I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles…
The Jew is the greatest modern miracle. He is an absolutely unique figure in the history of the world. In every nation you find him, an exile and a fugitive, a stranger and a foreigner. Whence came he? how came he hither? He claims our respect, our attention, our pity, our Christian sympathy. These verses are a strong enforcement of the lessons of Israel's history and a stirring appeal on Israel's behalf.
I. THEIR PAST HISTORY.
1. They were the chosen people of God. This is an absolutely unique distinction so far as races of men are concerned. All who are believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, of whatever nation they may be, are in that sense the chosen people of God. But no single nation can ever claim to be the chosen people of God, except the Jews.
2. They were chosen to be a blessing to the world. The promise to Abraham was, "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Wherever they went they carried with them the knowledge of the one true God; they have been a testimony to the nations of God's faithfulness and justice; and at the same time they executed God's judgments upon the nations for the preserving and purifying of the world. The Jews have been the historians of the world. A Jewish hand wrote the history of the creation. Jewish hands wrote the history of Israel's connection with Egypt and Assyria and other great nations, which modern discoveries of ancient monuments and relics are confirming more strongly every day. When the Greek historian Herodotus, who has been called "the father of history," was only beginning to write, Nehemiah, the last of the Old Testament historians, was already beginning to write. The Jews have been the teachers of the world. Unto them were committed the oracles of God. They prepared the way, too, for the coming of the Saviour.
3. Even in their humiliation and dispersion they have brought blessing to the world. "The fall of them" has been "the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles" (ver. 12). "Through their fall salvation has came "to the Gentiles" (ver. 11). "God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew. He is still the God of Israel. The Jews may be despised, they may be hated by men, they may be neglected even by Christians who owe so much to them; but they are still the chosen people of God, bringing blessings even in their fall to those that despise them.
II. THEIR FUTURE PROSPECTS.
1. There is hope for Israel in the promises of God. As surely as God predicted the dispersion of the Jews, and that came to pass, so surely has he predicted a restoration of the Jews, and this also will come to pass. Many eminent Christians believe that there will be a literal restoration of the Jews to Palestine. It is remarkable that the late Mr. Lawrence Oliphant, in his book 'The Land of Gilead,' advocates, not for Christian reasons at all, but as a mercantile man, the colonization of Palestine by Jews, on the ground that they are the natural cultivators of the land, and that the country has never prospered except under Jewish proprietorship. But we are more specially concerned with the promises of their spiritual restoration. The Old Testament prophecies are full of these. "But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me" (Isaiah 49:14-16). Again, we are told that it is but for a moment that God's face is hidden from his people; and that in Israel's restoration "all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob" (Isaiah 49:26). And here in the New Testament, even after Israel's rejection of the Messiah, St. Paul emphatically reasserts the certainty of Israel's restoration. Though they, the natural branches, were broken off for a time, "God is able to graft them in again" (ver. 23). "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (ver. 25). But when that time comes "all Israel shall be saved" (ver. 26). God will yet be as the dew unto Israel.
2. In the present position of the Jews there are many things that point to a bright future for God's ancient people. Though scattered among the nations, they still preserve their identity and individuality. They have not been absorbed or assimilated by the larger and stronger races among whom they are placed. This in itself would seem to point to a great future in store for them. Not only so, but it points to a great blessing in store for the nations by means of them. "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (ver. 15). When M'Cheyne returned from Palestine, he preached a sermon from the words, "To the Jew first," advocating Christian missions to the Jews on the ground that judgment will begin with the Jews, on the ground of God's special love for the Jews, on the ground of peculiar access to the Jews, and on the ground that the Jews, if converted, will give life to the whole world. This last is a point which deserves more attention than it receives. From their peculiar position, scattered throughout the nations, and being of an industrious and commercial disposition, the Jews are specially fitted to do missionary work. Reach the Jews as a people, bring them under the influence of the gospel, and through them you reach the whole world. Many writers who have given careful attention to this subject are of opinion that the success of missions to the heathen will be comparatively small until the Holy Spirit will enable the Jews to acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah, until he employs them as his instrument in the proclamation of the gospel among the nations. The Prophet Zechariah seems to favour that view when he says, "In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zechariah 8:23).
III. PRACTICAL LESSONS ENFORCED BY THIS SUBJECT.
1. The necessity of personal faith. While we consider God's dealings with Israel for their unbelief and disobedience, let us consider our own relationship to God. "Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee" (vers. 20, 21). Christian profession and Christian privileges will not save us, unless we have a personal and living union with Jesus Christ the Saviour.
2. The duty of sympathetic efforts on behalf of Israel. "For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy (vers. 30, 31). God will fulfil his promises of the conversion of Israel just as he fulfils all his promises - by the use of means; by the missionary efforts of the Christian Church. - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.