Tuesday of Holy Week
So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs for ever.” (Romans 11:5-10)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Exodus 14; Psalm 80; Romans 11:1–10
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2kNMlfU
We rarely like to hear of God “hardening hearts,” as if people’s rejection of him is because God has willed it or desired it. As Paul ponders why some Jews have received God’s grace in Jesus and others have not, he understands that some were hardened against it. How may we understand this “hardening?”
I have explained such hardening as God giving people what they want. If there are those who have rejected Christ and want no part of him, perhaps God gives them what they desire, hardening their hearts so that they cannot hear the gospel. There is no reaching some people, so there is a hardening, a closing of the mind and the ears. Paul remembers that the Scriptures say, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that should not see and ears that should not hear.” David said, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs [give them a burden] for ever.”
Of course, neither Paul nor David knew the mind and will of God. Neither knew clearly that God hardened the hearts of those in Israel who wouldn’t receive Jesus and have faith in him. They did, however, wish to understand how it could be that God’s own people could turn away from him and the fulfillment of his plan for salvation. It had to be, it was thought, that they turned away and, as a consequence, God hardened them against the good news. How else could one explain those who refuse to believe?
We might conclude the same in our day as we see family members, friends and acquaintances who reject God and his saving work in Jesus Christ. Some are so opposed to the good news of salvation that there is a “hardness” against Jesus. Perhaps David and Paul had it right.
Does this mean that God doesn’t desire a softening in these persons? Does this mean that God gives them over to their lack of belief and faith? We know that God desires that the world be saved, through Jesus. We know that God intends that all turn to Jesus and live. So, let us pray that the hardness in some will be softened and they come to faith!
Prayer: Lord God, soften the hearts of all who fail to believe, and bring them to Jesus. Amen.
Holy Week Response: Pray all week, fervently, for one or two persons who do not believe.
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.