Rom 10:18-21 “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
Paul described in verses fourteen through seventeen the process by which we hear the gospel. Hearing comes by the word of God, and faith follows. Notice he did not say that faith came from hearing the word of God. It is vitally important to our understanding of the gospel to realize that only by God can we hear the report.
Paul now points again to his brethren who have a zeal of God but lack the righteousness of faith. He declares quite plainly that they have heard the gospel. If they have heard the gospel, then it is because God has sent to them someone to preach the gospel. In this we begin to see the responsibility we have to obey the gospel.
God chooses, according to His own purpose, who will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is more to hearing than having the physical capacity to perceive and understand spoken language. To truly hear the word of God, He must unstop our deaf ears and give us spiritual understanding. While this does not necessarily mean that we are going to obey the gospel, it does show that God has given us the spiritual life necessary to hear and to have the capacity to obey.
Israel had been given God’s word. He had written His laws in the tables of stone and given them to Moses to take to Israel. But remember that God had delivered them from Egyptian bondage before He gave them this law. In the same manner, He delivered us from our dead state in sin before He expected us to hear or adhere to the preaching of His word.
Israel had heard His word, but many of them still wanted to do things their own way. Just as it takes life to obey, it also takes life to rebel. We should never take God’s longsuffering as a display of weakness or inability on His part. He was not indicating that He was begging Israel to do something that He was incapable of bringing to pass without their assistance.
He was showing here His loving patience to a disobedient people, just as He still does today. He is still found by people who were not looking for Him in any active sense of the word. This is an act of His grace, both to those who are not looking for Him and to those who have heard His word. Often God stirs us from our complacency in our service to greater efforts when we see His miraculous grace displayed those who were not seeking Him.
God can and will use His children who are newly come to the righteousness of faith to provoke us who have lost the knowledge of our zeal. The word translated as jealous means “to excite to rivalry.” This does not mean that God causes an adversarial relationship to exist. Instead, He uses the fresh zeal of others to rekindle in us the desire to obey His word and apply our zeal to His service.
God forbid that we should ever see Him as unable to perform His will in our lives!