As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.(Romans 9:25-29)
Paul is trying to resolve the theological problem raised by the fact that Israel, for the most part, doesn’t recognize the New covenant of God, announced by Jeremiah the prophet and attested to by the Law and the prophets. From the ends of the earth, Gentiles have been flocking to the God of Israel, and the Jewish messiah,Jesus, but only a trickle of Jews has come to worship.
Those who had closely read the prophecies of Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel would not have been surprised that only a small remnant of Jews would make the transition from Old to New Covenant. This is spite of the fact that the New Covenant is expressly for “…The house of Israel and the house of Judah…”.
Paul cites Hosea, who announced the repudiation of Israel as God’s people for a season, and then predicted their reinstatement as “the children of the Living God”. Hosea predicted that for a long time, Israel would be disenfranchised, exiled, and out of the Divine favor, other than a small believing remnant;
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without seraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.(Hosea 3:4-5)
Hosea predicted a hopeful end for Israel, however, Afterward,Hosea saw that Israel would return,(from exile, and repent), turning again to the Lord in the latter days.But in the meantime, a “non-people” would receive the Divine Attention once reserved for Israel.There is nothing new about this,the prophets predicted the mystery of the Judeo/Gentile church.
Hosea was echoing the prophet Moses, who by the Spirit warned that due to the continued Idolatry of His favored people God would turn to another, less favored ‘people’, a non-people, a foolish nation.
They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.(Deuteronomy 32:21)
Isaiah also witnessed that though Israel and Judah had been degraded by sin, and their rulers were the new “…Rulers of Sodom and Gommorah…”, The Lord would not totally make an end of them, as He did the original Sodom and Gommorah. The LORD would preserve a remnant, a small holdout, picturesquely described by Isaiah as;
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.(Isaiah 1:8)
Paul quotes Isaiah again, when he proclaims that a remnant shall return,(repent) and that this in itself is an “overflowing” act of Righteousness, by the LORD.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.(Isaiah 10:20-23)
The fact that the once predominantly Jewish church, had become in a short time overwhelmingly gentile, should have come as no surprise to the ones who knew the Prophets.
Remember that Claudius expelled the Jews of Rome for five years. When the Messianic Jews returned to the church in Rome, it was a growing, exploding congregation of gentile believers in Jesus, none of whom had any background in the Law,Prophets, the Temple, Torah, or any of the other preparatory tools the Lord had vouchsafed to Israel.
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.(Romans 9:30)
What were these former pagans, idolaters and even animists looking for when they stumbled into the gospel of the crucified Savior? What could they have seen in the Jewish carpenter who substituted himself for the sins of the whole world?
When the Gentiles heard the mystery of the empty tomb, and of the risen one who had recently been pronounced dead and embalmed, but who now lives, what did the ‘foolish’ newly formed nation of ‘non-people’ expect to find?
The answer; Eternal life, reality and meaning in this once empty life, Truth which set them free from their own sins and degraded passions. In the process of believing and accepting the Gospel they found Righteousness, a Right standing with God, by faith in Jesus.
It never occurred to them to seek for Righteousness, but in the gospel they found it and came into it, among other unspeakable treasures..
Ironically the vast majority of the Jewish nation, the chosen, prepared, schooled and disciplined people of Abraham,Isaac and Jacob thought of little else than how to obtain Righteousness. Their sages taught them that if all of Israel would just repent on the same day, then the Most High would bring in the Kingdom to the world! The prayers of the Jews and their liturgies are full of pleadings for Rightousness with God.
Obsessed as they were (and some are) with ‘Righteousness’, Israel has come short of it to this day, because they stumble over the only God appointed means of Righteousness – simple faith and trust in the Messiah.
Thus for the present, The ‘non people’ are currently in possession of something they weren’t even aware of, whereas the “people” are currently on the outside,looking in hungrily and a bit jealously. But thankfully, not for too much longer.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.(Romans 9:31-33)