Part of God’s Family Tree
Scripture Reading: Romans 11:13-24, 33-36
13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 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.
17 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, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22 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. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 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!
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
You, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others. . . .
In our reading today, the apostle Paul is talking about his own people, Israel, as an olive tree rooted and cultivated by God, and he is speaking to Gentiles, people from all other nations besides Israel.
We all need tangible ways to picture what God is doing with us in the story of salvation, and this passage is like a forest of many images that relate to trees, branches, roots, sap, and grafting to help us understand God’s purposes. Although this chapter is rather difficult on some levels, even a basic reading of the verses shows that God is eager to take on the challenge of integrating wild branches with a cultivated rootstock, which is not the usual practice. It’s typical to attach a cultivated branch to the root of a wild tree, because a wild rootstock is usually more hardy and a cultivated branch usually produces more fruit.
But we can see that by reversing the process, God has the power to sustain the weaker root and will also insert weaker branches, which will still, because of his kindness and mercy, result in a vibrant, fruitful tree. God not only includes strong, able people, but he also shows a preference for weak and unlikely candidates. God will even go so far as to graft a broken branch in again.
We don’t know why God chooses to gather his people this way, but for all of us who feel weak, disabled, left behind, or inadequate, this passage offers profound hope. God can and will include us in the big story of his never-ending love.
O God, the depths of your wisdom and love amaze us! Thank you for graciously including us in your family tree. To you be the glory forever! In Jesus’ name, Amen.