30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works (Romans 9).
The word “arrive” here not only means simply getting somewhere, but can actually mean to get somewhere first. This makes sense here because of the word “pursue” being used, which means “to run after,” as if in a race. Paul is picturing a race between Jew and Gentile — a race toward righteousness.
Between the 6th-7th centuries B.C., Aesop’s Fables were written, one of which depicted a rabbit and a turtle in a race. We know it as The Tortoise and the Hare. Surprisingly, the slow-moving turtle beat the fast-running-but-distracted rabbit to the finish line. It is much the same here. Israel (who even had a jump on the Gentiles) became distracted by the Law, and thus, while running by works, failed to cross the finish line of righteousness before the Gentiles, who had run by faith. The moral of the story is: pursuing works instead of faith will always slow you down in the race toward righteousness.
Lord, help us to see that the race we are in is no fable, and nothing to trifle with. Help us This Day to pursue righteousness in the right way. Though we be as slow as turtles, still, help us to run hard with faith, and not works. Amen.