“…and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.” Rom. 11:17
I am a “Gentile” [non-Jewish] who is considered a son of the God of Israel, adopted into His family and an heir of promise, held tightly to His bosom forever (cf. Rom. 8:17, 35). By God’s sovereign mercy and amazing grace, I was called and granted the faith to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. It is because of His [free] gift of grace that I’m exceedingly grateful. As a Gentile, I am considered a “wild olive branch”, 1 that has been supernaturally “grafted” 2 into the natural “olive tree”,3 to share in the “richness” 4 of God’s covenant blessings. Supported by the olive tree’s “root”, 4 I, like all elect non-Jewish believers, add to the countless spiritual descendents of Abraham God promised to bless (Rom. 11:17, Gen. 12:2, 15:5, 17:4-5, Gal. 3:7-8, 29).
Astonishingly, I’m like one of those innumerable stars in an evening sky, that God challenged Abraham to calculate (Gen. 15:5). In the covenant God made with Abraham, He promised through Abraham’s “seed”, that all of mankind would be blessed (Gen. 12:3, 22:18): “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations shall be blessed in you.'” (Gal. 3:8). God has kept that promise, for all Gentiles [and all men] who have faith in Jesus Christ, are considered “spiritual” descendants of Abraham: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:29, cf. 3:8, 25-28).
However, one day in the future, Abraham’s “physical” seed “all” Israel, will believe in the Messiah Jesus and become God’s “spiritual” children as well (Rom. 11:26-27). The nation of Israel was uniquely chosen by God to receive His “special” love and set apart from other nations, requiring them to remain faithful and obedient only to Him (Deut. 7:6-8, Ex. 20:3-6). Tragically, Israel failed miserably to keep God’s commandments and repeatedly tested His patience by their rebelliousness and idolatry, thus provoking Him to anger (Deut. 32:21). One of the ways God brought judgment against Israel, was by demonstrating mercy to the Gentiles. He offered them salvation and through prophets informed Israel of His intentions (Deut. 32:20-21, Isa. 65:1-3a). Therefore, I am grateful for Israel’s disobedience and subsequent judgment by God, realizing it’s because of their disobedience that I have obtained God’s mercy. Not that I sinisterly exult in Israel’s punishment because of their sin against God, as many nations had done–for example read Obadiah. For any time God’s discipline is levied on anyone, it is sobering and sorrowful to witness.
Furthermore, I realize that I am no more righteous than those of Israel. Scripture attests that all human beings are inherently sinners against God and deserving of condemnation: “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one.'” (Rom. 3:9-10, cf.6:23). Therefore, I am humbly grateful that through Israel’s transgression I, [and all non-Jewish people], have received God’s mercy and grace leading to eternal life (Rom. 11:11, 30-31). As previously alluded to, because of Israel’s continual [but impermanent] state of unbelief, God grafted Gentiles into the “olive tree”, in order to incite Israel to jealousy. In the tenth chapter of Romans [Rom. 10:19-21], the Apostle Paul quoted from the Pentateuch, 5 the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy, through His servant Moses, an infuriated God, promises that salvation will come to the Gentiles [who Israel despised], as a form of judgment and chastening of His chosen people:
“Then He [God] said, ‘I will hide My face from them [Israel], I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people [Gentiles]; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.'” (Deut. 32:20-21–brackets added).
Paul furthers His indictment against Israel by quoting Isaiah:
“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation which did not call on My name. I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face. (Isa. 65:1-3a, cf. 3b-7).
In chapter eleven of Romans, to illustrate the Gentile inclusion into God’s covenant of salvation, Paul brilliantly employed an “olive tree” analogy:
“…some of the branches were broken off [unbelieving Jewish people], and you, being a wild olive tree [Gentiles], were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.” (Rom. 11:17. cf. 11:17-24).
Interestingly, God referred to Gentiles as “not a people“, “a foolish nation“; “those who did not ask for Him“, did not “seek Him“, or did not “call on His name” (Deut. 32:21, Isa. 65:1). Yet, when they were offered the gospel, they embraced Israel’s Messiah with gratitude (Acts 10:22-48, 13:47-48). Israel, on the other hand, had a zeal for God but not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2).They foolishly rejected their Messiah Jesus and fastidiously clung to the obsolescent Mosaic law (Rom. 10:2).
However, in the future once the “church age” culminates with the fullness of the Gentiles coming into salvation, God will mercifully demonstrate His covenant keeping love to Israel, by grafting them back into the olive tree of blessing (Rom. 11:24-25). At that time Israel will mourn and bitterly weep over the One they had pierced [Zech. 12:10], repent and turn to their Messiah: “…The Deliverer [Jesus] will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:26b-27–brackets added). But until that time, the majority of Israel remains in unbelief and as long as they remain in unbelief, God’s hand of blessing will be withheld.
In closing, those who are grafted into the olive tree, the following conjecture is worth contemplation: if Israel had never disobeyed God and was always pleasing to Him, it is unlikely that Gentiles would have been made partakers of God’s divine blessings. Nevertheless, it would behoove those grafted into the “olive tree”, to realize how blessed they are to share in the God’s covenant of salvation. As for me, when I meditate on this profound truth, I am thankful for the mercy and grace God has given me, for the precious gift of salvation (Rom. 11:32). And for that I am eternally grateful–gratefully grafted!
1 Wild olive branch(es), Gentiles or non-Jewish people
2 Grafted [into], “Olives were an important crop in the ancient world. Although trees often lived for hundreds of years, individual branches eventually stopped producing olives. When this happened, branches from younger trees were grafted in to restore productivity. Paul’s point is that the older unproductive branches (Israel), were broken off and branches from a wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted in.”– John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997, pg. 1714, footnote on Rom. 11:17
3 Olive tree, “The place of divine blessing; God’s covenant of salvation made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3, 15:1-21, 17:1-27). — John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997, pg. 1714, footnote on Rom. 11:17
4 Root, 4 richness; “Once grafted in Gentiles partake in the richness of God’s covenant blessings the spiritual heirs of Abraham.”– John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997, pg. 1714, footnote on Rom. 11:17
5 Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy