day is that? Well we’re going to see. “It shall be in that day that I,” God speaking through Zechariah, “will seek to destroy all nations that come against Jerusalem.” So Zechariah tells us there’s coming a day when the nations of the world are going to come against Jerusalem. Now, this did happen in 70 A.D. But in 70 A.D., when the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem, God did not defend the city. But Zechariah, God speaking through him, says, “When the nations of the world gather against Jerusalem, I’m going to destroy all those nations.” Verse 10: “And I will pour out on the house of David.” Who’s the house of David? Israel. “I’m going to pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of” what? God’s going to pour out His grace on Jews? In Jerusalem? When the nations of the world come to destroy the city, God’s going to pour out His grace upon the descendants of Abraham, “and supplication… “…the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they,” the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “they will look on” who? They’re going to look on God. “They’re going to look on Me whom they have pierced.” Whoa, wait, what? God was pierced? Yeah! Who is the pierced Lord? We’re not talking about piercings here church. We’re talking about His hands being nailed to a cross, His feet being nailed to a cross. “They’re going to look on Me whom they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for his firstborn.” Who is the firstborn, the only Son, the One who is pierced? God the Almighty, Jesus!! They are going to look on Jesus. There’s coming a day when the nations of the world are going to gather against Jerusalem, and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that are there among that place in Israel, God’s grace will be poured out upon them, they’re going to see Jesus. And they’re going to mourn for Him.
Zechariah continues, look at chapter 13, verse 6. Zechariah chapter 13, verse 6: “And one will say to him.” There’s Jesus, pierced before the Jews gathered there in Jerusalem, as they’re under the threat of destruction by their enemies around them. “One will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?” or in your hands. “And he,” Jesus will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’” They’re going to look on Him whom they have pierced, they’re going to say, “Where did You get these wounds?”
“In the house of my friends, right here.”
Look at verses 8 and 9; Zechariah 13:8 – “’And it shall come to pass in all the land.’” What land? That land – Israel. “’It shall come to pass in that land,’” says the Lord, ‘ that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it.’” The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob gathered there to the land when this threat and destruction comes against them by the nations, many of them are going to die. Prophetically it’s a very heavy thing that’s being spoken here – two-thirds of them will die, but one-third will remain. “’And I will bring,’” verse 9, “’ the one-third through the fire.’” They’re going to go through this difficult trial, this hard time. “’And I will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. And they will call on My name, and I will answer them. And I will say, “This is My people”; each one of them will say, “The Lord is my God.”’”
What is Zechariah seeing? He is seeing the remaining one-third of the Jewish population that remains in Jerusalem, when they look on Him whom they have pierced, he is seeing them come to faith. They believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead. “Where did You get these wounds in Your hands?”
“Well I received them in the house of My friends.”
They will believe on Him who was raised from the dead, and they will confess with their mouths that He is Lord. Romans chapter 10 – If you believe in your heart that God raised from the dead, and confess with your mouth that He is Lord, you shall be saved. Notice, they’re not saved because they’re descendants of Abraham, church. They are saved the same way that Gentiles are saved – by grace through faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Well the only question that could come is: When will these things take place?! When is it that they, en masse, will see the One whom they have pierced? Well Zechariah chapter 14, you may want to read it later on, we’re not going to get into it in depth right now; it explains that after they believe on Him, after they look on Him whom they have pierced, this One, Jesus, is going to set His feet down on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and His saints are going to be with Him. And He will establish His rule and His reign and His kingdom here upon the earth, and Jesus will bring about a rejuvenation. He will do away with the deadness of the curse of sin that is upon the earth, and we will be with Him here upon a rejuvenated earth. This is why, I believe, in Romans chapter 11, Paul tells us here that their fullness, when they come to faith, when these Jewish individuals come to faith, then there will be a resurrection. It will be life from the dead. Now listen, between now and that time that Jesus comes, the Bible does prophesy that Jesus will come again one day, He Himself said it to His disciples. But between now and when He comes again, there will be Jewish people who come to faith, there will be some here and there, a remnant, that are called, in our day, Messianic Jews. But this large gathering of Jews to salvation in Jesus, it will not happen until Jesus returns at His second coming, and they look on Him whom they have pierced. They see Him and faith will be kindled, and salvation will come.
