“And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.
Romans 11:23-24 NLT
Paul returns to his analogy of Jesus being the olive tree, and branches representing His people, Jew or Gentile. And he makes a comparison between the “wild olive” branches, representing the Gentiles who had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and the original branches, representing the Jews, God’s chosen people. Both types of branch, however, drew their sustenance from God’s “cultivated tree”. Paul makes a statement that implies that being grafted into His tree was contrary to nature, but that God was willing to do it. Was God being grudging and reluctant in allowing this to happen, as perhaps we could interpret from Paul’s wording? The use of the phrase “far more eager” implies that God is more inclined to His people, the Jews, than anyone else. But is this the case?
Of course not, we exclaim! God has no favourites we cry! We quote the words of Jesus in John 3:17, “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him”. The word “world” implies everyone, not just the Jews. And we also read 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth”. So what was Paul meaning in these verses from Romans 11?
Paul, I believe, was appealing to his Jewish audience. Perhaps those on the periphery of the early church in Rome, or his fellow Jews who happened to read his epistle. He was reminding them of the special place in God’s heart for His people. Back in Deuteronomy we read about God’s instructions , given through Moses, for the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land. We read in Deuteronomy 7:6, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure”. Although God wanted the other nations around Israel eliminated at that time because of their wickedness and idolatry, He had a plan for the whole world.
But we pilgrims know that, even if we are “wild olive branches” grafted into the Olive Tree who is Christ, we are now adopted into God’s family. In Paul’s day, adoption was a special and honoured status, never second best. And so it is with us. We are also God’s treasure, because we responded to His calling and became part of His family. So there will be a day when the original branches, God’s chosen people, will be grafted back into the Olive Tree, and will join us Wild Olives in a cacophony of praise to our wonderful God. We praise our wonderful Heavenly Father today.
Dear Father God. We thank You for Your wonderful plan, executed when Jesus came to this world, to save the world through Him. Amen.