Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.
Paul has an interesting observation about people, specifically the people of Israel. Here they are, God’s chosen children and it seems that most of them didn’t want to be chosen. It’s a burden too heavy to carry. Ah, but the few who accepted it? They are living out their God-given purpose! They let God pursue His interests in them and as a result received His stamp of legitimacy. (Romans 11:7, MSG).
That’s our prayer, isn’t it? I want to be truly authentic in letting God’s grace and purpose be revealed in me and through me. I want to have the courage to always say, as Jesus did in the garden, “Not my will but your will be done.” (Luke 22:42, NASB).
What does the rest of verse 7 say? This means that only a chosen few of the people of Israel found what all of them were searching for. And the rest of them were stubborn. (Romans 11:7, CEV).
That’s really sad, isn’t it? How many people today are so rigid in their beliefs that they can’t see God’s grace? How often am I? Personally, I do not want to be so stubborn or pretend that I’m following God for my own selfish reasons. I want to fully embrace His grace and purpose! Even today! How about you?
Paul continues with a very familiar word picture of how we Gentiles can become as precious to God as His chosen people, the Israelites. It is by being grafted in. The Apostle says we are grafted in to show the Jews the way back to God.
Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous. (Romans 11:11, CEV).
If you were to take a walk just about anywhere in most of Israel, you will see some amazing olive trees. What is really fascinating is that they sometimes send up new shoots far away from the main trunk. And those shoots can ultimately become strong trees, sometimes even stronger than the main tree. Why is that? Even shoots that are far from an existing tree are connected below ground to the main roots. It’s kind of wild to see. There’s also a process called “grafting.” Even different kinds of tree shoots can be connected to an olive tree and given a new life! Paul says this is like non-Jews becoming as close to the Father’s heart as His chosen children. And that will cause the Jews to want to come back to God.
You see, God goes to supernatural means to get everyone connected to His love and life! Both Gentiles and Jews!
I love how Paul concludes this mystifying example:
Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes. (Romans 11:33-36, MSG — quoting from Isaiah 40:13 and Job 41:11).
Everything, every person, finds their ultimate fulfillment in and through God and God alone.
You might find this blog post of interest regarding Jesus as the “shoot” of Jesse, from Isaiah 11.
© 2020. Rich Ronald.