Well Paul continues, back to Romans chapter 11, let’s try and wrap this up. Verse 16, Romans 11, verse 16: “For if the firstfruit is holy, and the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” What is Paul speaking about here? Well, again, he’s speaking, and remember he’s speaking to the Gentiles now. Even though chapter 9 through about 11, verse 12 is speaking to Jewish individuals, Paul shifted his focus in Romans chapter 11, verse 13 – you can look at it there, if you’d like – Romans 11:13 he says, “For I speak to you Gentiles.” So now he’s speaking to us, and he wants us to make some application from these truths. He says, “If the root is holy, so are the branches.” Who is the root, the origin of the Jewish people? He was called by God, to follow God in Genesis chapter 12; what’s his name? Abraham. So if the root, Abraham, was holy… Now, question: How was Abraham made holy? How did he become righteous? Well, Genesis 15, verse 6 says he believed God, and it was accounted unto him as righteousness. So if the root, Abraham, is holy, then the branches that grow up in this family tree, you might say, “Well they are holy too.”
Verse 17: “And if some of the branches were broken off.” So some of the descendants in the family tree of Abraham, they’re broken off, “and you,” Gentiles, “you, being a wild olive tree.” We weren’t part of this plant. We weren’t part of that root; we were part of a wild olive tree. There’s a few wild olive branches in here. And you were part of a wild olive tree, were grafted in to this family tree of Abraham, the father of the faith, you were grafted in among the natural branches, and “with them [you] became a partaker of the root and the fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” He says listen Gentile Christians who’ve been plugged-in by grace through faith, into this great tree of Abraham’s faith, you’re part of a family of faith today. Don’t boast against the natural branches that have been broken off. Don’t look at the Jewish people and say, “What’s wrong with those people?! They didn’t get it. Those Christ crucifiers.” You know the sad reality is that the church for 2,000 years almost, that’s how they looked upon the Jewish people. It wasn’t until Vatican II, the Second Council of the Vatican, that the Vatican, the Catholic Church, retroactively turned back this whole thing of looking upon the Jewish people with just anger and hate because of their crucifying of Christ. That’s what they said of that. And so Paul says listen church, don’t boast yourself against the Jewish people, even though they’re unbelieving.
Verse 19: “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’” Paul says, “I know what you’re going to say, Gentile. You’re going to say, ‘Those Jews were broken off so that I could be made a part of the branch, a part of the tree. Because of my faith, because of how good I am.’” “Well said,” verse 20. “Because of unbelief they were broken off.” The reason they no longer are receiving the blessing, the reason they are no longer receiving this great fatness of the olive tree is because of their unbelief. “And you,” Christian, Gentile Christian, “you stand by faith. Do not be haughty,” do not be arrogant, but be reverential, be fearful. Why? “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.” Whoa, wait, what?! We don’t like verses like that. We like once saved always saved; we like eternal security. What is this whole thing – You might be broken off?! I don’t know if I like that. You know I do believe the Bible does support the belief that we are eternally secure in Christ, but here he says that there were people who were part of the natural olive tree that were broken off because of their unbelief, and he says, “Don’t become arrogant, don’t become haughty.” That was how the Jewish people became unbelieving. They became arrogant, they became haughty. They looked at the rest of the world and said, “You’re all fuel for the fires of hell. We are God’s people.” So he says, Paul does, “Listen church, don’t become haughty thinking ‘How great we are, all the wonderful things we did.’” No!! You are in the branch, you are in the root because of grace through faith, not of anything you’ve done.
“Therefore,” verse 22, “consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness,” if you continue in His goodness. “Otherwise you also will be cut off.” We don’t often like to look at them, but there are warnings in the Scripture, church; there are warnings against apostasy, there are warnings against turning away from the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And we need to recognize that we are saved and safe only in Jesus, not because of anything we have done, will do, or ever could do. Never fail to see the warnings in the Scripture. Not so that you’ll be afraid that God will cut you off and throw you away, but that you’ll be thankful for the fact that it is of His grace that you are in Christ.
