Going through Romans, Paul has been talking about the place of Israel in the plan of God. He has been using Old Testament prophecies to explain it.
It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”
Here Paul quotes another prophecy from Isaiah (Isaiah 1:9). This verse tells us that Israel is not totally gone. There remains a seed. This seed was protected by God. And, from what I can see through history, they remain protected.
So in talking about the Jewish people, they have a special place in God’s heart and in Paul’s as well.
However, their salvation is the same as ours. It can only be through faith in Christ. Right now, their calling and ours is the same. We are called to salvation in Christ, then, we submit to the Holy Spirit to as He brings us to mature sonship.
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.
Now Paul summarizes what he said so far. The Gentiles did not pursue righteousness, yet, when given the chance, they eagerly seized and possessed it. But what kind of righteousness is it? It’s a righteousness that has its origin in faith.
Israel, on the other hand, pursued a law of righteousness, yet never arrived at it. The Gentiles grabbed righteousness as it was springing out of their faith. But, if you chase it by law, you can never catch it.
Here’s the reason…
Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Their righteousness was not coming from faith. They were pursuing as if it could spring up from their works.
This is also a problem many Christians have. We expect the blessings of God to spring from our works. If I just try harder, then God will notice my efforts and reward them.
That’s what tripped them and it trips us as well. It’s what Paul refers to as the stumbling stone.
In Paul’s quote of Isaiah, he actually uses two verses (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16) The first gives us an interesting word picture. He literally says that it’s a stone of stumbling and a rock of trapping.
The picture of a trap is of a bent tree with a rope trap. The rock holds the tree down until the trap is sprung.
The second verse deals with a perfect foundation stone. I believe that Paul put these two Old Testament verses together by the Holy Spirit. He’s actually giving us three choices.
It could be a little rock that causes you to trip and fall, making you embarrassed. Or, it could be a large rock that traps you and you’re hanging upside down, again embarrassed. Finally, it could be a foundation stone that you stand on, secure, and never put to shame.
The real question before us is; what is he talking about? It’s all about pursuing a righteousness that originates in faith. That’s the only way to please God.
Any other way brings shame and disappointment. When I try to please God with my own efforts, I end up frustrated and without hope. I have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about change in my life.
Question: How have you tried to serve God in your own strength?
© 2021 Nick Zaccardi