In Romans 9-11, Paul explains the reversal and irony of those who do not pursue justification by works of the Law but rather have faith in Christ alone; they are the ones who experience the Deuteronomic blessings. Those who focus their efforts on being saved through following the Torah are the ones who experience the Deuteronomic curses (Pate et al. 218). Thus, since the Israelites are the ones that follow the Torah, they do not have faith in Christ, and so Paul discusses Israel’s rejection of Jesus by paralleling their lack of faith in Jesus with their lack of faith in the Law. Romans 9:31-33 states,
…but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.’
Romans 10:3-4 states, “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Pate et al. explain these verses by pointing out that Israel misunderstood the Law. God’s intent of the Law was that it was to be pursued by faith and not by an individual’s own works righteousness based system. As the verses portray, Israel was guilty of lacking such faith, and this lack of faith was perpetuated in Israel’s rejection of Jesus (219).
Furthermore, the Israelites rejected Jesus because they failed to recognize “the dynamic activity of God whereby he brings people into relationship with himself” (Moo 633). This is the righteousness of God that is presented in Romans, and so as the Israelites were ignorant of the righteousness of God, they failed to submit to his righteousness because they were individually seeking a righteousness that was based on their keeping the law (Moo 636).
Moo, Douglas J. “The Epistle to the Romans” Stonehouse, Ned Bernard, et al. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1974.
Pate, C. Marvin et al. The Story of Israel: a Biblical Theology. Inter-Varsity Press, 2004.