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Feb 28, 2021

Make 'em Jealous

Passage: Romans 11:1-13

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Romans

Keywords: evangelism, witness, jealousy, envy, jealous, jewish people


Jealousy is not always bad. In fact, it's an emotion and response God has from time to time. And it is an effect God wants His church to produce in the lives of unsaved people, particularly the Jews. This message calls the church to be what Israel failed to be...so that Israel and other might come to faith in Jesus Christ.


Make ‘em Jealous!

Romans 11

February 28 2021

When’s the last time you were jealous?  Who were you jealous of?  Why? 

The answer to that may depend on what your definition of jealousy is. 

Webster defines jealousy as being hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.”  That seems a little strong to say that jealousy always makes one “hostile”?

Dictionary.com says jealousy is “feeling resentment because of another's success, advantage, etc.”  Again, seems a bit negative in that you must “feel resentment.” 

Why can’t jealousy just be “wishing you could have and enjoy something you see someone else having or enjoying.” 

            Jealousy isn’t always wrong.  I mentioned last week that Sandy and I are rightly jealous of each other’s romantic affection.  That’s what husbands and wives should feel in a guarding and protecting sort of way (as opposed to controlling, manipulative or suspicious way). 

            God is spoken of over 15 times as being a God who is jealous.  [El Qanna = “God is Jealous” in Hebrew.]  He’s jealous for His people, for Israel, for their allegiance and worship.  He’s jealous for His name and His glory, that it not be polluted or corrupted. 

Jealousy, in its proper manifestation and feelings, is something God feels and demonstrates.  So clearly not all jealousy is evil…thought much can be and often is in human beings. 

            In today’s passage in Romans 11, we’re coming to the close of this 3-chapter discussion Paul is having about God’s dealing with His first “Chosen People”—Israel.  God chose Abraham (and the Jews that would come from him) as the one nation in the world through whom He wanted to show His presence and glory in this world.  God’s intent was that the Jewish people would be in such close relationship with God that they would serve like a bright light in a dark forest in the middle of summer. 

ILL:  What happens when you leave a bright light on outdoors, in the middle of summer?  You attract a whole lot of BUGS, right? 

Well, in the same way, God wanted His relationship with the entire nation of Israel to be so attractive to the other nations of the world that people would ask themselves and each other, “How can we get that?  How can we become as loving, as caring, as kind, as successful, as protected, as righteous as those Israelites?”  The Good News of faith in God would have a centripetal force in the world of drawing in others to the beauty of God. 

            Needless to say, Israel failed dramatically by failing to walk with God and thus failed to be much of anything attractive to other people and nations for most of their existence. 

            But God knows how to handle human failure.  So, fast-forward to the time of the Apostle Paul.  Jesus, God-in-human-flesh, has come, lived the only perfect, sinless life in all humanity, showed us who God is better than anyone, died in our place, took our sin and punishment for sin upon himself, satisfied God’s righteous wrath against us and our sin, was buried, rose again immortal and incorruptible 3 days later and ascended into heaven to reign and intercede for us before God.  In the process, He opened up this good news of salvation to the whole world—Jews and Gentiles. 

            One would expect that the people who had the most accurate knowledge of the true God…the people who had seen God do the most among them in history…would be the first to grab onto this new blessing of relationship with God by faith in the final sacrifice—Jesus.  But they didn’t.  Most of the nation of Israel rejected Christ.

            So, Paul, a Jew himself, knowing all the promises that still needed to be fulfilled by God through the Jewish nation, poses the question back in Romans 9, “What happens now to the nation of Israel and all God’s unfulfilled promises about them as His people?  If God’s people, Israel, has now rejected Him, has God dumped them as well?  Won’t He be failing at His promises to save Israel?”  Paul answers those questions in chapters 9-11. 

            So, we pick it up in Romans 11:1 today.  The last verse of Romans 10 leaves us with the picture of God reaching out His hand “all day long” to this disobedient and obstinate people, Israel.  Like a little kid at a street corner who refuses to take his parent’s hand in order to safely cross the street of life, Israel rejected God over and over and over again.  So, Paul writes,

“I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means!”

Paul is asking, “Is it over for the nation of Israel…for the Jewish people?”  His answer: “NO WAY!”  And then he turns to his own life as an illustration that God isn’t done with the Jews yet. 

For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

Most of Israel may have rejected God.  But God hasn’t rejected the whole nation as a result.  Instead, He’s still “foreknowing” Jews like Paul.  He’s still going after Jews who will put their faith in Him.  He’s still confronting them and knocking them off their donkey’s/asses onto their…hind ends…to remind them that their God is still holding out His hand all day/life long to them. 

