In these chapters, we hear Paul's heart cry out for his people. Paul is a Jew and has spent his entire life in devotion to his faith and his people. Accepting that Jesus is Messiah did not change that. Paul's discussion in this section of Romans shows us his struggle to reconcile the firm belief that the Jews remain God's chosen people, with the reality that so many were rejecting the Messiah that Paul held dear.
Paul asks several questions that must have come from deep in his own soul: has the word of God failed; is God unfair; where did it all go wrong; can it ever be made right?
Paul gives his answers by quoting the Old Testament scriptures, pointing out the inconsistency of God's people in the past, God's sovereignty, and His faithfulness to always preserve a remnant. Paul doesn't seem to need a resolution to the free-will versus destiny argument. On one hand he says belief does not "depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Ro 9:16). Then he turns and says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Ro 10:13) followed by a discourse on how to call first they must hear; to hear someone must preach; to preach someone must be sent.
We have a difficulty with this kind of tension in the text. Most of us will grab on to the verses that support our theological perspective on predestination or free-will. Perhaps the better path is to let go of fear and understand that there are mysteries that we will never understand.
Throughout this discussion, Paul does an amazing job of pointing to hope. He has hope that God will reserve a remnant. He has hope that some of his fellow Jews have accepted Jesus as Messiah. He has hope that God is still holding out his hands to His people, even if they are disobedient. He points to a day when all the requisite Gentiles will come to faith so that in the end all of Israel will be saved. His hope is based on the triumphant Grace of God which has never failed to receive His people.
Paul ends this whole section with a prayer:
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?'
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." (Ro 11:33-36).
Because of this prayer, I have hope. Even if we don't understand all that God is doing, all of his plans for us, we can base our hope on his Grace. We can stand confidently on the knowledge that nothing is beyond his reach and all belongs to him. Our praise can flow from that hope and confidence, fueling our lives for love and service.