A WILD OLIVE BRANCH
“If some of the branches have been broken off and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself superior to those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will then say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either.” Romans 11:17-21.
The picture of the olive tree as a symbol of Israel is common in the Old Testament. The olive tree thrives all over Israel, in any soil and in any conditions. Its fruit and especially the oil pressed from the olives, was used for a variety of purposes – for cooking, lighting, healing and anointing, to name just a few.
The olive tree, which is virtually indestructible, is a symbol of faithfulness and steadfastness. Its ability to regenerate when it is cut down makes it a fitting symbol of God’s promise to those who fear the Lord. They will be blessed and prosperous; their wives will be fruitful and bear many children.
“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” Psalm 128:3.
Our faith is deeply rooted in the history, culture and religion of the Jewish people. No amount of reasoning or trying to argue this away will alter the fact that the Christian gospel cannot be divorced from its Jewish roots and makes no sense if we ignore the Old Testament. There are many false notions and teachings that have been perpetuated in the church because spiritual leaders have ignored the Old Testament foundations and come up with their own interpretations of what the Bible actually says.
There is no room for the Gentiles to boast. It is arrogant of them to take up the attitude, “God got rid of you so that we could come in. Now we’re in and you’re out!” The only reason the Jews were “out” was because of their unbelief. And anyone, Jew or Gentile, will be rejected if they do not believe what God has said.
God has no time for people who think they are better than others because they enjoy a position of favour in His kingdom. Anything we receive from God is because of His grace and not because of our worth. Without faith, we are worthless to Him even though we have been created in His image. It is through faith that we take possession of everything He has promised.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.
It is not for us to look around and compare ourselves with others but to “tremble”, recognising that we have no call on God except for His mercy.
“Christianity did not spring forth from a vacuum. It sprang from the highly developed religious tradition and culture of ancient Israel. It is all too easy for us Gentiles to forget this all-important fact…
“Likewise the earliest church was a Jewish church. It was headquartered in the Jewish capital, Jerusalem, and presided over by a Jewish leader…
“As Christians we should see that Yeshua epitomised the Law and the teachings of the prophets as the living Word of God. And yet, so many of us know so little of the Tanach, the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians refer to these writings of the “Old Testament” as though the term “old” means it is of little value when compared with the “new”. Yet, without the “old”, the “new” loses much of its meaning and it often misinterpreted or not fully interpreted. When we do this, we are missing out on much God has for us in His Word.”
It would be wise for us Gentile believers, then, not to despise or ignore our roots but to learn what we can and to remember with gratitude that God has “grafted” us Gentiles in because of our faith in Him and not because we have replaced Israel.
“Israel is Israel, even in the New Testament. And when the Gentile church is included in that concept, we are given that position by virtue of “grafting in”, “adoption”, being made “partakers”, and being “made near”; and never by “replacing.”
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