I have blogged about this before. But the subject came up from a different angle. Here are my thoughts on our role in provoking the nation of Israel to jealousy.
Throughout the rest of the song we can expect that God is using some other people that isn’t really a nation to bring them to that place of wanting the God of Israel as their particular God. God has stated that He wants them for His own. He will bring Israel to the place where they say that they want God for their own.
Amidst the disciplinary actions of God against Israel, there are threads woven in this tapestry. For instance, in verses 34-36 we have the phrase that vengeance belongs to the LORD as one of His peculiar treasures, therefore when He sees that His people have no strength left, that is the point when He brings in vengeance on behalf of His people. In verses 39-40, a Messianic figure lifts up His hand to heaven to take an oath (see Revelation 10) proclaiming that He alone has the power to kill (enact vengeance) and bring to life (resurrect).
The denouement comes in verse 43 where the nations (plural) are called to rejoice with His people, Israel. God has enacted vengeance as they were brought to that place of weakness and jealousy for the God of Israel. Somewhere in there the nation that isn’t really a nation provoked Israel to jealousy, and now the arrangement has progressed to the place where Israel is God’s special people; and instead of other nations being cast away, they are rejoicing alongside the nation of Israel.
Leaving Deuteronomy with this foundation, let’s go to Romans. The subject of Romans 9-11 indisputably includes the salvation of the nation of Israel. Paul is pointing out that Gentiles were preordained to be a part of this plan of salvation, first pointing out Hosea 1-2 in Romans 9:24-26. After describing how the plan of salvation was currently being preached among the Gentiles in 10:16-18, Paul asks the question, “Did not Israel know?” The idea here is, was this an unknown idea that Gentiles would be included in the plan of salvation? The answer is found in two quotes that Paul pulls from first the law then the prophet Isaiah.
Let’s look at Isaiah 65:1-2 first. The imagery there is one of God standing with outstretched arms toward His chosen people. They thought they were “holier than thou”, better than others, but their iniquities had separated them from God. While God was pleading with them to turn toward Him in repentance, they continued to show Him only their backs. Meanwhile, another people are ready to find this same God of Israel who didn’t even seek after Him. A nation that is not called by the name of the LORD is finding the God of Israel. Here’s Israel with their back to God, yet others are finding God during this time of Israel’s unrepentance. While God is stretching out His arms toward Israel, Israel doesn’t respond but others run into those open arms. Paul states that this was being fulfilled in His day.
Now it isn’t difficult at all to see how Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:21. This is in answer to the question “didn’t Israel know that this current Gentile salvation would occur”? Yes, the answer was there in the law – specifically in the Song of Moses. God would provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy by that which isn’t really a nation. The church, the nation of God which isn’t really a nation is what will provoke the physical nation of Israel to jealousy. This isn’t the last citation of this verse, though.
Further, when describing the temporary nature of Israel’s unrepentance [which is described in several different terms] Paul utilizes the quotation from Deuteronomy 32:21 to point to the national salvation of Israel, Romans 11:11. The current state of Israel is described as
being blind ~ Romans 11:7, 8, 10, 25
being deaf ~ Romans 11:8
being asleep ~ Romans 11:8
having stumbled ~ Romans 11:9, 11
cast away ~ Romans 11:15
This temporary arrangement (dispensation) is progressive in order to accomplish two things. #1- Salvation is brought to the Gentiles, Romans 11:11, 25. #2- This (Gentile salvation) provokes the nation of Israel to jealousy, Romans 11:11, 25. This is why the term “fullness of the Gentiles” concludes with “all Israel shall be saved”. The relationship here is one built upon the foundation of Deuteronomy 32 and should not be overlooked in Romans 11:11. Salvation has come to the Gentiles in order to provoke Israel to a state of jealousy, which will culminate in the fulfillment of all the metaphors used in Romans 11.
Israel’s blindness will be lifted.
Israel will no longer stumble.
Israel will wake up.
Israel will be reconciled.
Israel’s branches will be grafted back in.
This in no way means that God will be done with the Gentiles. Instead, since the casting away of Israel meant salvation for the Gentiles, much more will Gentiles be included once Israel is fully reconciled with God (and not just a believing remnant of Israelites). This is further supported by a later presentation of the arrangement between the nation of Israel and Gentiles in Romans 15:8-12. Quotes from the psalms, prophets, and even the law are given to show the universal inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s progressive covenant plan. The verse from the law used to support this? Deuteronomy 32:43! The entire thesis that I am setting forth here is justified by this inclusion of the apostle Paul in Romans 15:10. Deuteronomy 32:43 looks past the time of this current arrangement to a time when reconciled Israel is surrounded by Gentile nations who all rejoice alongside the nation of Israel for God’s covenant faithfulness to them. Israel will have been provoked to jealousy by that which isn’t really a nation.
I believe during the great tribulation is when this will ultimately be fulfilled. Israelites will see Gentiles willing to die for the God of Israel. As God uses Gentiles who lay down their lives in a public way, the nation of Israel will be provoked, and God will also use the other disciplinary measures as outlined in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-32. Church, we are the nation that isn’t really a nation. We have no earthly capital. We have no governmental structure. We have no physical boundaries. We exist throughout all nations with a heavenly city as our capital and Jesus Christ as our King. Our duty during the coming great tribulation will be to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy. Once Israel repents, then God will send Jesus Christ which will bring in the times of refreshing and the restitution of all things, Acts 3:19-21. It is in the seed of Israel that all the nations of the earth will be blessed, Acts 3:25. This repentance will result in the sealing of the 144,000, the rapture of the church, and the beginning of the Day of the LORD.Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13