GOD’S REJECTION OF THE NATION ISRAEL IS NOT FINAL —
ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED AFTER THE FULLNESS OF THE GENTILES
Greg Herrick: It is quite likely that many Gentiles, observing Israel’s disobedience, would conclude that they were wiser than the Jews (11:18), for they (saved Gentiles in Rome) had indeed responded properly and in faith toward the Messiah. But, Paul wants to tell them that they know not the whole story and that such ignorance may lead to conceit. What they could not have known, as it was a mystery, was that Israel as a whole had been hardened by God for a time (she will someday be saved) in order that God might save the Gentiles. But she will, at the second advent, enter into all the spiritual and material blessings promised her by the prophets (cf. Dunn, 690; Witmer, 485).
Warren Wiersbe: What has happened to Israel is all a part of God’s plan, and He knows what He is doing. The blinding (or hardening, Rom. 11:7) of Israel as a nation is neither total nor final: it is partial and temporary. How long will it last? “Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25). There is a “fullness” for Israel; (Rom. 11:12) and for the Gentiles. Today, God in His grace is visiting the Gentiles and taking out a people for His name (Acts 15:12-14). Individual Jews are being saved, of course, but this present age is primarily a time when God is visiting the Gentiles and building His church. When this present age has run its course, and the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then God will once more deal with the nation of Israel.
John Walvoord: “the times of the Gentiles” vs. “the fullness of the Gentiles” —
When the two concepts, the times of the Gentiles and the fullness of the Gentiles are compared, it becomes evident that the times of the Gentiles is primarily a political term and has to do with the political overlordship of Jerusalem. By contrast, the term the fullness of the Gentiles refers to the present age in which Gentiles predominate in the church and far exceed Israel in present spiritual blessing. It becomes clear, therefore, that, while the two concepts may be contemporaneous at least for much of their fulfillment, the termini of the two periods are somewhat different. The times of the Gentiles will end only when Israel will permanently gain political control of Jerusalem at the second advent of Christ, whereas the fullness of the Gentiles will be completed when God’s present task of winning Jew and Gentile to Christ is completed. (“The Times of the Gentiles“. Bibl Sac Vol 125. Issue 497. Page 9, 1968) (See Walvoord’s article The Times of the Gentiles)
William Barclay: Paul is coming to the end of his argument. He has faced a bewildering, and, for a Jew, a heartbreaking situation. Somehow he has had to find an explanation of the fact that God’s people rejected his Son when he came into the world. Paul never shut his eyes to that tragic fact, but he found a way in which the whole tragic situation could be fitted into the plan of God. It is true that the Jews rejected Christ; but. as Paul saw it, that rejection happened in order that Christ might be offered to the Gentiles. To maintain the sovereignty of God’s purpose, Paul even went the length of saying that it was he himself who hardened the hearts of the Jews in order to open a way to the Gentiles; but, even then, however contradictory it might sound, he still insisted on the personal responsibility of the Jews for their failure to accept God’s offer. Paul held fast at one and the same time to divine sovereignty and human responsibility. But now comes the note of hope. His argument is a little complicated… (Romans 11 – William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible)
I. (:25-27) GOD WILL EVENTUALLY SAVE ALL ETHNIC ISRAEL
A. (:25a) Antidote for Pride = Understanding God’s Revealed Mystery
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery,
lest you be wise in your own estimation,”
Thomas Schreiner: The importance of verse 25 is signaled by the words οὐ γὰρ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν (ou gar thelō hymas agnoein, for I do not want you to be ignorant), which are used to introduce matters of special importance (cf. Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thess. 4:13). . . The mystery is divulged so that the gentiles will not become proud and give glory to themselves rather than to the glorious and infinitely wise God. . .
The mystery is at least threefold:
(1) A part of Israel is hardened for a limited period of time,
(2) the salvation of the gentiles will precede the salvation of Israel, and
(3) all Israel will eventually be saved.
Douglas Moo (1996: 716) rightly observes that the focal point of the mystery is the timing and manner of Israel’s salvation: Israel will be saved after the inclusion of the gentiles (so also J. Wagner 2002: 277).
Steven Cole: The matters we are dealing with here are prophetic revelation, not theological speculation. . . The prophetic revelation concerns God’s sovereign, powerful working in salvation history.
