What Israel Missed (Romans 10:18-10:21)

“But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18)

As we saw in Verse 17, Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  But what about those who have not heard the Word of God? How can they find faith? The reference made in this verse is to the 19th Psalm where David wrote,

“Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,” (Psalm 19:4)

Whose line is gone out through all the earth? Verse 1 of the Psalm tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.” The Apostle Paul references this Psalm to once again demonstrate the efficacy of God’s revelation of Himself through His Creation (see also Rom. 1:18-20). He poses the question, “Have they not heard?”, and answers it with the resounding declaration of David that the heavens themselves testify to the glory of God. There is no speech nor language where the voice and witness of God’s Creation is not understood (Ps. 19:3).

We are not being told here that Paul believed that the Gospel itself had already been preached to the uttermost parts of the earth, but rather that the testimony of God’s Creation had been heard by every living person. God’s Special Revelation through His Holy Word and through the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ was, of course, not universally known; but His General Revelation through the world and Universe around us is universally known. The heavens reveal a Divine Intelligence behind their existence and the Creation reveals the reality of a Creator. It is a hard and stubborn heart which refuses to acknowledge that the hand of God has both formed the Universe and continues to sustain it. (For more on this topic, please see my article: What Will Happen To Those Who Have Never Heard The Gospel?)

Back To Israel

“But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.” (Romans 10:19)

Though portions refer to both Jews and Gentiles alike, the focus of Chapters 9-11 of Romans is on Israel and Verse 19 brings us right back to them. Did not Israel know? Know what? That Salvation would be made available to the Gentiles and Jews alike and would be obtained on the basis of faith, not on the basis of national identity. Referring first to the writings of Moses and then Isaiah, Paul moves beyond the silent testimony of Nature to the revealed Word of God itself. If Israel was ignorant of what God was doing, it was not because God had not told them. They possessed the written Scriptures which spoke of Christ and the Gospel of Salvation. Moses warned the nation that God would choose unto Himself a people from among the Gentile nations, the foolish nations, which had never received the privileges of God’s revelation as Israel had (Deuteronomy 32:21).

God would turn away from Israel as a whole just as Israel had turned away from Him. He would turn to the Gentiles and call people from among them, people who knew nothing of God personally nor had even been seeking Him. I was found of them that sought me not, the Lord declared to Isaiah (Isaiah 65:1). And God’s reasons for rejecting the nation of Israel were that they had first rejected Him:

But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. (Romans 10:21, cp. Isaiah 65:2)

What Israel Missed

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)

The problem that Israel had was not that they were ignorant of the Word of God, unaware of what the Lord had spoken. The problem was that their hearts were far from Him and they were blinded, unable to see what God would do through Christ. The clues were all there in their Scriptures, but they could not see the signs which the Lord had provided. Consequently, they rejected the very One Who came to save them and missed the time of their visitation (Luke 19:44). They had the Word of God, the Old Testament, and many of them knew it practically by heart. Yet they failed to see the Lord Jesus for Who He was; the One to Whom all the Scriptures pointed.

Israel’s error was not that they were not reading their Bibles (which is undoubtedly one of the bigest errors within the Body of Christ today!), but that they did not understand what the Word of God meant. Their mistake was in the interpretation and application of the Word, not in the reading of it. Theirs was a heart problem, not a head problem.

There are a multitude of lessons that we as Christians can learn from Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ. Not the least of which is the question of what exactly we are missing in God’s Word because of the hardness of our own hearts. We know that it is the Spirit of God Who gives understanding of His Word (1 Cor. 2:14), so how accurate can our own understanding be if we are not walking closely with the Holy Spirit? What great truths of Scripture are we blind to because of our own sin and hard-heartedness? What veil is cast over our own eyes because of pride and rejection of the Spirit’s leading?

Man cannot discern the things of God through his own abilities. The Word of God is only properly interpreted by the One Who wrote it. If we are not walking closely with the Lord, then our spiritual understanding will be severely limited. Nothing in the Church today is more needed than the fervent study of God’s Word, but let us not think that we can successfully understand His Word if we are walking in rebellion against Him. Let us draw near to the Lord, obey what He is commanding us, and let His Spirit open our eyes to the wondrous things in His Word (Psalm 119:18)!

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,