Paul here again shows his love and concern for others; here especially the Jews. He prays with all his hear t that they would be saved. He points out that they have a zeal for God but it’s not taking them in the right direction. In other words they have speed but their steering is off and they’ve gone off the road. Paul himself knows what that is like. In Galatians 1:14 he talks about his religious zeal and how it was taking him the wrong way, even to where he was causing Christians to come to harm.
Paul talks about righteousness and the law. The law has a purpose but the Jews were using it for the wrong purpose. We all have used something in a way other than what it was intended for. I saw a talent show once in which teenage boys used shopping carts in an unusual way. They were riding in the carts and pushing each other in them to play bumper cars (I think set to music). It was a creative use of shopping carts; they weren’t intended to be used that way. Similarly Paul is saying that the law is intended to show us our need for Christ. “Christ is the end of the Law” he says (v. 4). Using the law to try to obtain righteousness is a creative use of the law, and not in a good sense. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says He is the fulfillment of the law.
The Jews knew Scripture but didn’t listen to what it was really saying. Lest we think this passage is written for others, like for men in robes poring over dusty scrolls, let us remember that we all have things or ideas that we feel zealous about and that we forget to submit our hearts to God over. Thank God that when we plead with Him he can keep us on course.