d) Is Israel Responsible for their Unbelief? (Romans 10:16-21)
16 But they didn’t all listen to the glad news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, didn’t they hear? Yes, most certainly, “Their sound went out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I ask, didn’t Israel know? First Moses says, “I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation, with a nation void of understanding I will make you angry.” 20 Isaiah is very bold, and says, “I was found by those who didn’t seek me. I was revealed to those who didn’t ask for me.” 21 But as to Israel he says, “All day long I stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Paul testified to the church in Rome with his decisive statement that the majority of the Jews who had waited for the Messiah neither recognized him, nor the good news of victory in him, but opposed the word of God at all times. This was apparent at the time of the prophet Isaiah, who was full of sorrow and suffered in his prayers for his people 2700 years ago, saying: “Who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1).
Many of the Jews heard the gospel. But they neither understood it, nor believed it. Some of them felt the grace offered to them, but they were not willing to obey it. They loved their disbelieving environment and their hardened nation better than they loved the saving Lord, and they feared men more than they feared the merciful Creator.
Paul replied to this swaying with the summary of his previous speech; that faith comes from preaching. What is important here is not how the gospel reaches you, whether through a hymn, or a certain Bible verse, but that when God knocks at the door of your heart, that you immediately open it to him, as you are otherwise in danger of his passing over you. All those who bring the gospel to others must not bring it in highly elegant expressions, which are not understandable to common people, but in simple words, which the hearers understand. The speaker must bring the word of God in the language of the hearers. He must bring its content completely and not partially. Everyone who preaches must train himself to give practical examples in his speech, and to speak friendly and in a personal manner. Prayer must accompany the spreading of the word and will of God; and the speaker must believe everything he says, crowning his testimony with praise and thanksgiving to God.
Preaching is not a theoretical teaching, but a calling from the Lord, founded on his order and commission to those empowered by him. Therefore, our faith in the Lord is more important than our belief in the gospel, because the Lord has given us his word to bring to those who will listen; to warn them by it, instruct them, call them, encourage them, and shake them. The speaker must not speak in the place of Christ, but rather be a loyal ambassador of him, as the apostle Paul said: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Paul wonders: Maybe many of the Jews have not heard about the salvation of Christ. Maybe nobody has told them clearly about the only Savior. We find the answer to the apostle’s question in Psalm 19:5; the word of God is like the sun of righteousness. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. Just as the sun lights the world, so the gospel lights the world. At the time of Jesus, multitudes raced to see his miracles and hear his words. Today we say that he who wants to hear can hear; and he who seeks, finds. Radio and television programs help whoever wants to hear the gospel.
Today, man wonders: What should I choose: money, or Spirit? Money, or God? Do I seek prestige, power, sex, and amusement? Or do I want to hear and obey the word of God? People submit to self-satisfaction in all areas of life. Who, then, wants to hear and serve his Creator? Paul goes on wondering: Maybe the children of Jacob did not understand what was said to them! Maybe the gospel was not brought to them completely! But God had already answered this question through Moses when he said: “But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).
In his statement to Moses, the Lord meant to say to the people: “Since you are not prepared to hear my word, I shall reveal myself and give my love to an unchosen and uneducated people. I shall make you envious and furious as you see how an unchosen nation finds favor with me instead of you, who are a conceited and arrogant people. I shall lead them to love me and honor me.”
God had declared to his prophet Isaiah 600 years before Christ: "I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me” (Isaiah 65:1; Romans 9:30).
Nowadays, we see that God opposes the disbelievers in their ways that they may recognize his existence. He speaks to those who do not care for him through dreams, events, and diseases. In the scientific world, we see many scientists who find no reply to the development of the universe except by admitting the existence of the Creator, while at the same time God’s own people neglect their Lord and turn away from him. The Lord has thousands of ways to make other unknown people his own people. This fact was the secret which Paul experienced both sorrowfully and gladly during his missionary journeys (Acts 28:24-31).
God had also declared to Isaiah: “I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts; a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face” (Is 65:2-3). By his declaration, the Lord wants to tell us that he stretched out his hands to his disobedient people, as the mother stretches out her hands to her child that he may not fall down to destruction. As such, the Lord wished to save his people, but he experienced that they were not prepared to hear him. They willfully disobeyed his word, and spitefully rebelled against him.
How great is the love of God who does not forsake those who leave him and live indifferently, persisting in their rebellion. Instead he gives them his love at all times. In the end, however, the Judge will render his judgment against the majority of the chosen people. They willfully disobey him, and do not want him to save them. They are like a blind man who, after being warned of a pit, willfully stumbles and falls down into it. Thus, the Lord declared to Israel that they alone are responsible for their bad state, in spite of his love for them.
PRAYER: O Father of Jesus Christ, you are our Father who stretches out his hands to us, as the mother stretches out her hands to her child that he may not fall down. We worship you for your love, and ask you to open the ears of the children of Jacob that they may hear the word of Jesus, and obey it joyfully and thankfully.
- How can every man today, if he wishes, hear, understand, and accept the gospel?
- Why did God make renewed individuals out of the whole nations his chosen people?