Not Total but Partial Part 2 – Romans 11:7-10
Pastor Mark Hardy August 4, 2013
I have always been fascinated by rocks and different types of rock formations. That is why I chose to study geology instead of biology when I went to college. Like many young boy’s, I loved to not only throw rocks but to collect them. I had many different kinds and colors of rocks, some of which included: obsidian, granite, pumas, quartz crystals, agates, thunder eggs, limestone fossils with fish embedded in it, and petrified wood, which was one of my favorites.
Petrified wood is a fossil of the original woody material that often exhibits preserved details of the bark, wood, and cellular structures. It forms when the wood is rapidly buried by sediment that protects it from decay by oxygen and organisms. Then, as groundwater rich in minerals flows through the sediment the wood is gradually replaced with dissolved minerals, literally turning softer wood into hard stone. Whereas that is spectacular, it is sobering when a sinful heart is turned into a hardened heart that becomes like petrified wood. That is one of the things that we will be looking at this morning.
Last time we began our study of Romans 11, the overall theme being that of Israel’s future restoration. We started the first of three major sections: Israel’s rejection of Christ is not total but partial in vv. 1-10. Even though the majority of Israel rejected Christ and His gospel, we saw in vv. 1-6 that God has not rejected His chosen people. Paul proved this by showing that God has sovereignly preserved for Himself a remnant. But now as we come to vv. 7-10 Paul shifts his primary focus onto the Jewish majority who rejected Christ. Turn in your Bible to Romans 11.
In Romans 11:7-10 we see four truths about God’s role concerning the remnant and the rest of Israel.
The first truth is this:
I. Israel Seeks but doesn’t Obtain saving Righteousness
A. Look at v. 7 where Paul says: What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained… (Stop there)
1. Paul now introduces a summarizing conclusion to what he has been saying from 9:1-11:6 when he asks the question “What then?” He then essentially repeats his thought in 9:31-32 and 10:3 when he states, “What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained…”
2. When Paul says “Israel” here he is talking about the nation as a corporate whole. The word “seeking” (epizetie) speaks of earnest and persistent pursuit, and is in the present tense in the Greek, indicating that as a nation Israel was continually doing this.
3. However, “what Israel is seeking, it has not obtained.” The words “not obtained” (ouk epetuchen) mean “to not acquire, to come short, to not hit the mark.”
4. Now what was it that Israel zealously sought after but missed receiving? Look back at 9:31-32 where Paul says, “But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
5. And 10:3 states, “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”
6. There we saw that what Israel was seeking but did not obtain was the saving righteousness of God, His justification or salvation. In other words, the majority of Israel missed God’s moral mark of righteousness by a million miles because they were pursuing it by their own self-righteous works in trying to keep the Law and not by faith in Christ alone.
7. It was their own fault and responsibility that they did not obtain what they were seeking. But some did! And we see how in the second truth about God’s role concerning the remnant and the rest of Israel, which is this:
II. God Chose a Remnant within ethnic Israel
A. In stark contrast to the Jewish majority who did not obtain saving righteousness, Paul says in the second part of v. 7, “…but those who were chosen obtained it.”
1. Some say that “those who were chosen” here refers to both the remnant of Israel and certain Gentiles as we saw back in 9:24-29, but the context here refers only to the Jews. Therefore, out of the corporate nation of Israel only “those who were chosen obtained” God’s saving righteousness.
2. Now the word “chosen” (ekloge) speaks of God’s sovereign election. Concerning this word, Thomas Schreiner states, “Israel did not obtain what it has sought, ‘but election has obtained it.’ Paul could have easily written that ‘the elect have obtained it.’ By using the word ‘election’ (ekloge) [which is the same as “chosen” in NASB] he stresses the work of God that accomplished what the seeking Israel could not.” (pg. 585)
3. This is parallel to what we saw back in v. 4 where God said, “I HAVE KEPT FOR MYSELF SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL,” and in v. 5 about “a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”
4. Again Paul focuses on the sovereignty of God in salvation. It wasn’t anything good in them or that the others were worse, but the basis was solely God’s gracious choice.
