“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. (Romans 11:11, KJV 1900).
When I was a young boy, my dad took my brother and I surf fishing for striped-bass off the Jersey shore. That first day, my brother caught a 31-inch 10 ½ pound fish. The one I caught was just over 18 inches long. Oh the teasing I received on the way home. My brother said that his fish could have eaten my fish. Well, I must admit, I was jealous. My jealousy made me more determined than ever to continue on, to be a better fisherman. I wanted to catch that big fish. The following week we went fishing again. This time, I hooked up to a striped-bass. It was 31 inches long and weighed 10 ½ pounds. My jealously had a provoked me in a positive way.
Paul here speaks of Israel’s stumbling, which resulted in salvation coming to the Gentiles. Consider for a second, how the Jews would have felt about the Gentiles entering into an eternal relationship with their God. I imagine that that would have been quite irksome to them. I also feel that, if they truly understood that the Gentiles entered by true faith and they were excluded because they lacked such faith, that they would be jealous of the Gentiles. Here, Paul indicates that there is a positive side to this jealousy. He indicates that the blessing of salvation coming to the Gentiles, would provoke the Jews to jealousy. Moreover, this provoking of the Jews would bring some to saving faith in Jesus as their Messiah (v14).
We who believe have a vital part in the salvation of the Jewish people. We cannot afford to be arrogant towards the Jews. The reason for this is threefold. First, salvation came to us through Israel and their rejection made salvation possible for us. Secondly, we are saved by the unmerited favor of God’s grace alone; He saved us who were not seeking him. Thirdly, we have been saved to provoke the Jews to jealousy so they might be saved.
In this role of provoking them to jealousy, we have a vitally important role. The only way we can fulfill this role is by demonstrating a genuine heart for God. We must be the real-deal. I have spoken to Jewish people who state they do not see in professing Christians a true understanding of God’s transcendence. They state that most Christians they know do not seem any different from those of the world. If we are to provoke them to jealousy for what we have in our relationship with God, we must stand out as salt and light in a fallen and dark world (Matt 5:13-16).