by Thomas Bass | Les Feldick
In our last lesson we talked about how God has not cast aside his people Israel. They are still in God’s program. They have been set aside for the past 1900 + years, and in the meantime God has turned to the Gentiles. A few Jews can be saved, and they are being saved, but as we’ll see in the coming verses it’s just a remnant, and God has always kept His remnant. But the day is coming, as we’ll see when we get to the end of the Chapter 11, that God is yet going to come back and finish His dealings with the Nation of Israel. They are still going to enjoy all those Covenant promises. They’re still going to enjoy a glorious earthly kingdom. And all the earthly promises that God has given the nation are yet going to come to fruition. So don’t subscribe to the idea that God is through with the Jew. They are out there in unbelief, and as I have told my classes here in Oklahoma for years and years, don’t expect that Israeli government in Jerusalem to be any more spiritual than our government in Washington or the government anywhere else. They are all secular, they are all under the god of this world, Satan, and Israel is no different, but God still has His eye on them as His Covenant people.
Now then in Chapter 11 we just about finished verse 2 in the last lesson, and the last part of that verse says:
“…Wot (know) ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, `Lord they have killed thy prophets, and digged down (or destroyed)thine altars: and I am left alone, and they seek my life.’”
You remember old Elijah’s setting don’t you? That was during the reign of King Ahab, and his wife Jezebel. She was probably the worst of the worst. In fact I always ask people, “Have you ever seen anyone name their little girl Jezebel?” I don’t know of one, and I don’t think any mother in her right mind would. But old Ahab and Jezebel had been ruling up there in the northern kingdom. They were an ungodly, wicked king and queen. And they had been promoting the worship of Baal, and idol worship, and the Israelites had been falling for it. Elijah had even gone so far as to cause it not to rain for three years, and still Ahab and Jezebel would not change their ways. It finally got to the place by the end of that three years of draught that northern Israel was burned up for lack of water, and Elijah got all the Israelites and the prophets of Baal together up there on Mount Carmel.
Mount Carmel juts in from the Mediterranean Sea, and just south of the present day city of Haifa. When you come off Mount Carmel you go down to the valley of Jezreel (or the valley of Armageddon) where the final great battle will be fought some day. And then it’s just a flat plain almost to the sea of Galilee. Well here they are gathered on Mount Carmel, and Elijah is getting ready to test these gods of Baal.
I Kings 18:26-29
“And they (the Baal prophets) took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, `O Baal, hear us,’ But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. (After this Elijah began to taunt the prophets of Baal)And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, `Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.’ (So Elijah torments them even more.)And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded..”
So the prophets of Baal got no answer from their god and now it was Elijah’s turn and you know the story of how alters were built with a ditch dug around them, and filled with water. And how the sacrifices were soaked with water probably from the Mediterranean Sea. So Elijah approaches God:
I Kings 18:36b-39
“LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, `The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.’”
So Elijah proved to Israel that Jehovah was still the God of Israel. Well you know what happened then. Elijah demanded that they kill the 450 prophets of Baal, and they did.
I Kings 19:1,2
“And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, `So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.’”
Now this is what’s so hard to understand in all of Israel’s history. In spite of all the manifestations of the power of their Jehovah God, yet at the drop of a hat they could sink into unbelief. Even this great man Elijah did. Here he had just performed this tremendous miracle, calling down the power of God, had the prophets of Baal put to death, and with one threat from one little woman over there at Jezreel, he runs scared. Now the old boy must have been in awfully good physical shape, because you know how far Elijah ran? All the way down to Mount Sinai, and in my reckoning that’s something like 150 miles. Now he probably didn’t do it in an hour or two, but nevertheless he ran until he finally sit down under a juniper tree, and we know from the rest of the account that it was down at Mount Sinai.
I Kings 19:4a
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die;…” Elijah tells God that he’s the only one left.
I Kings 19:14b
“… and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
That’s the way lots of Christians are today We think sometimes that we’re the only one left. No we’re not. Everywhere you go you can find believers. Oh, they’re getting fewer and fewer, but nevertheless they’re there. Why? Because God has always kept His remnant. Paul rehearses what took place back there in I Kings, Chapter 19, and he says in verse 4 of Romans 11.