Greg Herrick: The purpose then for which Paul is expounding this mystery is to prevent pride and to bring about humility on the part of the Gentile believers in Rome.
Frank Thielman: Here Paul backs up his admonition to humility by revealing a “mystery” (μυστήριον) to the Christians in Rome. Although he uses this term in Romans only here and in 16:25, it is a characteristically Pauline word, appearing far more often in his writings than elsewhere in early Christian literature. Elsewhere Paul connects the term with prophecy (1 Cor 13:2; Eph 3:4–5) and with God’s revelation to people of how the final stage of history is unfolding (1 Cor 2:7) and will unfold (1 Cor 15:51; Eph 1:9–10; 2 Thess 2:7). He also implies that “mysteries” contain information that would remain unknown had not God graciously revealed it to his people (Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26; cf. 1 Cor 14:2) through his messengers (1 Cor 4:1; Eph 3:3–4). The mystery Paul reveals here describes the order of events before “the deliverer” comes “from Zion” (11:26). . .
“wise in your own estimation” — In this context, however, where Paul has just engaged in a fictional dialogue with a gentile Christian who tends to “boast over” Israel’s rejection of the gospel (11:18–19) and “think [φρονεῖν] haughty things” (11:20), it clearly refers to people thinking that they are wiser than they are (cf. 12:3, 16).
James Dunn: Paul’s claim is that God had resolved the puzzle of Israel’s failure by revealing to him that Israel’s fall always had been part of God’s purpose for the climax of history.
B. (:25b) End Point of Israel’s Temporary Partial Hardening = Fulness of the Gentiles
“that a partial hardening has happened to Israel
until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in;”
Frank Thielman: The picture Paul draws of the course the gospel will take from his own time to the final day, then, is relatively clear up to this point in the argument. The gospel will find an important but limited response among Israelites in Paul’s time (11:5–7), but will have more success among gentiles (11:11, 15a). As the gospel is preached to the gentiles, even in Paul’s own time, some Jews will also continue to believe (11:14), and presumably that number will grow with the passing of time as some Jews whose “minds were hardened” (ἐπωρώθη) turn to the Lord and have the veil covering their spiritual sight lifted (2 Cor 3:14–16). Israel will continue to be divided into believing and unbelieving parts, however, until the mission to the gentiles is complete, and all those gentiles destined to believe the gospel have done so (11:25). Paul will say next what the argument has now made obvious.
John MacArthur: A mystery is something that’s been hidden in the past and is now revealed in the Scripture. And what was hidden in the past was that Israel would be set aside, cut off from blessing, Gentiles grafted in, ultimately Gentiles cut off, and Israel grafted back in to the place of blessing. That mystery we are not to be ignorant of. That mystery has now been revealed through the apostle Paul. And what is the mystery specifically? It’s given right in the verse, the two-part mystery, that blindness in part is happened to Israel. The mystery is that the Jews would not believe. And the word “blindness,” by the way, is really the word “hardened.” It’s the word hardened, resistant. Blindness in part; notice he puts that “in part” in there? Why? Because their blindness was what? Partial. We’ve been saying it all along. That doesn’t mean that the individuals were partly blind; it’s not talking about the degree of blindness. What it means is that the nation was partly blind, that is, there were some who were not blind. There was always a what? A believing remnant, a believing remnant.
So, he says blindness in part is happened to Israel. And that was the point of the first ten verses of chapter 11, to show that their blindness was only partial and God had a remnant. Secondly, it was not only partial it was what? Passing. And that’s how the second feature is given, only until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. “Until” indicates time. “Fullness” indicates number of completion. And so, only until a certain time and a certain completion; therefore it’s only temporary. So the mystery was that Israel was set aside partially and temporarily. The Jew in the Old Testament never saw that. He saw the nation Israel going along as the blessed people of God and someday the Messiah would come and establish His kingdom. He didn’t see their total rejection and their being cut off the place of blessing and a new country or a new nation or a new people, a new ethnos being grafted in, the church, and then becoming the source of witness in the world. And then they being cut off by apostasy and the Jew being grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles had come in. And that’s the mystery that Paul is unfolding.
