You may like to take a look at the archive (right hand of page) as bible blog nears its 1000 posts. A nuber of you have journeyed with me from the start, and others have joined along the road. I’ve been very grateful for your company.
Saturday’s blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily reading along with a headline from world news
CHOMSKY SAYS ISRAELI POLICIES WILL LEAD TO ITS DESTRUCTION
All Israel Will Be Saved
25 So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters,* I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.26And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,
‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’
27 ‘And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’
28As regards the gospel they are enemies of God* for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors;29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now* receive mercy.32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
34 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?’
35 ‘Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’
36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
I defy anyone to make good sense of Paul’s argument in verse 28. He has referred to Israel’s election as God’s people and to their disobedience, especially their rejection of Messiah Jesus. If they had not been disobedient, he implies, God would not have needed to extend his choice of “a people” to include the Gentiles, so Israel’s disobedience has led to God’s mercy on the Gentiles, who were never obedient in the first place. So far, so good, if anyone thinks this reasoning is good. But where does Paul go then? What does he mean that Israel will receive mercy “by the mercy shown to the Gentiles”? What comes over more clearly is Paul’s view that God has permitted a “hardening of hearts” amongst Gentiles and Jews in order that all may ultimately become his people through his mercy.
This complex passage shows Paul wrestling with the apparent topsy-turviness of God’s logic: why choose one people as his holy people, only for them to reject his Messiah, and therefore to be by-passed in favour of the rest of humanity which had been formerly neglected? The real answer to this question is that there’s something wrong with the way it’s put; the “theological story of Israel” has been wrongly told. Paul had explored new ways of telling the old story, but how could he accept that it needed an even more fundamental revision than he had given it, if Jesus was indeed the Messiah? Still, he made a start by wrestling with the contradictions as he saw them.
When theology comes up with confused or unacceptable answers to questions, it’s often a sign that the questions themselves are questionable. To those who long for a simple faith, all this process of trying to understand God’s ways may seem unnecessary and even blasphemous. But Paul sets a good example here: we should try to “make sense” of our faith, because we are commanded to love God with our “mind” as well as our other faculties. There are not two truths: one for the intellect and another for faith; as it is written, “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.”
In fact Paul turns from his arguments knowing that God’s ways are beyond his understanding-not that he shouldn’t search but that the end of his searching is the mystery he calls God, who is not less than the answers to our questions but always more. “From him and through him and to him are all things” This is a truth that all who puzzle over matters of faith, like bible bloggers for example, should take to heart.