“But what saith the answer of God unto him? (Elijah)I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.”
Now we like to think that those seven thousand men had believing wives, and children so maybe there was fourteen to twenty thousand Jews that were still believers in Jehovah. I’ve always taught my classes over the years that beginning in Genesis to the end of Revelation you have a doctrine of the remnant. You can always pick them out because God has always kept a remnant. Now when you get into Christ’s earthly ministry He promotes that so beautifully with the analogy, “Of the wide way, and the narrow way.” The mass of humanity go down the wide or broad way, but the remnant takes the narrow way, and we find that all the way through Scripture. Now Paul goes on to say with regard to the Jew in this Age of Grace which is predominately Gentile.
“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant (a small percentage of Jews that had become believers) according to the election of grace.”
I just finished reading a book this past week about the testimonies of Jews who have become believers of this Grace Gospel. They were from all different kinds of backgrounds, and it was just amazing how God manipulated the lives of these Jewish people until they came to the place that suddenly they could believe Jesus of Nazareth was indeed The Messiah Who had died for their sins, and it was thrilling reading. But they are remnants, very, very few can believe it, but they’re there, and their testimonies of this very thing that Paul is saying here in verses 4 and 5. That even as Elijah was shown that there were seven thousand that hadn’t fallen to idolatry, so today there is that remnant of Jews who also can recognize the very Gospel of Grace and the election of grace. Now verse 6, and for these Jews it is no different than for us Gentiles, and you remember I emphasized that especially back in Romans Chapter 3, and Chapter 6 where Paul tells us there is no difference.
“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
A Jew doesn’t come in on a different level from a Gentile, he doesn’t come in on a lower level, but Paul tells us they are all unworthy and without hope: Jew and Gentile. So a Jew has to be saved the same way we are today, and Paul explains that.
“And if by grace, (that Gospel by which we are saved according to I Corinthians 15:1-4) then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.”
And even our Jewish people have to understand that. If they’re going to be saved by this Gospel of Grace they have to drop all their works religion of Judaism. As beautifully as their ceremonies may be, and I will be the first to admit that, for example, their Passover service is a beautiful picture of the whole program of Grace. So many of their feast days are beautiful pictures of our doctrine of Grace, but they won’t be saved by keeping those Jewish feast celebrations. They have to come away from that and suddenly realize that it’s not by works, not by keeping feast days, but it’s all of Grace. There can be no works for a Jew anymore than there is for a Gentile. He says in verse 6:
“…But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
Does it sound like double talk? Well it isn’t. Again Paul is emphasizing what he has been almost screaming since we started Romans. “Our Salvation Is Faith + Nothing!” Or it’s no Salvation at all. Just as soon as we attach something to The Gospel of Grace, be it ever so small, then it becomes a works religion. Christianity today is just inundated with works religion, and it can come in various forms, it’s so subtle. I was talking to a lady in one of my classes the other night who, when she was living out in California and her husband was serving in Vietnam, was under a lot of stress raising her kids. And the New Age people took her under their wings, and so subtly just drew her into all this New Age phenomena, but fortunately The Lord opened her eyes, and she was able to turn around and come out of it. But you see all of this “stuff” and that’s what I call it, is based on works, and when it’s works it cannot be Grace. And so whether it’s Jew or Gentile, if is works, it’s not Grace, and so we have to come God’s way, and that is by faith, and faith alone.
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded.”
Now how can God do this? Because He’s Sovereign, and can do anything that He wants to do. Let’s go back to Romans Chapter 1, and let’s review for a moment beginning with verse 23. This takes us all the way back to the Tower of Babel when all of this “junk” really began. All of the roots of the oriental religions, and idolatry, and paganism all started back there at the Tower of Babel, and what happened?
“And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”
In other words, they dreamed up every kind of a god you could think of. And isn’t that exactly what Egypt was doing when Israel came out of bondage under Moses? Every one of the plagues was directed at one of the gods of Egypt. Now since mankind had become so saturated with the the worship of these man-made idols look what happens in verse 24.
