"What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they 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. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever." (Romans 11:7-10)
I've often pondered why some people are so blind to the truth of Jesus. I see its evidence among those who are brought up under a system of religion that focuses on rules and traditions. Those teachings are so ingrained that they blind the individual to the possibility that there is another way to God, the way of grace through Jesus Christ. They fight against this truth arguing that salvation cannot be that easy, they must contribute to this end goal on the basis of everything they understand from their upbringing.
The Israelites experienced the same struggle. They had the Law which outlined the commandments, sacrifice guidelines, feast days among many other things. Their entire lives were incorporated into this system.. There was no distinction between their spiritual life and their regular live. It was both their lifestyle and their heritage.
In today's passage Paul concluded that even though Israel sought earnestly to win God's favor by obedience to the Law, they did not obtain it, because they became callously indifferent and hardened to the truth of God. The elect on the other hand did obtain righteousness of the Law through faith in Jesus Christ because they were not blinded by the Law.
Paul went on to quote several Old Testament passages about this very thing. "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day." ( Romans 11:8, Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 29:10 ). In other words their attitude blinded them to the truth of Christ. They could hear and see all of the things that he did, but this attitude of stupor kept them from believing this message. They were so self focused that they couldn't see past the Law to see its fulfillment in the Messiah.
David said concerning this, "May the table set before them become a snare; may it become retribution and a trap. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever" ( Psalm 69:22-23 ). David saw what the Messiah would be and he was disgusted that the Israelites would stay focused instead on traditions, feasting and self righteousness. They only looked to themselves instead of looking to God. They only pursued their interests and not God's interests. The Law kept them blind to the truth of Christ.
This reality is difficult to understand. But Paul adds some clarity to it in II Corinthians. With the law came a veil. There was limited revelation of God through the law. He spoke to the prophets but no one completely understood these messages until after Jesus came. This is because we then had the Holy Spirit to reveal these things to us. Before this, we only saw an incomplete disclosure of them. Paul said in II Corinthians 3, "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" ( II Corinthians 3:12-18 ). The amazing thing about this is that all the mysteries and hidden wisdom of God are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit ( I Corinthians 2:6-16 ), so for those who are in bondage to the Law, or traditions, these truths are kept from them. They may read them in the scriptures but there is a veil covering their eyes so that understanding does not come. It is only through Jesus that the veil is taken away and the truth is revealed to our spirits.
The reason Israel missed Jesus and the veil of the Old Covenant remains blocking them from the truth is that they are only looking to themselves and their self-righteousness to fulfill it, instead of looking to God. Jesus said in Matthew 13, "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. ( Matthew 13:15-16 ). It has always been the condition of the heart that keeps them from the truth. "But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear." What Israel did not acquire, the elect did. Those who have put their trust and hope in Jesus obtained the righteousness that Israel so desperately sought. This only comes through grace and it is offered to all.
Today, I am blessed to be part of the elect. God has chosen me because I have chosen him. I praise God that he has removed the veil from my eyes so that I can see who he is and understand what he has written to me. Through faith in Jesus these same truths apply to you. May you understand the truths written in his word and see him for who he is, amen.