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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Ninetieth (Romans Part 19)

How have your studies of scripture been going?  Well, I hope!  This week we’re continuing in Romans 11 after seeing last week that without confessing Yeshua as your Lord and believing in His resurrection in your heart you end up receiving the same blindness the Jews as a whole have today.  We’re getting into the very important, and often misunderstood, topic of ingrafting of the Gentiles as well as some other interesting things, so let’s dig in!


Starting in verse 11, Paul continues the discussion about the blindness of Israel, in this case specifically the Jews, by what looks like an attempt to allay the fears of any of the believing Jews he was writing to.  He wants to make sure they understand, again, that hope is not lost for the salvation of their Jewish brethren that don’t believe.  They have an opportunity to still be saved, they’re just being made jealous for a time by the Gentiles being chosen and through this, the hope is that eventually the rewards for Israel will be even greater (Romans 11:11-12).  I will tell you though, that while I haven't figured out what it is, there has to be something more to this jealousy thing, because if you talk to any non-believing Jews today, you'll be hard pressed to find one that thinks non-Jews are more favored by YHWH than they are.  The same would have been true, maybe even more so, in the time of Paul's writing since believers were being persecuted far more than the Jews, who at least had a sort of "understanding" with the Roman Empire.


Paul then focuses his attention on the non-Jewish believers he is writing to, really emphasizing his role as their apostle, which was ordained by Yeshua Himself (Acts 22:17-21).  His goal is to assist YHWH in making Israel jealous by essentially going “all in” in his ministry to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13-14).  The word he uses for “magnify,” or in some translations “take pride,” is doxazo, and what it really means in today’s terms is giving weight to something.  He wanted to give his Gentile ministry substance, and I think that is evident in all of the letters he wrote, as you can see he included a lot of deep spiritual topics that even today some struggle to understand.

 

At this point, Paul goes into a metaphor in an attempt to provide some clarity about the Gentile’s inclusion into YHWH’s chosen people.  He points out that their rejection provided an opportunity for the rest of the world to be a part of YHWH’s chosen people, for them to be reconciled with YHWH despite being sinful (Romans 11:15).  However, this may be a bit confusing when you look at last week’s text and this verse.


This verse seems to contradict Paul’s statement earlier in this same chapter when he said that YHWH did not reject His people (Romans 11:1).  This is another prime example of when you have to dig into the original Greek text to see that these are actually two different Greek words that are translated to the same word or phrase in English.  In verse 1, Paul uses the word apotheo, which means to repulse, reject, or refuse.  In context of that statement, Paul is pointing out that YHWH absolutely did not refuse the Jews because he is one and he has received salvation just like the Gentiles.  In verse 15, he uses the word apobole, which means a throwing away or a loss.  This word occurs one other time and is translated to loss (Acts 27:22), so what Paul is actually saying is something akin to Israel’s loss is the world’s gain.  


This may seem a bit flippant, but you have to keep in mind that it all really comes down to choice.  At no point does YHWH force His people to follow and obey Him, and if you haven’t noticed yet that’s certainly evident in scripture.  There is a common theme throughout history, from the beginning of man to even after Yeshua was crucified and resurrected, of a first person or people group turning away from YHWH and a second person or people group being redeemed or turning towards Him.  Adam was the first sinless man to be born and he sinned, and the second sinless man, Yeshua, was the One who maintained sinlessness and redeemed all of mankind.  Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, who was born to a slave, was not chosen to be in Yeshua’s lineage, but his second son, Isaac, was.  Esau was the first of Isaac’s sons to be born and he rejected his birthright, while Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, took that birthright and became the father of YHWH’s chosen nation.  The people of Israel rejected YHWH multiple times, turning to the worship of other gods, culminating in the rejection of Yeshua, and the rest of the nations are given the opportunity for salvation.  


In other words, it’s not like YHWH is actively choosing the second person or people group in all these situations, it’s their choices that result in either their rejection or selection.  Adam chose to disobey YHWH’s commandment, Abraham chose to have a child with Sara’s handmaiden, Esau chose a bowl of soup over his birthright, and the Israelites chose to worship other gods and, ultimately, reject YHWH’s Son.  The same goes today with anyone.  He or she can choose to accept Yeshua as their Lord and believe in His resurrection, or they can reject Him and face eternal death despite all the evidence of not only His existence but also of His deity.  


