33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom 11:33 NASB)
At the conclusion of his discourse regarding God’s dealings with Israel throughout history, Paul erupts in praise as he contemplates the ‘mystery of Israel’ in light of God’s original and ongoing plan for them.
The marvelous storyline – past and future – of God’s dealings with Israel is meant to be an anchor of our faith rather than simply be the peripheral doctrine as it seems to be today. Israel’s original calling (and ultimately ours as well!) was always presented within the context of fallen creation and the promise of a restoration. Israel is called to be a unique and separate people who will reign with the Messiah in the age to come after the eschatological Day of the Lord which inaugurates the age to come.
In this age, however, they become the people entrusted with the types and shadows of those things which will characterize the age to come in the ‘restoration of all things’ (cf. Acts 3:21). The law and the temple are very difficult for the modern mind to understand, but they were always understood within the Jewish mind as a ‘down payment’ of the age to come. In the age to come the ‘law will go forth out of Zion’ (cf. Is. 2:3), and the ‘man whose name is the Branch…He will build the temple of the LORD.’ (cf. Zech. 6:12)
At the center of their holy stewardship was the City of the Great King. The actual physical location from which the Messianic LORD is going to govern in the age to come was entrusted to them. While the Patriarchs had only brief encounters with the City (called ‘Salem’ prior to David’s lifetime, cf. Gen. 11 Melchizedek, priest/king of Salem), it was David’s kingdom which first occupied the City in Israel’s history. Their presence in the land was always presented as a privilege and special calling from the Lord since the land is HIS. ‘the land is Mine…’ Lev. 25:23
Moreover, healing and miraculous provision were given to them to testify of the day when the curse upon man (death) and the curse upon the ground (unfruitfulness) would be reversed and result in bodies that don’t decay (cf. I Cor. 15) and an earth that yields it’s fruit. (cf. Zech. 8:2)
However, this stewardship demonstrated the reality of all men – that we are ALL thoroughly depraved, and have no place in the age to come. This is the context for the mystery. God knew this from the beginning, and thus all of His dealings with them were in relation to an ultimate remedy to the sin and pride of His beloved creation. In part 3 we will talk about ‘salvation’ and ‘righteousness’ for Israel within this context.