Romans 11:17b – You, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root. (NIV)
Oh, my apple trees! Their delicate pink-and-white, curled-up, wee buds are opening in the sunshine.
These new, little trees thrill me! At a horticulture workshop a few years ago, I was shown how to graft eating-apple stem pieces onto hardy Siberian roots, and two of my grafts produced trees.
Though there have been a few flowers other springs, and last year, one lonely apple, the number of blossoms this year suggests a fair crop of fruit. Even now as the branches dance in the breeze, I can almost taste the apples as I plan to share them with my neighbours.
I may delight in my fruit trees, but I must not boast of them, for I was given the pieces and shown how to secure the grafts. And of course, God gave the soil and the rain to nourish their growth.
The apostle Paul, a Jewish Christian, used grafted olive tree parts to explain to Gentiles their spiritual relationship with the Jews, urging them to be humble and steadfast. His words in Romans 11:17-21 could be paraphrased like this: "If some of the Jewish branches have been broken off, and you Gentiles, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the Jews, and now share in the nourishing sap from Jesus, the olive root, do not boast over those Jewish branches by saying, 'Jewish branches were broken off so that I, a Gentile, could be grafted in.' Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural Jewish branches, He will not spare you Gentiles either."
In his next words, Paul urges Gentile Christians to continue in God's kindness; otherwise, they also will be cut off. And he tells them that if the Jewish people do not persist in their unbelief, they, the natural branches, will quite readily be grafted back into their own olive tree. Paul states, "For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Romans 10:12-13).
Jews and Gentiles, and persons of all nations under the sun, can exult together in God's word of assurance, "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
What is more, those of us who live in communities filling with immigrants of other nationalities, races, and religions, need to realize that a mission field has come to our doorstep.
Prayer: Lord, help us to exult in Your kindness together with all peoples of the earth. Thank You that You, God, have made all nations of the earth to share one flesh and to be one nation in faith in Jesus Christ. Thank You for Your acceptance of us all who believe. Help us to work together, guided by Your Spirit, so that we will enable many persons to come to You and exult together in Your kindness. Amen.
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