God’s Spiritual Blinding of Israel: Part 3
Several years after His resurrection and ascension, Jesus reached from His heavenly abode and shook a zealous Pharisee, Saul, to the core of his being. Jesus afflicted him with physical blindness, but in doing so, gave him spiritual vision. God saved Saul by His grace and subsequently healed him of his physical blindness. This also portrays God’s blinding of Israel and His providential removal of that blindness at a time of His choosing. God expanded Paul’s spiritual world, revealing mysteries upon mysteries, preparing him to take the message of God’s grace beyond Israel to the Gentile world. Paul, however, always had a soft spot in his heart for his countrymen. He yearned for their salvation, and shared God’s message in the synagogues of every new city he reached. Paul finally accepted the fact God had spiritually blinded Israel from recognizing Jesus as their Messiah. He addressed the Jewish people one last time during his imprisonment in Rome, quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah.
And when they (the Jews) did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.”’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen. – (Acts 28: 25-28).
Paul continued his ministry to the Gentiles. He wrote letters to the churches he had established and explained the wonderful riches of God’s grace extended to the world through Jesus Christ. His letter to the Roman church further illuminates the mystery of God’s spiritual blinding of Israel. Once again, Paul refers to the book of Isaiah to explain God’s calling of the Gentiles:
I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation which did not call on My name. I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face… – (Isaiah 65: 1-3).
But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.” And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became manifest to those who did not ask for me.” But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” – (Romans 10: 19-21).
God reached out to the Gentiles to create His Body of Christ in order to stir envy in His chosen nation, Israel. This would ultimately prepare them to receive their Savior and Messiah, Jesus Christ. Paul fully explains this mystery in Romans chapter 11. Indeed, what a glorious mystery it is!
What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block and a retribution to them. Let their eyes be darkened to see not, and bend their backs forever.” I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you, they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! – (Rom 11: 7-33).
This rather lengthy section of Scripture perfectly explains God’s mystery of Israel’s spiritual blindness. God told Isaiah He would spiritually blind Israel, but He did not explain why. 750 years later God gave Paul the answer to this mystery, and he has recorded the secret for all to understand. The blinding of Israel became the opportunity for the rest of the world. God’s greater plan was to send His Son to be crucified as payment for the sins of all mankind. He desired to reach the entire world with this message of grace. All who believe Jesus died for their sins, rose from the dead, and is Lord of their lives will be saved (Rom 10:9-10). The Holy Spirit would baptize these new believers into the Body of Christ—Jesus extended presence on this earth. God would continue to add multitudes to His Body until one day the age of Gentiles would come to an end. The amazing truth is God had planned all along to redeem believers across the face of this globe through His Son, Jesus Christ. Israel had to be blinded to their Messiah in order for each of us to be saved! What a humbling message! Believers of this age should be on their knees in thanksgiving! The promised Kingdom of God on earth had to be deferred until the age of the Gentiles and the Body of Christ was complete. God could not reveal this to His prophets or His chosen nation in ancient times because Satan would know God’s greater plan—the plan that would lead to his utter defeat—the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Oh, the riches of God’s wisdom! How great are His ways!
The cup of Gentile believers will one day be full. Then God must return to His chosen nation, Israel, and prepare them to accept their Messiah, Jesus. He will then remove their spiritual blindness as prophesied by Ezekiel:
“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.” – (Ezek 36:24-28).
We have finally come full circle to our starting point—Isaiah chapter 6. We will return to the end of that chapter:
Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning. Like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.” – (Isaiah 6:11-13).
It had taken over 2,500 years, but by 1900 AD Israel looked just as Isaiah had prophesied—the land was devastated, desolate and without cities. Nearly all surviving Jews lived everywhere but in their homeland, Israel. God promised there would be a remnant -– a tenth of the total population would survive as God’s remnant over the ages. God’s holy seed will emerge from that remnant—the stump. That remnant ‘will again be subject to burning.’ What could this mean? The world has witnessed a remarkable migration of Jewish people from all over the world to Israel—especially over the last seventy years. They have transformed a desolate land of desert and swamps into a new nation among the nations of the world. The new nation of Israel was born in 1948. It has been tried and tested by the fire of repeated wars from the day of its inception. These have challenged its very existence. Israel has grown stronger in the fiery cauldron. But the flames are small. God will turn up the heat, as gold must be separated from impurities. There will come a great trial for the Jewish people. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied of this coming event 2,600 years ago:
For thus says the Lord, “I have heard a sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see if a male can give birth? Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it. It shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck and will tear off their bonds; and strangers will no longer make them their slaves. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. – (Jer. 30: 5-9).
The ‘time of Jacob’s distress’ is the last seven-year period on this earth before Jesus will return and set up His earthly theocratic millennial kingdom. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Israel means ‘wrestle with God.’ Indeed, the children of Jacob have struggled with God over the course of their history. Their struggle will grow most intense over this last seven-year period. The nation of Israel must be burned down to a true remnant of God’s followers during this time, as God outlined for Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets of the Old Testament. Many will die—many will fail the test. But the true remnant will survive.
“It will come about in all the land,” declares the Lord, “that two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” – (Zech. 13: 8-9).
The remnant will overcome the flames. The fire will burn away their spiritual blindness. God will open their eyes and soften their hearts.
I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. – (Jer. 24: 7).
They will understand who their Messiah is and will mourn bitterly for the One whom they have pierced.
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zech.12:10).
The purified remnant will enter victorious with Him into the Millennial Kingdom and rule with Him for a thousand years. The remnant of the ‘stump’ is the holy seed God has separated to be with His Holy Seed—Jesus Christ during this millennial time. May God quicken our minds to understand this wondrous Scriptural message!