Romans 11:25 (see also Psalm 95:8; Isaiah 6:9-10; John 12:40)
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
There is some question about the meaning of the word “partial.” Is it partial in terms of the scope and number of those being hardening (as in only a portion of Israel being hardened), or partial in terms of the effect of the hardening (in terms of whether it is partial or total, and perhaps irrevocable). Nevertheless, this issue of the partial Jewish hardening is the subject matter of Romans chapter 9. So what is it?
Question: What is the Hardening?
Answer: To answer what is the hardening, you need to look at who was hardened. Pharaoh was hardened by God, and who also hardened himself. This can be done because God warned Israel not to do it. (Psalm 95:8) The Jews were hardened according to Isaiah 6:9-10, and perhaps was fulfilled at John 12:40, and confirmed by Paul at Romans 11:25. There are two reasons why to believe that the hardening is not a fixed permanent state. Even though Paul was fully aware of the hardening, he still prayed for them (Romans 10:1), which would make no sense if he thought that it was a permanent condition. Jesus was also fully aware of the hardening, but still encouraged people, in that although they may deny Him (evidence of the hardening), to nevertheless look at the testimony of His miracles, which would then lead them back to Him. (John 10:38) Jesus states: “...though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” Therefore, if the hardening is not a permanent state, as these examples would suggest, then perhaps the hardening can be understood as being pitfalls that people are naturally drawn to, resulting from valuing the wrong things. If the Jews valued power and sovereignty, and a mighty ruling Messiah, rather than a caring and humble Messiah, then the presentation of a humble and caring Jesus would trigger their natural pitfalls. Jesus said that although they outwardly professed God, they were inwardly far from Him. (Matthew 15:8) One way in which God hardened the Jews was by having Jesus perform miracles on the Sabbath. Jesus could have performed miracles on any other day, but God specifically chose that day, in order to expose, in them, something that wasn’t right with God. The effect is that some were convicted by their conscience while others were hardened against Him.
Question: So how can one counter-act against those things which lead to a hardening?
Answer: Prayer. The Jews of today will maintain elements of their own heritage, but while not considering where their heritage was pointing, which was to the coming Messiah. However, Orthodox Jews of today have refused to believe that Jesus is that Messiah, but if pressed, it becomes hard to dismiss. For instance, the Jews celebrate The Passover, but Jesus is the Passover Lamb. So are the Jews still sacrificing animals today, such as in the days of old? No, they’ve stopped. And that’s because Jesus is the Passover Lamb. So the question to ask Jews is this: From what are you deriving forgiveness from your sin? One Jew explained that they were purified by their temple priest. But that’s not consistent with the Old Testament. It’s not consistent with the animal sacrifices that were performed right up through the time of Jesus’ day. So temple purification does not add up to historical Judiasm, and that’s when you can point to Isaiah 53. Now having said that, the Jews will either be convicted in their conscience, or be hardened by famous proof-texts against Jesus, which proof-texts, that the Pharisees used against His disciples. (Matthew 17:10) So a person is then faced with a choice: one which leads to repentance, and another that leads to an even stronger resolve against Him, and Paul knew these things, and took action through prayer. Moreover, Jesus took action for Peter through prayer. Prayer is the action, necessary for intervention on behalf of those hardened.