“… I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” Deuteronomy 32:21b. “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Romans 10:19. (E.S.V. here and throughout.)
The “them/you” in these citations is the assembly Israel addressed by Moses shortly before his death. These are the people who had lived through the 40 years of wilderness wandering and were about to enter the Promised Land.
God, through Moses, is telling his chosen people, even before they secure the territory of their Promised Land, that they will be made jealous and provoked to anger by a people/nation they consider alien/foreign, i.e., not children of Israel/Jacob.
Today many Christians, rather than make Israel jealous or provoked to anger, join arms with them as if both are communing with God. This ignores the clear teaching in the New Testament.
First and foremost is Jesus’ own declaration at John 14:6 : “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is an unequivocal declaration that there is only one way to God. The only way is through Jesus. Note that Jesus and his audience were children of Israel.
In the book of Acts, this truth is declared to Israel on several occasions. On the day of Pentecost, Peter addresses a crowd he calls “men of Israel,” Acts 2:22, telling them in detail how this Jesus has been made “both Lord and Christ by God,” having been “exalted at the right hand of God.” Acts 2:33 & 36. For the full text, read Acts 2:14-41.
Peter again addresses Israel at Acts 3:11-26 when explaining the healing of a lame man by faith in Jesus “whom God raised from the dead.” In Acts 4:1-22, Peter is asked by the Jewish leadership to explain this. At verse 12 he boldly states that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” The “we” in that statement was those he was addressing and those with him. All were men of Israel. Peter’s point was that the Jesus who was crucified, was raised from the dead and is now with God.
He is with the God that all Israel sought, and the way to that God is this Jesus.
John speaks to this in a different context in 1 John 4:1-6. There, he is dealing with the topic of false prophets. He indicates that, if you do not acknowledge that Jesus is from God, that is the spirit of the antichrist. He is saying you must believe that Jesus is who he said he is. You must believe that he is the same Jesus that the Apostles lived with for three years and now teach about. You have to trust this particular Jesus. Any other Jesus is antichrist.
Returning to Acts, chapter 7 records Stephen’s speech to the reassembled council that Peter and John had addressed on an earlier day. He goes into lengthy detail to address Israel’s history. He concludes at verses 52 and 53: “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” He is telling them that, when they (through the Romans) killed Jesus, they killed God’s Righteous One. The council responded by having him stoned to death. Note that Stephen was also a man of Israel.
At Stephen’s stoning, giving approval of the execution, was Saul, later known as Paul. Acts 8:1.
It is noteworthy that he didn’t just give his approval to Stephen’s stoning, he began “ravishing the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” Acts 8:3. He zealously persecuted believers in Jesus. He saw them as an affront to God, the God of Israel. He saw them as apostate.
This attitude of Saul, at and following the stoning of Stephen, must be kept in mind when he later writes Romans. Something happened between that stoning and the writing of Romans. The Saul who actively persecuted believers in Jesus was now writing to them to encourage them. The “something” that happened to him is recorded in Acts 9:1-31: he is encountered by Jesus. He is transformed by the Jesus he had been persecuting. Read Acts 9:1-31 and Galatians 1:11-24.
This Saul, who so zealously persecuted believers in Jesus because he saw them as apostate, addresses the issue of Israel and the Church in chapter 11 of Romans. He begins at verse 1 by identifying himself as “an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” At verse 11 he writes, “So I ask, did they (Israel) stumble in order they they might fall? By no means!
Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”
That is, the “Gentiles” are the “people/nation” in the Deuteronomy and Roman passages cited at the beginning of this article. The point that Paul is making is that the Gentiles faith in God through Jesus is supposed to be making Israel jealous. They should see and understand that Christians are embracing the God of the Old Testament, and that God is embraced through, and only through, the Jesus of the New Testament. This is supposed to make them jealous such that they recognize that the way to God is through the Jesus who appeared to Saul.
He goes on to emphasize this positive effect of jealously when he writes at verses 13 and 14 that “I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” This is the loving thing for him to do. He wants his fellow Jews to know God the only way they can, i.e., through Jesus. He is the only way to the Father. John 14:6.
When Paul makes this point concerning his fellow Jews, God’s chosen people, how can we possibly think that there is an alternate way to God for any individual, race or group. If the only way the chosen people can get to God is through Jesus, it is preposterous to think that there could be a different way for other people(s).
Bringing this home to us, the loving thing for everyone we know is to want for them knowledge of God through Jesus, the Jesus of the New Testament. There is no other way. There is one way. “… For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord.