Lesson from Horticulture (Rom 11:16-24)

For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” (Romans 11:24, ESV)

I have read about the horticultural art of grafting. It is a technique by which branches of trees or plants can be joined to a common root so that they will grow together. In a simplified explanation, a branch can be cut from one tree and spliced into another so that the tree’s vascular composition can supply nutrient into the spliced in branch’s structure, to the extent that the new branch becomes part of the root tree.

Paul uses this figure of grafting to explain a depth of theology regarding Israel and the Gentiles. First, Paul indicates that “if the root is holy, so are the branches” (v16). The root refers to God and His covenant promises given to Israel. It is in the vital connection to the root that the branches flourish, metaphorically made holy. These branches therefore must be those who by faith are connected to the promises.

Then Paul explains that some of the branches were broken off. Here he is referring to the Nation of Israel, as they rejected Jesus as their Messiah. (Yet, we do know that there were believing Jews in the early church, who would not have been separated.) Yet, there were branches taken from a non-cultivated tree, one that was not in the garden, and this refers to the Gentiles. Israel’s rejection of Jesus resulted in the grafting in of the Gentiles to the covenant promises. (I need to add that this is for the believing Gentiles.)

However, Paul indicates through this metaphor that God is not done with the Nation of Israel. He indicates that Israel, “the natural branches,” will “be grafted back into their own olive tree.” God has broken the natural branches, referring to Israel, from the cultivated olive tree, temporarily. There is a time coming when He will graft these branches back in. As I mentioned yesterday, this will happen when Israel comes to a national faith in Jesus as their Messiah, as they go through the Tribulation and enter the millennial reign of Jesus.

It is very interesting if you think about it. God gave the covenant promises to Abraham that were carried through Israel. Israel’s rejection of Jesus, opened the door for the Gentiles. The Gentiles then by their standing in faith are to provoke the Jews to jealousy so that some will believe. This provoking is to provide an ongoing remnant of believing Jews. These believing Jews will be instrumental in the period of the Tribulation through to the Millennium so that the Nation of Israel would be grafted back in. Thus, the circle comes full in order to completely fulfill the covenant promises given to Israel.

God’s ways are infinitely higher than ours are.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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