We are continuing with Romans 11 this morning, looking at verses 11 to 24. If you are a fan of horticulture this passage is for you.
Over the last few year I have heard a lot of people say a lot of things about the Church's support of Israel. Some people have said we should not waste our time because they rejected Jesus. Others say that they are God's chosen nation and that by supporting them we in turn will be blessed. I also took a language course with an Israeli many years ago in Belgium. He had explained to me that we need to be careful in our references. An Israeli is anyone born in the state of Israel, whereas a Jew is a follower of Judaism. He told me that the fast majority of Israelis are secular. So where does that leave us in our support. Do we support the nation or Judaism? Why is this even important?
It is important because of this:
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. vv. 17-18
We are young in our belief and understanding compared to the Jews. With us it seems that we are rediscovering truth with each generation. We say that God has no grandchildren. But in such a thing there also seems to be less maturity. We do not seem to be able to add layers to each generations knowledge and understanding. We do not have a lot of "standing on the shoulders of giants" as we forget the giants so quickly. How many of us actually study the great writings and knowledge of these giants? Yet the Jews build upon each generation. They do study. They learn and they grow. We are satisfied with simple mouthfuls of scripture each day and tend to follow the "teaching of the moment" in the Church. The Jews follow the great understanding and teachings of the Holy Sciptures.
Is it any wonder then that Paul points this out to us:
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! vv. 11-12
Isn't this an interesting thing; the Jews failed to believe and we were blessed. How much more will we be blessed by their belief? How much greater the riches by their fullness? How much more when the first children, the older children return to that fullness? Paul repeats the thought:
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. vv. 15-16
Paul warns us off of arrogance in our attitude toward the Jews. We cannot afford to consider ourselves better than them. For a time they have been broken off but Paul tells us it is only for a time. Much grace has been shown to us because what we belong to now was not our natural inheritance. We were grafted into something that is not natural to us. The original branches were broken off so that we might be saved. But if the original ones were removed because of unbelief what makes us think we are safe in our unbelief:
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "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 be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. vv. 17-21
We all know how quickly things change in a person and a situation when a cold heart chooses to believe. We need to ask for and expect the restoration of the Jews to the Father through belief in Jesus. We need to go beyond moral support for the nation of Israel; we need to pray for that restoration because we too will benefit from such a thing:
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! vv. 22-24
It is not a difficult thing. They were not broken off as a punishment but instead as a result of unbelief. It is only a matter of belief. How much easier is it for them than it was for us? This is their inheritance. This is an easy thing because they are natural to it. It is us who are strange to this grafting. So you can decide whether we are praying for a secular state of Israelis or the followers of Judaism. Let the Spirit guide you in your understanding. The important thing is that we pray for their salvation because it is to our profit to do such a thing.