Paul asks and answers the question he knows is on the mind of the Gentile believers: Has God rejected His people, the Israelites? “By no means!” Paul exclaims. And then he explains it in terms of pruning and grafting.
Though I have heard the analogy of grafting in the Bible, I hadn’t previously given it much thought. Perhaps because I don't have a green thumb and am not agriculturally knowledgeable. But the more I have studied it, the more I am in awe overr how God’s creation proclaims His glory. How God tells us His story using people, circumstances, and creation.
Grafting involves placing one branch onto a stem, root or branch of another in such a way that a union is formed and the two grow together as one. Branches that have dried up, died, or stopped producing fruit are cut off the tree. A part of the tree is cut, exposing its interior and combined with a cut and exposed part of a healthy branch. The two are joined where they have been exposed and fastened together tightly. Over time, they fuse together, grow together and become healthy and fruit-producing again.
Us Gentile believers, the “wild olive branches,” Have been grafted into God’s family. We open our hearts and tightly fasten ourselves to God’s heart. And over time, in closeness and in soaking up the nutrients of His goodness and character, we become connected…so connected, you can’t see where one ends, and the other begins. Our source for living and producing fruit comes from the deeply planted roots.
John Bunyan says, “Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think... It is wounding work, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving... Where there is grafting there will always be a cutting, the graft must be let in with a wound; to stick it onto the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back or there will be no sap from root to branch. And this, I say, must be done by a wound, by a cut.”
God inspects hearts. Branches of unbelief producing no fruit are rejected. But re-connection is always possible. God made way for grafting. A way to reconnect to life through the open wounds of Jesus’ sacrifice. We have to cut into our pride, control, stubborn and unbelieving hearts…to expose an opening and allow that connection, through faith, back to the open heart of God. To press in. To become so close. To become one.
And to those of us grafted in, Paul reminds us to remain humble. To not look down on those branches cut off and put aside. Three is no room for arrogance when we too need the root. We were also once dead and produced nothing of value without our connection to the root, and God wants all to be a part of the family. For a time, there is a pause on the Israelites – a time for the Gentiles to be grafted in – but God has not forgotten them, and a time will come when the natural branches will be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Paul is so overwhelmed by the depth of God’s riches, wisdom, knowledge, and ways; he breaks out into praise. Let us never take for granted the love and majesty of God. The way even creation displays His power and pursuit of us. The way creation plays a part in telling His story. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”
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