19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
1901 ASV Translation:
19 But I say, Did Israel not know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation, With a nation void of understanding will I anger you.
20 And Isaiah is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I became manifest unto them that asked not of me.
21 But as to Israel he saith, All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
I. Paul's Rationale For Universal Knowledge.
A. He raised the question as to whether "they did not hear" (10:18). His answer was, "they did hear; it is impossible to live in creation and not 'hear'." He made this claim in the face of several realities including the fact that 'hearing' is a multi-tiered issue with a range of specificity that runs from the exceedingly general to the amazingly specific. The dogmatic assertion that "they did hear" is not a claim that everyone has heard all of the details of a very specific revelation. It is, rather, a claim that enough was heard to elicit a response for which the responder is personally responsible (Romans 1:20).
1. Let us be clear: God does not "owe" anyone an opportunity to hear from Him (Creators are independent of obligation to their creations; obligation is created by a power greater than the "obliged"; creatures cannot surpass their Creator to attain to the power to "oblige"). However the opposite is true: creatures do "owe" their Creator a legitimate "hearing", i.e., the willingness to listen to what He says and act responsibly in regard to it. Thus, if God extends the grace of "hearing" to one of His creatures and that creature refuses to respond properly, there is no basis for any kind of argument that He "owes" them another hearing, and another, and another, so that He becomes a cosmic nag who keeps telling men what they do not wish to hear.
2. Therefore, if any man is "lost" it is because he has refused to "hear" and respond in a way that is suitable to his station as "creature" and to the revelation as "truth". It is immaterial to the issue as to why any creature might refuse to listen to his Creator. That he refuses qualifies him for judgment because there is no valid basis for a creature to say "no" to his Creator. But what if the Creator "programs" him to only say "no"? Is he then not culpable for saying "no"? Of course not. No created thing is "culpable" when it/he does what he is created to do. But at this point we must ask: is it possible for God to create personality with a preprogrammed inability to make alternative choices? Does not personality, by definition, include the ability to make alternative choices? If it does not, what is "personality"? If it does, does "personality" not then ineluctably carry the weight of responsibility for the choices made? Is it God's "fault" that the permission of "choice" results in rebellion? Where does ultimate responsibility lie? Is it in the "result" or in the initial "effect"? With men, if a "result" is bad, it is God's fault and if that "result" is good, it is man's of which to boast. But is this even rational, let alone "right"? With God, "person" means someone with the power to make alternative choices (among other things; choice is not the only characteristic of personality). And with God, the exercise of "power" carries the responsibility of what that exercise brings to pass. All of creation tells us of the universality of cause and effect; no one can live in creation and not know that "doing" creates "results". And "knowing" generates "responsibility". Thus, when a "person" knows that doing will have consequences, he/she is responsible for what happens consequentially to action that he/she takes.
B. He responded to his own general question of universal knowledge with a second question that was specific to Israel: was Israel ignorant?
1. Obviously, if "all" heard, Israel heard.
2. Thus, it is impossible that Israel was ignorant.
3. So why go there?
a. First, because Israel is the focus of Paul's longing in the opening statements of this part of his argument (10:1).
b. Second, because Israel had not only been given the general revelation of universal hearing, but the very specific revelation of much of what God had done and intends to do. In other words, Israel, of all peoples on the planet, was the least unaware. Yet, the record is that Israel did no better than the general run of mankind. In other words, a vastly more specific revelation accomplished no more than a very limited general revelation. Thus, we must conclude that it is not what is "known" that is critical, but what, of that "known", is "believed". And, drawing that conclusion, we are immediately aware that "faith" is the issue. And Israel did not believe.
c. Third, because, according to Moses, "going there" is a part of the process of bringing Israel to faith. In Deuteronomy 32:21 Moses records God as saying, "I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation." The words just prior to this quote are these: "they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith" (32:20). But, a bit further along, Yahweh said He would "repent Himself for His servants" when the process had completely broken them down (32:36). But, for this part of Paul's argument, his point is simple: God had told Israel through Moses, early on, that He was going to "provoke them to jealousy" and "provoke them to anger" by bringing in a different "nation" to replace them in His affections. This meant, for Paul, that Israel "knew" that "the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Romans 10:12). Thus, there is no "excuse" for Israel's refusal to call. Paul picks up this thread in the next chapter and claims that it is God's "provocation" of them that will, ultimately, result in their salvation.
d. Fourth, according to Isaiah, the problem was not a lack of "hearing" because God said in Isaiah 65:1-2 that He would say to a "nation that was not called by His name", "Behold Me; Behold Me" and this foreign nation would "find" Him Whom they had not sought because Israel was too rebellious against what it heard from Him to respond properly. But, this very action would, as Moses predicted, ultimately result in Israel's conversion (65:9).
4. This conclusion that we draw is, then, this: though "knowing" is not the bottom line, it is very much a part of the process.