TO CHEW ON: "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.'" Romans 11:7,8 NIV
When Paul speaks here about the Israelites being "hardened" and their "spirit of stupor," he's hearkening back to several references in the Old Testament that speak of a similar dullness.
Moses describes the Israelites' spiritual hardness when they are about to enter Canaan. Their minds don't understand, their eyes don't see, and ears don't hear despite the miraculous way God has cared for them during their 40-year wilderness wander - Deuteronomy 29:4.
Three prophets make a similar charge. Isaiah talks about Israel's "calloused' hearts" (Isaiah 6:9,10). Jeremiah calls them "foolish and senseless" (Jeremiah 5:21). Ezekiel identifies an attitude of rebellion behind their spiritual hardness (Ezekiel 12:2).
Though here in Romans Paul brings up this topic primarily to explain how Israel's spiritual state opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles, I see in the description of Israel's hardness of heart a yellow light for all believers, Jews or Gentiles. I believe we can become similarly blind, deaf, calloused, hardened, dull, and stuporous. Some ways:
- When we fail to see and be grateful for the way God is caring for us as the Israelites did in the wilderness.
- When we don't allow the spiritual truths of God's word penetrate our hearts ("...ever hearing but never understanding; ever seeing but never perceiving" - Isaiah 6:9).
- When we make up or own way to come to God as Paul here implies Israel had done ("What the people of God sought so earnestly they did not obtain" - Romans 11:7. "Having failed to obtain the right standing with God, they had sought by their own efforts, they have been hardened..." - Wayne Grudem, commentary on Romans, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, Kindle location 260,148).
- When we allow rebellion to creep in.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh - Ezekiel 36:26.
PRAYER: Dear God, please tenderize my heart. Soften it towards You and the things that matter to You. Amen.
All Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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