The People of Israel
25My friends, I don't want you Gentiles to be too proud of yourselves. So I will explain the mystery of what has happened to the people of Israel. Some of them have become stubborn, and they will stay like that until the complete number of you Gentiles has come in. 26 In this way all of Israel will be saved, as the Scriptures say,
“From Zion someone will come
to rescue us.
Then Jacob's descendants
will stop being evil.
27 This is what the Lord
has promised to do
when he forgives their sins.”
28The people of Israel are treated as God's enemies, so the good news can come to you Gentiles. But they are still the chosen ones, and God loves them because of their famous ancestors. 29God doesn't take back the gifts he has given or disown the people he has chosen.
30At one time you Gentiles rejected God. But now Israel has rejected God, and you have been shown mercy. 31And because of the mercy shown to you, they will also be shown mercy. 32All people have disobeyed God, and that's why he treats them as prisoners. But he does this, so that he can have mercy on all of them.
33 Who can measure the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God? Who can understand his decisions or explain what he does?
34 “Has anyone known
the thoughts of the Lord
or given him advice?
35 Has anyone loaned
something to the Lord
that must be repaid?”
36 Everything comes from the Lord. All things were made because of him and will return to him. Praise the Lord forever! Amen.
Verse 25 is very interesting, “Some of them have become stubborn, and they will stay like that until the complete number of you Gentiles has come in.” There is a dance being described here between our free-will and God’s sovereignty – a dance God leads. Somehow the people of God can become stubborn AND God knows how long the stubbornness will be (until the complete number come in).
Remember the Exodus story? In Exodus 7:3 God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, but then in 8:15 Pharaoh hardens his own heart. The history teller of the Exodus is not at all concerned that these lines seem to be in conflict! Or David the writer of Psalm 81:12 writes, “So I [God] let you [his people] be stubborn and keep on following your own advice.” God lets us do our own thing.
Does Moses, David or Paul (the writer of Romans) not see the apparent theological issue: free will versus sovereignty? Clearly to these Bible writers there is no issue! Both are true: we choose AND God’s will will always be done. Furthermore, God makes no effort in Scripture to reconcile these.
Why not? Because when we read “mystery” in Scripture (which to Paul “mystery” is actually the ongoing revelation of God) we step into the realm of God. The Trinity is mystery (God does not say much about how the Three interact, and what They look like). Prayer, how it works, what my words accomplish in the heavenlies, is mystery. Eternity is mystery. These Bible truths point to the bigness of God. These realities point to the fact that on this side of heaven “all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face. We don’t know everything, but then we will…” (1Cor.12:12).
Father, Son and Holy Spirit I am so thankful for you. You are always attentive to me, always loving me, yet you are so much bigger than my thoughts. There is so much more of you to know and discover AND to look forward to. Today I am grateful that you value me in such a way as to allow me to think and choose. And today I am grateful for your grace that will always have its way!