Gentiles Will Be Saved
11Do 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. 12But if the rest of the world's people were helped so much by their sin and loss, they will be helped even more by their full return.
13I am now speaking to you Gentiles, and as long as I am an apostle to you, I will take pride in my work. 14I hope in this way to make some of my own people jealous enough to be saved. 15When Israel rejected God, the rest of the people in the world were able to turn to him. So when God makes friends with Israel, it will be like bringing the dead back to life. 16If part of a batch of dough is made holy by being offered to God, then all of the dough is holy. If the roots of a tree are holy, the rest of the tree is holy too.
17You Gentiles are like branches of a wild olive tree made to be part of a cultivated olive tree. You have taken the place of some branches that were cut away from it. And because of this, you enjoy the blessings that come from being part of that cultivated tree. 18But don't think you are better than the branches that were cut away. Just remember you are not supporting the roots of this tree. Its roots are supporting you.
19Maybe you think those branches were cut away, so you could be put in their place. 20That's true enough. But they were cut away because they did not have faith, and you are where you are because you do have faith. So don't be proud, but be afraid. 21If God cut away those natural branches, couldn't he do the same to you?
22Now you see both how kind and how hard God can be. He was hard on those who fell, but he was kind to you. And he will keep on being kind to you, if you keep on trusting in his kindness. Otherwise, you will be cut away too.
23If those other branches will start having faith, they will be made a part of that tree again. God has the power to put them back. 24After all, it wasn't natural for branches to be cut from a wild olive tree and to be made part of a cultivated olive tree. So it is much more likely that God will join the natural branches back to the cultivated olive tree.
“Now you see both how kind and how hard God can be….” Can God be “hard”? The word used by the writer of Romans can mean “stern, severe, intense, strict, or harsh”. Is this a passage that most churches would put out on their front signs: “Consider the sternness of God”?
Sometimes we limit Scripture to our sensitivities, to our own language and experiences. For instance, if you had a stern teacher then this idea of a stern God could be corrupted by your own experience. Here Scripture would be corrupted by your experiences.
In fact God being severe can be a beautiful thing when it is protective. Once when my first child was just a baby, I came home from work to find my wife walking on the furniture with a fly swatter in one hand and a rolled up magazine in the other (I also remember a Rambo bandana but she says not!). She was focused and the situation was intense as she hunted the mosquito that bit her baby!
The sternness of God comes out of his Father-love. God’s “hardness” is not out of hurt, or out of a hard heart, or a bad day, and it is not random. It is measured, reasonable and never conflicts with his Father-kindness; indeed it comes out of his love for us. His discipline comes out of Father-love and his wrath comes out of his perfect justice.
Read the prophets and you’ll hear harsh words from God on occasion, but always with the intent of lamenting our broken relationship with him, and calling us home to him.
Father, Your promise is that you will keep on being kind, if I keep on trusting in your kindness. I want this Father. I want to continue in your kindness. I want to enjoy the fullness of your creative, purposeful, loving, good attention on me. So Father today, help to “keep” myself in you.