C. (:26a) Consummation of God’s Redemptive Program for Ethnic Israel
“and thus all Israel will be saved;”
Frank Thielman: Interpreters have sometimes understood “Israel” here to refer to the multiethnic group of believers in Christ. Elsewhere, Paul assumes continuity between ancient Israel and Christians, regardless of their ethnicity (cf. Rom 4:1; 1 Cor 10:1; Gal 6:16; Phil 3:3). But the term “Israel” as Paul uses it here must refer to the same group that he identifies in 11:28 as both “enemies” and “beloved,” and that group must be unbelieving Israel.
Thomas Schreiner: It is obvious in verse 25 that the term “Israel” refers to ethnic Israel as distinguished from the gentiles. Thus it is extremely unlikely that the term “Israel” would have a different meaning in verse 26 than it did in verse 25 without a clear explanation by Paul that he was shifting the meaning. This is confirmed by verse 28, for the contrast with gentiles in that verse (ethnic Israel are “enemies for the sake of the gentiles” and yet “beloved because of the fathers”) demonstrates that ethnic Israel must be in view in verse 26 (so Hafemann 1988: 53). Even in the olive tree illustration (11:17–24), Jewish and gentile branches continue to be distinguished (Das 2003: 107). . .
most commentators agree that the term πᾶς Ἰσραήλ should not be pressed to include every single Jew without exception. The term designates the majority of Jews. But what is remarkable here is the promise that Israel will be saved as a people (rightly Hvalvik 1990: 101). . .
All Israel represents a dramatic future salvation for Israel … [not the remnant–throughout -history interpretation] — 11:11–24 intimates that something more than the salvation of the remnant awaits Israel. As Das (2003: 108) says, “Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures the remnant within Israel was always a sign of hope for Israel as a whole.” The salvation of the remnant is partial, but Paul expects the “fullness” (πλήρωμα, plērōma, 11:12) of salvation for Israel and an “acceptance” (πρόσλημψις, proslēmpsis, v. 15) that outstrips anything that has occurred thus far. Similarly, the parable of the olive tree concludes with the expectation that the severed branches will be grafted on again, suggesting that a great number of Jews will turn back to Christ in faith. As Das (2003: 108) observes, the salvation of only a remnant isn’t the solution; it is actually the problem that called forth these chapters in the first place.
Bruce Hurt: The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes that All Israel will be saved does not mean that every Jew living at Christ’s return will be regenerated. Many of them will not be saved, as seen by the fact that the judgment of Israel, to follow soon after the Lord’s return, will include the removal of Jewish rebels (Ezekiel 20:34, 35, 36, 37, 38). Following this judgment God will then remove godlessness and sins from the nation as He establishes His New Covenant with regenerate Israel (cf. Jer. 31:33-34). (Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., et al: The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 1985. Victor )
R. Kent Hughes: No matter how insurmountable the difﬁculties, the land and the people will one day be reunited, and Israel will fulﬁll its destiny in Palestine.
D. (:26b-27) Prophetic Confirmation of God’s Covenant Commitment to Israel
- (:26b) Role of the Deliverer in Removing Ungodliness
“just as it is written,”
Greg Herrick: As sure as Israel’s hardening was God’s sovereign choice (cf. 11:7), so also is her ultimate salvation and restoration. God, according to His time and initiative, will send the Deliverer and fulfill His covenant with the nation as a whole. These promises he made with the nation primarily through Isaiah and Jeremiah.
a. Testified Ethnicity
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,”
James Dunn: What role Christ’s return would actually play in the end events is by no means clear, not least how it would “turn away ungodliness from Jacob” and how this fitted in with Israel’s being provoked to jealousy by the gentile influx. But a lack of clarity and precision on the interrelation of the end events is a feature of the early Christian eschatology and Paul presumably was no wiser on these matters. His contribution to the early Christian eschatological thought at this point is simply in the revelation given to him that Israel’s salvation is to be the climax of salvation-history, not a precise schedule or agenda of coming events.
b. Transformative Restoration
“He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
Greg Herrick: The salvation spoken of here for the Jews is not deliverance from her enemies at the return of Christ, but rather spiritual salvation. However, as Paul goes on to affirm, through Isaiah, this salvation will only come and be concomitant with her political deliverance through the Deliverer. Therefore, Israel’s final restoration to God is both spiritual and political and according to God’s gracious covenant with them (Gen.12:1-3; Dt. 30:1-10; Jer.31:31-34; contra Cranfield, 578).