5. Once again we see the remnant, God’s elect “from among the Jews” (9:24), the “spiritual” Israel within “ethnic” Israel (9:6b). God’s word has not failed (9:6a) because He never promised salvation to the whole of ethnic Israel. In the selection of the remnant the faithfulness of God is illustrated and defended.
6. Therefore, Israel’s rejection of Christ is not total but partial because of God’s gracious choice of a remnant. But what happened to the Jewish majority?
7. We see this in the third truth about God’s role concerning the remnant and the rest of Israel, which is this:
III. The Rest of the Nation is divinely Hardened
A. Look at the last part of v. 7: and the rest were hardened;
1. Out of the corporate nation of Israel Paul is showing us that there are only two groups of people: The remnant of God’s elect and the remaining majority he calls here “the rest (who) were hardened.”
2. The one Greek word translated “were hardened” (eporothesan) means “to make hard like stone, to petrify, to become insensitive.” This is a medical term that was specifically used for hard kidney stones and the thick boney callous that formed around a broken bone to help mend it together.
3. Although the word “hardened” here is different from the word “hardens” (sklerunei) in 9:18, they both mean essentially the same thing. The point is that a thick hard callous causes one to be insensitive to feeling.
4. Therefore, this came to refer to moral and spiritual insensitivity. Just as a hard callous is insensitive to physical touch, so a hardened heart is insensitive to spiritual things.
5. It is to be spiritually unreceptive to God and the message of the gospel (Mk. 3:5; 6:52; 8:17; Jn. 12:40; Rom. 2:5; 9:22-23; 11:7, 25; 2 Cor. 3:14; 4:3; Eph. 4:18).
B. Now the point of contention is who caused this hardening to take place?
1. Many say that the Jews themselves hardened their own hearts by their unbelief. But here this is not what the word “hardened” itself indicates nor is it what the context says.
2. The passive tense of the word “were hardened” shows that the Jewish majority were hardened not by themselves but by someone else. This can be none other than God Himself, and is thus called a divine passive.
3. Thomas Schreiner accurately states that “…the text does not indicate that they were hardened because of unbelief but instead that the hardening produced unbelief. Nor is there any doubt that the passive of “hardening” is a divine passive, and that God is the agent of the hardening.” (pg. 586-587)
4. Douglas Moo says this, “While God hardens sinners, it is stretching this text, and counter 9:17-23, to argue that human sin is the cause of God’s hardening.” (pg. 680)
5. This is similar to what we saw in 9:17-18 where it was God Himself who hardened Pharaoh’s heart before Pharaoh hardened his own heart. And yet, God also judicially hardened him as a consequence of his sin, which is the same as what we saw in chapter 1 when God “gave them over” (vv. 24, 26, 2) or confirmed them in the sinful things they already chose for themselves.
6. So here in v. 7 we see again the sovereignty of God as “He hardens whom He desires” (9:18). John Murray describes it like this, “It is judicial hardening and finds its judicial ground in the unbelief and disobedience of its objects. This does not, however, interfere with the sovereign will of God as the cause of the differentiation which appears here as at 9:18. The elect have not been the objects of this hardening. But the reason is not that they had made themselves to differ. Election was all of grace and the elect deserved the same hardening. But of mercy (9:18) and of grace (11:5-6) they were not consigned to their ill-desert. Thus grace as the reason for differentiation and unbelief as the ground of the judicial infliction are both accorded their proper place and emphasis.” (pg. 73)
7. Therefore, Israel’s hardening by God as a judgment upon them is ultimately His sovereign will and it is also judicial because they are sinners. But it is not that they deserve it and we don’t.
8. Remember from chapter 9 that God’s hardening is not making an innocent, soft, and sensitive heart to God into a sinful, hard, and stubborn heart. Since no one is spiritually neutral, God’s hardening is simply confirming the hardness that is already there in those who by their own sin deserve condemnation.
9. Everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, is sinful and deserves God’s hardening and condemnation. Whereas the basis of hardening is not that some are worse than others, the basis of salvation is always God’s grace freely given to those who don’t deserve it.