Paul continues, verse 23: “And they also.” Who’s the “they?” The Jewish people. “If they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” They may be unbelieving, the large part of the Jewish people today, but if they reverse their unbelief, if they look on Him whom they have pierced, and they believe in Jesus, Paul says “God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted in contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted in to their own olive tree?” It’s just not a very hard thing for God to take a Jewish individual who now believes in Jesus, they see that He is the fulfillment of all the things they’ve always been taught and heard, it’s not hard for God to plug them back in, to graft them in that they would become fruitful again.
Verse 25: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you would be ignorant of this mystery.” It may be mysterious to us; we may not be able to wrap our brains completely around it, but don’t be ignorant, there is a mystery, “lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles come in.” Prophetically Paul gives us another important little key – the church is finite. There is coming a day when God is going to finish the work that He is doing within the church. He has a day, He has a plan, perhaps He has an individual, that says, “That’s the last one.” I don’t know. But there is a fullness of the Gentiles, and when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, when it is finally fulfilled, the work that God has planned to do among the Gentile peoples, then, we read, “so all Israel will be saved.” Now we need to recognize that it’s all living Israel that is gathered there, as Zechariah spoke, at that point in time. Paul is not saying here that every descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is saved by nature of the fact that they are a descendant. But when they believe, then all of those people will be saved.
“As it is written:
‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’”
You see God has established a covenant with these people, and He will fulfill His word. Why? Well, verse 28: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers,” the ones with whom God made the covenant. “For the gifts and the callings of God are irrevocable.” He’s not just going to cast aside this covenant He made with Abraham, the covenant He made with David.
Verse 30: “For as you were once disobedient,” Gentiles, “as you were once disobedient to God, yet you have obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.” When they look at you and I who have obtained the mercy of God, they are provoked to jealousy and they desire the very thing that we have received, this mercy. “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might be merciful on all.
Oh, the depths of the riches of both the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
You may say, “Gosh, this is far out. I don’t know how to wrap my brain around all this stuff.” But what does it show us – “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” What does it tell us? It tells us He knows what He’s doing. He has a plan. He has deep riches of knowledge and wisdom.
Paul finishes these words with this great doxology: “Oh, the depths of the riches of both the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, His ways past finding out!
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?’”
Although at some point in our lives every single one of us try to be the counselors of God, we try to tell God in our prayers, “God, You’re not doing this right!” Ever been there? “God, don’t You know what’s going on!!” Do you ever ask that of God? Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God. He never goes, “Well, gosh, I didn’t know that.” You point something out in your prayers, and He goes, “Gosh, I’m glad you brought that up. I just hadn’t thought of that.” No!! God knows what He’s doing, church.
“’Who has become His counselor? Or who has given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
What is God doing? He’s aiming to glorify Himself. He desires to use you, to use me, He desires to use the Jew to bring glory to Himself. And one day God will be glorified in their mass acceptance of His grace.
Now I know there are some people who believe this could be right around the corner. It might be. It may be a hundred years or a thousand years from now. We don’t know. But we know this – Jesus has given us a commission to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. We know this – there is a fullness of the Gentiles that God has planned to save. So we know that we need to get to work, because as long as He has not returned, there remains much work to be done. Amen?
Would you stand with me as we close in prayer.
Father, thank You for Your great word. We thank You that You reveal to us what You’re doing before You do it, so that we’re not ignorant of Your working. Help us, Lord, to be a part of the work that You’re doing, not fighting against You, not kicking against the goads. Lord, work in and through us, Your church, to reflect Your glory and Your grace to those that are around us. Help us to never have the thought that we are greater than another group of people. Help us never to think that a person who’s living today is too far from Your grace, but to always be reaching out, that they might know who You are. And help us to display You so that people would look on You, the pierced One, and see salvation in Your crucifixion. We thank You and we praise You for Your grace. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.