God’s Mercy on Israel
I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant
of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. Do you realize what the Scriptures say
about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, “Lord, they have killed your prophets
and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!”
It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved
kindness in choosing them. And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case,
God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.
So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favor of God they are looking for so earnestly.
A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Scriptures say,
“God has put them into a deep sleep.
To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see,
and closed their ears so they do not hear.”
Likewise, David said,
“Let their bountiful table become a snare,
a trap that makes them think all is well.
Let their blessings cause them to stumble,
and let them get what they deserve.
Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see,
and let their backs be bent forever.”
Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to
the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched
because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share
when they finally accept it.
I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I
want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their
rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will
be life for those who were dead! And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be
holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the
tree are holy, the branches will be, too.
But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who
were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham
and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about
being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.
“Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off
because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but
fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either.
Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust
in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief,
they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. You, by nature, were a branch cut
from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree,
he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.