The book Israel Matters is now out. Here is an excerpt:
I will never forget the day that I stumbled upon Paul’s insistence that Jews who rejected Jesus were still beloved by God and that God kept his covenant with them as a people. He told the church in Rome that “they are enemies of God because of how they treat you [Gentile and Jewish believers in Jesus]” but they “are still beloved of God because of their forefathers” and “because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:28-29).
I had always assumed that Paul was talking only about Jews in the past, before Jesus came. But as I looked more closely, it became clear that Paul was talking about Jews in his own day who had heard his preaching of Jesus and rejected it.
These Jesus-rejecting Jews “are beloved” to God, he said. Not “were beloved” but “are beloved.” Not past but present tense. Even though they chose not to believe the gospel, they are still beloved to God. God still loves them. And not in the way that God loves all people, but with a special kind of love. That is clear from Paul’s long discussion of Jews in Romans 9 through 11.
Their “gifts and calling” were still in place. Their “calling” was their covenant, when God called Abraham to a special relationship with himself, so that he and all of his descendants would be his chosen people.
Paul used the word “covenants” explicitly in this passage where he discusses the majority-Jewish rejection of the gospel: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart . . . for my kinsmen according to the flesh . . . because to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants . . . and the promises” (Rom 9: 2-4).
At first I was confused by Paul’s reference to (plural) covenants. Then I saw that Jesus spoke of “the blood of the covenant” (Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24), suggesting there was only one fundamental (Abrahamic) covenant and that the other covenants, such as the Mosaic and Davidic covenants, were aspects of that one basic covenant with Abraham.