Grant Osborne: The mention of Jacob seems to indicate that Paul has primarily the actual descendants of Abraham in mind, rather than the broader spiritual Israel of whom he had spoken previously.
- (:27) Realization of Covenant Promise of Forgiveness of Sins
“And this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
Frank Thielman: The salvation of Israel will happen in close proximity to the time when Jesus, the Son of David and Israel’s Messiah, comes again. He will deliver Israel from the wrath of God against sin and transform it into a society of justice and peace.
Paul supports his claim that all Israel will be saved with a composite quotation from Isaiah 59:20–21a and 27:9a. Isaiah 59 is part of an indictment against Israel for its sins, “which have made a separation between” Israel and God (59:2). The first section of the chapter details Israel’s sins, especially the violence, deceit, and legal injustice that characterized Israelite society (59:1–8). The second section is a confession that these charges are true (59:9–15a). The final section describes how God will come to establish the justice he had sought from his people and how he will do this, in part, by turning his people away from their impiety (59:15b–21).
For Paul, “the deliverer” (ὁ ῥυόμενος) who accomplishes this is Christ himself at his second coming (cf. 1 Thess 1:10). In the Hebrew text of Isaiah 59:20, he will come “to” (le) Zion, and in the LXX text he will come “for the sake of ” (ἕνεκεν) Zion, but in Paul’s text he will come “from” (ἐκ) Zion. Paul may have intended by this change to emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus: that, for example, he came “from [ἐκ] David’s offspring” (Rom 1:3) and “from” (ἐξ) Israel (Rom 9:5).
The deliverance Christ will bring to Israel involves not only salvation from the wrath of God (Rom 11:26a; cf. 1 Thess 1:10), but a transformation of society so that violence, deceit, and injustice no longer characterize it. According to Isaiah, this transformation will be accompanied by a covenant between God and his people that involves God enabling his people, by means of his Spirit, to communicate his revelation of himself to future generations (Isa 59:21b).
Immediately after citing Isaiah’s reference to “this . . . covenant” and before the prophet describes God’s covenant with Israel this way, Paul switches his attention to another part of Isaiah that allows him to describe God’s future covenant with Israel as one that takes away Israel’s various sins (Isa 27:9a). Paul may especially have had in mind the sinful behavior he attributed to Israel in 3:10–18, where he quoted Isaiah 59:7–8 (see Rom 3:15–16). He may also have been thinking of the sort of violence and injustice that some Jews used against the proclamation of the gospel (1 Thess 2:14–16; cf. Rom 11:3). Rather than a place where such “transgressions are multiplied” (Isa 59:12), Paul envisions a future Israel that will cultivate peace and justice (cf. 59:8).
Steven Cole: The forgiveness of sins is the primary need of every person —
Romans 11:27: “This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” Paul combines Isaiah 59:21 and 27:9 (see Moo, p. 729). “I take away their sins” reminds us that salvation is not primarily a psychological matter of moving from low self-esteem to proper self-esteem, as Robert Schuller claims. Nor is it a matter of Jesus helping you to succeed in your family life or career. Salvation meets our fundamental need to be reconciled with the holy God through His just forgiveness of all our sins through the death of Christ (Rom. 3:26).
II. (:28-29) GOD REMAINS COMMITTED TO ETHNIC ISRAEL
Greg Herrick: At this point, Paul begins to draw out and summarize the implications of all that he has just affirmed in vv.25-27 (Cranfield, 579). Again, he affirms that Israel has been set aside so that mercy may come to the Gentiles (cf.11:11,12,15; Murray, 100). But, because God has called her into existence through the patriarchs, He will most definitely fulfill His purpose for her. First, Paul deals with Israel’s present relation to the progress of the gospel and second, he relates all that he has said in 25-27 to God’s wonderful purpose of granting mercy to all.
A. (:28) Commitment Based on Sovereign Election and Divine Love
- Enemies Currently
“From the standpoint of the gospel
they are enemies for your sake,”
Greg Herrick: Therefore, since it is only for a time, the phrase according to the gospel must mean according to the progress of the gospel. That is, they are enemies at this time in the progress of carrying out of the gospel in the world, but in the future it will be this very same message that will save them as well (cf. Cranfield, 579). That the idea of time or progress is inherent in the according to (katav) preposition is even clearer when we consider the heavy emphasis on the element of time in this paragraph (cf. “until“) and indeed in the whole segment (9-11). So Paul says they are enemies for a time for your sake. This final phrase affirms that it was for the salvation of the Gentiles that Israel was hardened and is now considered an enemy by God (Bruce, 222; Murray, 100).