10. This is why no one can blame God for what He freely and sovereignly chooses to do—either in bestowing “mercy on whom He desires or in hardening whom He desires” (9:18). It is true that God’s dealing with sinful mankind is not equal, but it is never unfair or unjust.
11. The fourth truth about God’s role concerning the remnant and the rest of Israel is this:
IV. The Proof that Israel’s Hardening is by God
A. Now knowing that this truth that Israel’s hardening is by God was not going to be received well, Paul then sets out to prove it by quoting Old Testament Scripture. He gives two quotations that appeal to three separate passages, each one representing the three main divisions of the Old Testament: The Law from Moses in Deuteronomy, the Prophets from Isaiah in Isaiah, and the Writings from David in the Psalms. In his first quotation, Paul weaves together excerpts from two passages in v. 8: just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.”
1. Now by declaring “just as it is written” Paul is grounding all that he says on the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, which was not only binding when it was written, but it also continue to be. So in essence he is saying, “If you don’t believe me then believe God’s authoritative Word!”
2. Now the two Old Testament passages that Paul weaves together here in his first quotation are Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4. Listen to what each of these passages says:
• Isaiah proclaimed to the people of Judah in Isaiah 29:10, “For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers.”
• And 700 years earlier, Moses said to Israel shortly before his death in his last exhortation to them before they entered the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 29:4, “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”
3. As we will see, Paul picks out the similarities of these historical situations and he applies them directly to his own day. From these two passages we can see that Paul makes three clear points.
4. Paul’s first point is to emphasize God’s active role in the hardening of the Jewish majority. Notice again that these passages say, positively “the LORD poured over you…,” and negatively “the LORD has not given you…”, therefore Paul says positively, “God gave them…”
5. Although people as sinners’ are responsible for hardening themselves, Paul is showing in this text that the ultimate cause is God Himself. Hardening is both the work of God (divine sovereignty) and the individual (human responsibility), and once again Paul does not try to relieve this tension that is impossible for our finite minds to reconcile.
6. Paul’s second point is to show what God’s hardening of Israel actually means. Notice that “GOD gave them a “spirit (or attitude) of stupor.”
7. The word “stupor” (katanuxeos) is only used here in the New Testament. It means to be so violently pricked, stabbed, or hit that it leaves one dazed, stunned, or unconscious.
8. In other words, this is a spiritual knock-out punch by God. It speaks of such spiritual dullness that there is a complete loss of spiritual sensitivity.
9. In addition to that, God’s hardening also includes having, “EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT.” This speaks of Israel’s absolute spiritual blindness.
10. I think Marvin J. Rosenthal of Friends of Israel said it best, “Israel is not blind because she rejected Christ; she rejected Christ because she was already blind.” (Israel’s Blindness: Mystery or Misunderstood? Friends of Israel)
11. Now this reference to unseeing eyes and unhearing ears is reminiscent of what God told Isaiah in Isaiah 6:9-10, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”
12. This passage was often used of the Jews spiritual blindness to perceive and receive Jesus as the Messiah (Matt. 13:14-15; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; Jn. 12:40; Acts 28:26-27). And remember that this hardening is a form of judgment.
13. Paul’s third point is to reveal that Israel’s God-given hardness is an ever-present reality. Notice that Paul says, “DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.”
14. Israel’s spiritual insensitivity, blindness and deafness that were characteristic in Moses’ and Isaiah’s day, Paul says is persisting right up to his own present day. And yes, it is still going on today.
15. But there is coming a day at the Second Coming of Christ when this will be removed by God Himself who gave it and “all Israel” will be saved, which we will see when we get to vv. 25-26.
B. Paul then gives further proof of God’s active role in hardening Israel in a second quotation. Now he quotes Psalm 69:22-23 in vv. 9-10. Paul first quotes Psalm 69:22 in v. 9: And David says, “LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.”
1. Psalm 69 is one of the most marvelous messianic passages in the Old Testament and one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament. In this psalm David is being persecuted by his own Jewish people and in response to this undeserved oppression, he invokes God’s judgment upon his (and God’s) enemies, which is known as an “imprecatory” prayer.