            To those Jews or Gentiles who were tempted to think that Paul was maybe the only leftover Jew who had not completely rejected Jesus, Paul goes to the O.T. prophet Elijah.  After single-handedly going up against the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mt. Carmel, beating them at their own game and then slaying them, we find him hiding out, exhausted, in a cave in the wilderness, whining to God that he’s the only faithful, believing Israelite left in the land.  God feeds him, lets him rest and then has a little conversation with him, reminding him that God always has a remnant…a cadre of faithful people…even when it seems like we’re the only true believer left. 

Thinking of 1 Kings 19, Paul writes,

“Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 

First, some lessons here from Elijah’s error of believing that he was the only man left truly serving God in his country. 

  • Some of you might be fighting some pretty heavy spiritual battles right now. You may, in fact, feel very alone about what you are doing.  Spiritual warfare can be that way.  Ask Elijah.  We have no record of a cheering section for him.  No reference to a band of brothers in this challenge.  He may have been the only guy willing to go public with his challenge of Baal and 850 other prophets.  850-to-1 can be a bit overwhelming.  But just because you feel or even appear to be alone in a battle, the reality is, God’s always got more of his people tucked away than we can imagine.  I mean, 7,000 that this lead prophet had no idea about? 
  • When you do ministry alone, spiritual warfare alone, confront evil alone, there’s a temptation to underestimate the resources God has in others. I’m not sure Elijah had to go it all alone… but he apparently chose to.  The result, while immediately rather striking, was, in the long term, devastating.  This is why we try to do as much as possible at Mosaic in teams.  Too many good people burn out on church because they never learn to develop as a team. 

Secondly, Paul says that “At the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”  It wasn’t because Paul was such a great Jew that God “chose him by grace” to be part of that “remnant.”  It was despite the fact he was a raging, hate-filled, angry, murderous Jews that God chose him in grace to be part of the Jewish minority that would follow Christ.  And all around the world today, there is still a remnant of Jewish people who follow Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah. 

God isn’t finished with Israel as a nation nor with the Jews as a people.  He’s still saving Jews.  Anyone living in the latter half of the 20th century and beyond should see that both in the reemergence of Israel as a nation and the salvation of Messianic Jews all over the world.  And we shouldn’t shy away from witnessing to Jewish people because there will always be a remnant of Jews “chosen by grace.”  Your Jewish friend or neighbor just might be one of them. 

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.  Pretty clear, no?  Nobody, including us, is saved based on any works of our own.  Salvation is rooted and grows out of the grace of God towards us—God’s gift of Himself to us when we deserved exactly the opposite—utter rejection by Him.

What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that could not see
    and ears that could not hear,
to this very day.”

And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
    and their backs be bent forever.”

Again, remember that when God ‘hardens’ human beings, it is always in response to their repeated, long and persistent rejection of Him and His truth.  If you go back to both of the passages Paul quotes here, the first from Deut. 29:4 & Isaiah 29:10 and the second from Psalm 69:22 & 23, you will find that the former refers to the persistent rebellion of the nation of Israel and the latter refers to those who sought to persecute, wound and destroy King David unjustly.  In both cases, the hardening God promises or David asks for is as a result of the persistent evil of others and their persistent rejection of God. 

            As we noticed earlier in Romans 9 (the Divine Dance with God & Human Will), when it comes to salvation, grace, predestination and the call of God to people, God seems to be the one to take the initiative in reconciling people to Himself.  When it comes to rejecting salvation, the Gospel, Christ and the grace of God, humans seem to be the one’s who take the initiative.  There is clearly mystery in this dance with divine grace and human faith…or divine judgment and human unbelief.  But it is a mystery that allows no room for charging God with injustice, favoritism or evil. 

Now Paul is going to describe HOW Israel’s rejection of Christ relates to our acceptance and faith in Him. 

11 Again I ask: Did they [Israel] stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? [No hope of any further inclusion in or fulfillment of God’s great plan for mankind.]

Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, [sing.; the sin of rejecting the Messiah, Jesus Christ] salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. [Making the Jews envious is not the sum total of the reasons salvation has come to us Gentile.  But it is certainly ONE of the reasons why God is pouring out salvation upon Gentiles today:  God still wants his chosen people, Israel… the Jews, to come to Him by faith.  And He’s not opposed to using a little good jealousy to bring them to their senses.]

ILL:  I got the most important lesson of my life about ‘good jealousy’ when Sandy and I were dating…or better yet, when I stopped dating her about a year before we got married.  (Explain the story…and how realizing that I could actually lose this amazing woman to some other nice guy clarified that, in fact, I was in love with her and she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life growing in oneness with.  That ‘jealousy’ saved our marriage-to-be…and there are a few young adults and their littles sitting here today who should be particularly glad about that…or they wouldn’t be here!