Grant Osborne: As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account. Paul is still speaking to the Gentiles in his audience (11:13). In order for God to bring the gospel to them, he had to set the Jews aside as if they were his enemies for having rejected the Good News.
As far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs. But as far as God’s choice, his election, is concerned, Israel is loved by God because of his covenants with the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because God chose those men through whom he would carry out his promises, he will keep his promises to their descendants.
- Endeared Ultimately
“but from the standpoint of God’s choice
they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;”
Frank Thielman: It is true that unbelieving Israel is, at the moment, God’s enemy, but two qualifications temper the enmity between them. This enmity has a saving purpose, and it will one day yield to the fulfillment of God’s loving commitment to Israel’s forebears.
Greg Herrick: All that Paul is saying is that God chose to freely bestow His love on the fathers and gave them promises to which He will remain faithful.
B. (:29) Commitment Based on the Faithfulness of God
“for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
John MacArthur: So, Paul here is seeing not only the sovereignty of God as he works history to the salvation of Israel, but the integrity of God as He fulfills His promise. He has the integrity to keep His word. So we do not judge God by the standard of men. We don’t worry about whether God can pull the plan off. And we don’t worry whether God can keep His promise, like we do about men, because God is a covenant-keeping God who is absolutely sovereign. And those two fit together so beautifully.
Greg Herrick: That God will indeed be faithful is clear for the gifts and call of God are irrevocable. The term for (gavr) indicates that Paul is now giving the reason as to why Israel is still beloved by God. She is so, because God has purposed to bless her. The gifts (carivsmata) spoken of here refer to those enumerated in 9:4, 5 (Murray, 101; Black, 163) which include the privileges mentioned therein. Israel will experience final adoption, Divine glory, temple worship (cf. Ezek. 40-48), the promises and abundant blessings through Christ in the Millennial reign. It depends upon the faithfulness of God (3:3; Num.23:19). The call (klh`si“) of God or God’s calling refers to His bringing into existence and preservation of the nation for a special purpose and role in history (Cranfield, 581). Not only did Yahweh create her to bring forth the Messiah (Gen.12:3), but He also used her in many ways, perhaps not the least of which is as a demonstration to Satan that He is in fact in control of the destiny of this planet. Israel’s gifts and calling, Paul says, are irrevocable (ajmetamevlhta); something God will never change His mind on or regret. The term occurs only one other time in the N.T., in 2 Cor. 7:10 where it is used to refer to a person who does not regret experiencing sorrow that leads to salvation. It carries the same meaning in extra-biblical writings. Here Paul places the word first in it’s clause, in order to emphasize his point regarding God’s unwavering commitment to Israel.
James Dunn: God is faithful to the covenant relationship he first established with Abraham and his seed. God has not withdrawn from the commitment to Israel into which he entered at his own initiative. The word “irrevocable” is given particular emphasis, not as a description of God’s character or dealings in general, but with specific reference to his purpose of salvation. He who foresees the end from the beginning does not need to tailor his election to the changing circumstances of Israel’s belief and unbelief; rather the course pursued by Israel has to be seen as falling within that original election, part of the original purpose.
III. (:30-32) GOD DELIGHTS IN SHOWING MERCY TO THE DISOBEDIENT =
THE HEART OF HIS REDEMPTIVE PLAN FOR BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES
A. (:30-31) Mercy for Both Disobedient Gentiles and Jews
- (:30) For Gentiles
“For just as you once were disobedient to God,
but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,”
- (:31) For Jews
“so these also now have been disobedient, in order that
because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.”
Frank Thielman: God will actually use Israel’s disobedience as the means by which he will, in the end, be faithful to his promises to them. Their disobedience has opened a door of opportunity for gentiles to hear and believe the gospel, but this influx of gentiles into God’s people will eventually result in God’s mercy flowing to all Israel as well. . .
His “now” here in 11:31, therefore, refers to the closing period of history in which he understood himself to be living, a period that included both the proclamation of the gospel to the gentiles and, eventually, Israel’s salvation.