And then comes Paul’s metaphor (Romans 11:16-24).  Again, he’s speaking to the non-Jewish believers here, and there are some things to understand about what his imagery represents.  He talks about a holy lump of dough and a holy root, and he’s referring to the lineage that led to Yeshua, but more importantly what he’s hinting at is that the spiritual aspect of this root or lump of dough is founded in a love and obedience to YHWH.  This would be more evident to the Jewish believers reading this, but there are actually Gentiles in the lineage of Yeshua, so it’s not intended to be based solely on how "Israel-pure" His bloodline is all the way back to Abraham.  Tamar (Matthew 1:3) was a Canaanite (Genesis 38), Rahab (Matthew 1:5) was a prostitute in Jericho (Joshua 2), and Solomon (Matthew 1:6) was the son of David and Uriah’s wife, a Hittite (2 Samuel 11).


What Yeshua did was essentially reset man's spiritual foundation to what YHWH originally intended: a love and obedience to Him.  Yeshua loved YHWH, His Father, and obeyed Him, and all His commandments, all the way through death.  He was a person, just like us, that maintained His lack of sin, knowing what He was intended to be to all of mankind, but still having to trust that YHWH would raise Him up after He died.  And that’s what Paul is referring to as a holy lump, or a holy root.


Paul doesn’t want the non-Jewish believers to get the wrong idea, though.  Seeing that some of Israel, and more to the point, some of the Jews they interact with daily that look down their nose at them, were removed from their chosen status so the non-Jewish can be grafted in, may lead them to feeling and acting like they have a sort of “untouchable” status.  However, Paul points out that in the same way the non-believing Jews were broken off of Yeshua’s holy olive shoot, the non-Jewish believers have the ability to suffer the same fate.  The way for them to avoid this, Paul says, is to be kind, just as YHWH was kind in allowing them to be grafted in.


In the rest of this chapter, Paul reinforces the fact that in the end the plan has always included Israel’s salvation, and he then writes a song of praise to YHWH for this.  He quotes two chapters in Isaiah to point out that this plan was laid out from the beginning (Romans 11:26-27, Isaiah 27:9, Isaiah 59:20-21), in order to warn the non-Jewish believers against being full of themselves because of their being chosen by YHWH (Romans 11:25).  He says they may be loved an accepted by YHWH based on the gospel of Yeshua, but based on their lineage, the Jews are also loved and accepted (Romans 11:28).  The reason being when YHWH calls people, and gives them the gifts necessary to carry out that calling, He does not take that away from them (Romans 11:29).


You see, we all have been, or will be, disobedient in our lives.  Some more than others.  That’s the nature we get from Adam and Eve.  But even in that, YHWH uses it for good by showing us mercy through it, and Paul explains that to the non-Jewish believers (Romans 11:30-32).  He was saying that there was no reason to think of themselves as better because just like the Jews were being disobedient, the non-Jewish believers were disobedient before they received YHWH’s mercy through His Son, Yeshua.  Essentially, the “playing field” is level.


Paul writes a song of praise to YHWH based on this fact, because no man could have ever devised such a plan (Romans 11:33-36).  You can really tell that Paul is writing from the heart throughout this letter, because he takes the time to write things like this.  This isn’t just a letter he sends to talk about the “ins and outs” of sin, salvation and the Law, he also wants the reader to see how he or she should be viewing their relationship to YHWH and how they should be worshipping Him.  There’s no reason to go through the trouble of using ink, extra paper, time and effort to write this down, other than to provide an example to the believers of not only the kinds of things they should praise YHWH for, but how to praise Him for them.  He quotes scripture in this song of praise, but also has his own wording that he includes (Isaiah 40:13, Job 41:11), which is a good template for us to use when we do our own worship and praise of YHWH.  


As you go through this week, think about your grafting in to Yeshua’s holy root.  Using Paul’s template, think about how you can praise YHWH for that blessing.  Then, look at how you can praise Him for other things He blesses you with in life.  And of course, as always, have a wonderful week!


Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!


-Rob and Sara Gene

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