“Wherefore (because they fell into idolatry) God also gave them up to uncleanness…”
What’s God doing to them? God is judiciously causing mankind to even go deeper into his sins. Now we can’t comprehend that, but that’s what the Scriptures teaches, and when they went into a lower level of sin, you find in verse 26 God put them even lower. Why? Because their unbelief, their rebellion, their behavior)…through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:”
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:”
Now that’s not loose language. That says that a Sovereign God judiciously said, “All right, if you want to live at that level, then go down one level lower.” Now coming back to Romans 11 we have the same dealing with the Nation of Israel. Oh, they had every opportunity to know the will of God. They had everything going for them. In fact, for a moment let’s look at Romans Chapter 3, and this says it better than I ever could.
“What advantage then hath the Jew? (remember by the time Paul is writing this Israel has already been blinded)or what profit is there of circumcision? (or being a practicing Jew? And here’s the answer in the next verse)Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles (or The Word) of God.”
In other words, why did God come down so hard on the Nation of Israel in their unbelief? Because they had The Word of God. They had had it for centuries, and what did they do with it? They ignored it, they refused to believe it. I’ve said it over and over in the years that I’ve been teaching that when Jesus came on the scene and presented Himself as the King of Israel, Israel should have known, because it was in the Old Testament plain as day. But Israel didn’t know. Why? Because of their unbelief, they refused to search the Scriptures. We have the same thing here in Romans Chapter 11. Israel wanted all those things promised from the Old Testament. They didn’t want the suffering Saviour that was foretold in the Old Testament Who would suffer and die for the sins of Israel. But they were looking for that King and Kingdom. A glorious earthly Kingdom over which the Son of God Himself would rule and reign, and Israel would be the top dog of all nations. They didn’t want anything to do with a suffering Saviour. Why? Because they would have to deal with their sins.
And it’s the same way today. You offer America a utopian kingdom with a benevolent dictator or king, would they buy it? Oh, you bet they would. There’s nothing that the world wants more than peace and prosperity, and everything going hunky-dory, but you tell America to deal with their sin problem, what are they going to do? They don’t want any part of having to deal with that. People need to realize that sin is sin and you can’t gloss it over, but that’s the world we’re living in, and the Jews of Christ’s day were the same way, they did not want to deal with their sins, but they wanted those Romans out of Jerusalem, they wanted the peace and prosperity that a Messiah would bring.
Back to verse 7; we see that Israel wanted all that, but they didn’t get what they were seeking. Oh, they wanted the King and the Kingdom, but they didn’t get it, because in unbelief they wouldn’t reckon the fact that they had to deal first with the sin problem; they had to have a Redeeming Saviour, not just a ruling King. How many times have I given the illustration that back in the ancient days, the perfect illustration of a conquering hero was to come riding in on a big white steed, prancing like a show horse. That was what Israel was looking for, but instead of riding in on a beautiful Arabian steed, He came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and not even a grown one at that. And that just blew their minds. No king comes in on a donkey, He should be coming in on a great white stallion, and so they rejected Him; they crucified Him; but not all. Verse 7 again.
“What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”
Now remember that all through Scripture, from Adam all the way to the end of the human experience, who are the Elect? The believer. And so some of these Jews have been elected, yes, they have come to the place of Salvation, they’re the chosen, they’re in the Body of Christ with the rest of us. But the rest of them have been blinded, and so tonight the Nation of Israel is out there, some of them practicing their religion, some orthodox, some secular, but for the most part they are spiritually blind. Now verse 8.
“(According as it is written, (Old Testament. Probably going back to the Book of Isaiah) God hath given them the spirit of slumber, (sleeping spiritually)eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day,”
And you know Paul could write this today, because it hasn’t changed a bit. It’s just as applicable today as it was when he wrote the Book of Romans. Now verse 9, and again he’s going back to the Psalms and quoting King David.
“And David saith, `Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them.’”
What table do you think that the Psalmist was referring to when he said, “Let their table be made a snare?” The 23d Psalm.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
What table was he referring to? God’s table. Israel was literally feasting at God’s table, and they were getting all the blessings and ramifications of it, but that exalted position of literally sitting at God’s table became a snare and a recompense, and it caused them to fall. Horror of horrors, but you know what? He’s going to warn us Gentiles that much the same thing can happen to us. That we had better not take all these blessing and this Grace for granted.