Did Israel Not Understand?—Romans 10:19-21
"Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me." But concerning Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Romans 10:19-21)
Understanding the message of Christ is the next step after hearing it. So Paul's logical question concerning Israel was; did they not understand this message? Israel was given the law and had the prophets and patriarchs as their guide. Israel had understanding of these things and lived daily by them. However they were so indoctrinated by the letter of the law they missed the fact that this was a type or shadow of Jesus ( Hebrews 10:1 ). (Meaning that the law only resembled the foreshadowed Messiah.)
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew for this very thing, he said, "you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' " ( Matthew 15:6-9 ). When we only have head knowledge about God then we take what he said and become legalistic about it. Israel was so wrapped up in their doctrine of the law that they made the word of God of no effect in their lives and in the lives of those around them.
Because they nullified the word of God by the letter of the law rather than the intent of the law and worshipped other Gods, Moses prophesied that God would make them angry by nations that did not have understanding. "They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding" ( Deuteronomy 32:21 ). People who are not instructed in religion and grow up having no preconceived notions about God will accept the gospel message with gladness. It is far easier to comprehend and accept at face value when religion isn't in the way telling you, you must participate in your redemption. The biggest lie we believe is that we must do something to be right with God, instead of accepting the fact that Jesus already did something.
Isaiah foretold this. He saw that Gentiles would come to Jesus and accept the gospel message and Israel would reject it. "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.' "All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations" ( Isaiah 65:1-2 ). The difference between the two is that the Gentiles know they will never be good enough for God on their own, but Israel has not understood this yet. All they see is the literal letter of the law and not the embodiment of law which is Jesus who fulfilled the letter. . Patiently God waits and calls for them to understand his message. Jesus is the promised Messiah who gives us the righteousness of the Law by grace .
This has implications for us today. We can start out through faith in Jesus only to be yoked once again to the rules (or "law"). It is important to understand the truth of Jesus and what he did for you as a basis of how to live. We have died to the law through faith in Christ so we are free to live by the Spirit. Paul said in Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" ( Galatians 2:20-21 ). If we go back to religion, to the rules and doctrines of men, after we accept this marvelous grace then Christ died for nothing. We can nullify the word of God in our hearts by living according to man's rules and regulations. What a harsh reality.
This is why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to live by, to protect us from going back to the old way. We do not need the law because we have a perfect guide living inside us directing and steering us in the way of God. He has written himself upon our hearts so that we do not have to live by the letter, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (II Corinthians 3:6). Paul has written extensively throughout the New Testament, that living by the Spirit will not gratify the flesh. But, in living by the Spirit we will experience the freedom which Christ purchased for us and God desires us to have, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" ( II Corinthians 3:17 ).
Today, it is my prayer that you are free. Free from religion, free from the law, free from the doctrines of men and free to live for Jesus. I pray that you will understand this freedom and shake off everything that keeps you in chains. You were called to walk in this glorious liberty in Christ, may you understand this calling and fulfill it according to his riches and grace, amen.