2. Once again because of the similarities of this David’s situation to Paul’s, Paul applies David’s prayer in general ways. Look again at the judgment that David implores God to take when he prays, “LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK…”
3. A person’s “table” (trapeza) is generally thought of as a place of feasting, fellowship, blessing, and sustenance. It symbolized the place of safety and security.
4. But here David prays that God will turn their security upside down. Instead of it being a place of peaceful enjoyment and comfort, God is invoked to turn it into “a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block.”
5. The one Greek word translated “stumbling block” (skandalon) here refers to the bait stick of a trap, which is the stick that triggers the trapping mechanism when a bird or animal makes contact with it.
6. Therefore, since these three terms—“snare,” “trap,” and “stumbling block” are all closely related terms, they describe the same basic idea of the sudden and unexpected destruction that would come upon them.
7. This judgment is applied to the unbelieving Jewish majority who has rejected Jesus as their Messiah. As they are so secure, so self-satisfied, so at ease and comfortable in their confidence of being God’s chosen people and their self-righteous works of the Law that their security will become the very thing that ruins them.
8. Warren Wiersbe said, “Their spiritual blessings should have led them to Christ, but instead they became a snare that kept them from Christ. Their very religious practices and observances became substitutes for the real experience of salvation.” (pg. 137)
9. And said to say, this same mistake is made today by Jew and Gentile alike when they depend on religious rituals and practices—going to church, helping the poor, giving money, trying to live a moral life, etc., instead of trusting in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. Like a drowning man clinging to an anchor thinking that it is a life-jacket, they are clinging to the very things that will damn their souls to eternal hell.
10. Paul then says “…AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM.” The word “retribution” (antapodoma) means “to repay, to give back in return.” God alone is the One to whom everyone will one day stand and give an account of their lives as to what they did with Jesus Christ and how well they served Him in dependence on the Spirit of God.
11. The evangelist Billy Sunday use to always say, “Payday is Someday!” But here Paul quoting David is saying to God about Israel, “That day has come! It’s payback time!”
C. Paul then quotes Psalm 69:23 in v. 10 where David continues to pray to God: “LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER.”
1. Again we see God’s judgment upon Israel of spiritual blindness but this time in even stronger terms—“LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT.” The spiritual blindness that comes from God, who is light and in whom exists no darkness at all (Jam. 1:17), is the deepest darkness a person can experience.
2. Paul then concludes David’s prayer saying, “AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER.” Normally to “bend their backs” is a picture of someone carrying some kind of heavy load or burden.
3. However, no one knows for sure what Paul meant here, although there is much speculation. I personally agree with those who say that whatever it meant, Paul was saying this in a general way as merely another symbol of God’s judgment.
4. And notice that this judgment is requested to go on “forever.” Although the two Greek words translated “forever” (dia pantos) occasionally mean this, in light of the larger context of Israel’s rejection of Christ not lasting indefinitely it is better to translate this word “continually.”
5. C.E.B. Cranfield accurately states, “The point here is not that the bowing down of the backs is to go on forever, but that, so long as it does go on, it is to be not intermittent but continuous and sustained.” (pg. 552)
6. And we will see later in chapter 11 that there is coming a day when God who hardened their hearts, by blinding their eyes, deafening their ears, and bending their backs in judgment will take away the hardening, restore their spiritual sight and hearing, and spiritually straighten their backs of Jews at the great in-gathering of repentant Israelites.
7. And this too proves that Israel’s hardening is by God.
In closing, it is sobering when God sovereignly and judicially turns a sinful heart into a hardened heart, so that it becomes like petrified wood. But God has made it very clear in His Word that anyone who wants to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord can do so, for Romans 10:13 says, “…WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
However, no one should think that they can go on and on resisting and rejecting Christ and that God’s mercy and grace will have no end. If people continue to refuse to respond to the good news of the gospel, eventually there will come a time when they will be unable to understand it and incapable of responding to it.
This is why we are told in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION.” If you’ve never received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord please do so today!