Greg Herrick: The problem in this passage revolves around the second now. The whole point of what Paul has been saying is that at the present time (if now be understood chronologically) Israel has not been shown mercy. Does this now contradict that? Some take the now to refer to the availability of blessing to Israel at any time, even now (Black, 163). But this minimizes the eschatological nature of the blessing to come to Israel that Paul has so emphasized in this passage. A better way to see the now is to regard it as a logical, eschatological now. That is, because of what God is doing with the Gentiles, now (i.e. thus or as a result) Israel may receive mercy. In other words, now that God has been merciful to the Gentiles, He can logically turn back to the Jews. Israel will experience this mercy at the parousia (cf. Cranfield, 586).
Grant Osborne: In these verses, Paul shows how the Jews and the Gentiles benefit each other. Whenever God shows mercy to one group, the other shares the blessing. In God’s original plan, the Jews would be the source of God’s blessing to the Gentiles (see Genesis 12:3). When the Jews neglected this mission, God blessed the Gentiles anyway through the Jewish Messiah. He still maintained his love for the Jews because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (“on account of the patriarchs”). But someday the faithful Jews will share in God’s mercy. God’s plans will not be thwarted; he will “have mercy on them all” (11:32).
James Dunn: For what Paul calls Jewish disobedience would be regarded by most of his Jewish contemporaries as Jewish obedience. So the turning of the tables is by no means simply a case of Jew and Gentile exchanging roles, but also of Jewish misunderstanding being set right thereby. Paul’s confident hope is that the fact of “disobedient” Gentiles receiving mercy will shock his fellow Jews into a recognition that their “obedience” is in fact disobedience to the word of faith (10:16, 21). By coming to see that their exclusive claim to God’s covenanted mercy was what was actually disqualifying them from that mercy, they would become open once again to receiving that mercy as sheer mercy, mercy to the disobedient. This interaction of Jewish disobedience, resulting in Gentiles receiving mercy, resulting in Jews at large receiving the same mercy, is already in play, part of the eschatological “now” already in train, and shortly to reach its consummation just as soon as the sound of the gospel already winging its way to the limits of the inhabited world (10:18) has resulted in the incoming of the full number of Gentiles.
B. (:32) Mercy for All Disobedient God’s Elect
“For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.”
Frank Thielman: In the gospel, God has demonstrated definitively that both Jews and Gentiles have been disobedient to him, and he has demonstrated this so that Jews and Gentiles alike might receive his merciful forgiveness for their disobedience. . .
Since Paul’s “all” occurs in a context where the discussion has focused on the different roles that various people groups have played and will play in God’s historical purposes, it refers not to every individual but to all kinds of people, whether Israelites or non-Israelites.
Everett Harrision: The conclusion of the whole matter is that God magnified his mercy by the very fact of disobedience, binding all men over to it (cf. 3:9) that he might have mercy on all. So disobedience does not have the last word (cf. Gal 3:22).
James Dunn: God has confined human beings to disobedience precisely because it is only to the disobedient that he can show mercy. Men and women cannot receive God’s mercy so long as they rely on anything else, their own wisdom or status (by virtue of ethnic identity or cultic practice), so long as they think they are being obedient. To shut them up in disobedience is to bring home to them their own creatureliness, is to open them to mercy.
Thomas Schreiner: The revisiting of mercy on Israel after such an interval serves to remind Israel that God’s saving favor is truly mercy, not something they deserve because of their ethnic heritage. Just as God has chosen to extend mercy to the gentiles in the present era, so too in conformity with his ancient promises he pledges to shower his grace on Israel again in the future.
John MacArthur: Another thing that is cause for us to praise God, and this is such a wonderful glorious truth is God’s generosity. And the key word in this section, verses 30 to 32, is the word “mercy.” It’s used several times. “For as ye in time past have not believed God yet now have obtained mercy through their unbelief, even so have these also now not believed that through Your mercy they also may obtain mercy, for God hath included them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all.” Now the word “mercy” speaks of God’s generosity. It implies here that salvation is not something we deserve but something we don’t deserve, undeserved goodness. Mercy is God withholding punishment when it is deserved. Mercy is God granting forgiveness when it is not deserved. Mercy is tender compassion and love.