"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On Romans & Olive Trees: Part 3

This is the third post in a study of Paul's letter to the believers in Rome.  You can start at the beginning by clicking here.

The eleventh chapter of Romans contains some things that should shut the mouths of a lot of pastors and teachers who are out there blaspheming by teaching garbage like “replacement theology.”  Let’s look at this first and then move to the next thing.

Paul introduces the chapter with this: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He?  May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, . . .”

There are many more passages that make it clear that God would never abandon Israel.  Not the land, nor the people as a corporate body.  In a previous post I spoke of God’s fulfillment of Israel becoming a nation on the exact day of the end of their last punishment for not keeping His Torah, May 14, 1948.  We also have other prophecies about Israel that have yet to be fulfilled, such as Ezekiel 38 & 39.  So if you hear some pastor or teacher telling you that the church has replaced Israel or gives you the telltale clues that they believe in “Dominion theology,” run for the exit.

Even though Paul is grieved by the number of his Jewish brethren who will not recognize Yeshua as Messiah, he reveals in verse eleven that the purpose is to spread the gospel to the gentile world.

Then Paul gives us this beautiful, vivid illustration of the Gentile relationship to the Jews and the Torah.  Gentiles are like a wild olive branch that is being grafted in to the main trunk of a well established tree.  This is truly a great picture.  In the world of plants, there are some plants that barely last a season.  They might live long enough to create seed and die for the next crop to germinate in the spring.  An olive tree is one of the few species that lasts for centuries and even millennia.  Yes.  An olive tree can be several thousand years old.  At least some of the olive trees in the very garden where Yeshua sweated drops of blood are still growing there today.  An olive tree takes a lot of care to become established but once they are, they can produce quite a lot.

If you want to produce a new variety of olives quickly and easily,  you can graft an existing shoot onto an older well established tree.  You don’t rip out a well established tree to plant a new sapling.  And olive trees, like most food producing plants require pruning and cultivation to be productive.  The Messiah also used grape vines as an illustration of this principle.  Paul uses the olive tree because in prophecy, the olive tree is understood to represent Israel, as well as the fig tree.  In this letter, Paul warns the Gentiles to remember their status as being grafted in to the tree.  The tree hasn’t been destroyed, and in fact, it is the roots of the tree that support and give life to the new graftees.  He also states that if the non-productive branches of the tree can be chopped off and discarded, so can the newcomers.  The newly grafted branches don’t change everything by becoming a part of the well-established tree.  It can take a while for the graft to fully “take.”  The existing old olive tree that is producing good fruit continues to produce good fruit because all the right things are being done by the Master Gardener and the tree accepts it.  Another very, very interesting thing about olive trees is that an old, well established tree can be cut down, or even burned down, level with the ground, seeming to be totally destroyed, and yet it’s root system will put up shoots in a few years.

The eleventh chapter of Romans makes it clear that there is a partial blinding of Israel regarding the identity of Messiah until all those of the Gentile world are gathered in.  But the zealous Pharisee named Paul understands that these Gentile converts are coming to the saving knowledge of Messiah AND to obedience to Torah.  Without the obedience to Torah, the Jews would have nothing to be jealous about.  In short, there is no new religion for the Gentiles who come to follow Messiah.  Yeshua said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."

We must keep in mind that Yeshua Himself said He came to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  In Matthew 15 we have the story of a Canaanite woman who comes to Yeshua to have her daughter delivered from a demon.  Yeshua not only tells her that he was sent to Israel only, but he further insults her by saying that it is not good to throw the children’s bread to the dogs.  Hyperbole?  A set up?  Sure.  But it makes the point.  God wants His chosen ones first and He has no intention of abandoning Israel.

Paul gets to the heart of the matter in verse 11 of chapter 11:  “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they?  May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.”

In order for us to feel the full weight of what Paul is saying here, we would have to be very familiar, or should I say well studied, in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The book of Hosea is especially helpful here.  The time of the prophet Hosea was more than 100 years before the Babylonian captivity; about 750 to 720 years before Messiah came.  Adonai was so fed up with the idolatry of Israel that He commanded Hosea to go and find a prostitute to marry.  This is to symbolize how God sees Israel’s idolatry.  He severely punishes the Northern Kingdom to near utter annihilation. Adonai’s apparent mercy on Judah is because that is the line of Messiah and Judah seemed to try to hold to Torah.  Taking the whole of at least the first two chapters, we see that God is so angered by that generation that He wants to divorce her until she turns from her harlotry.

Is it not interesting that God created this world with sex and marriage, reproduction and progeny and parenting to give us tangible, emotional ways to relate to Him?  It is precisely because Adonai loves all of his created children that he chastises them to try to get them to come back to Himself.  Chapter 3 of Hosea is so obviously prophetic about the conquering Messiah and the end times.

“For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or seraphim.  Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.”  (Hosea 3:4,5)

This passage tells us a couple of very important things: A time would come, and we’ve seen most of it come to pass, where Israel had no real political or civil leadership of their own and no Temple for religious service to Adonai.  Now, as I type this, there is increasing and fervent interest in Israel and among other Jews about Yeshua the Nazarene.  Israel has been restored as a nation with self rule. The only thing we need to see now for the anti-Christ to be revealed is a Temple (2 Thess. 2:1-4).

In verse 17 & 18 of Romans 11, we read, “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches [natural Jews]; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.”    Some Christians need to read this verse every day for a month until it sinks in.  This is one of the clearest statements in the New Testament to tell Gentile believers, “Hey, listen up, Yeshua did not come to create a whole new religious system.  He came to make a way for you folks outside of Judaism to become a part of God’s Kingdom. That means you are supposed to learn God’s ways from them, the Jews, not them learning from you.”

Oh yes, I know that just shocks the snot out of most Christians who read that. But if you disagree, then search the Scriptures and show me the text that says that previous paragraph is wrong.  For heaven’s sake; keep reading verses 19 through 29 and Paul is even more emphatic about warning Gentiles that the grafted in branches are merely that and that the ultimate purpose is the salvation of Israel.

So far, we’ve made it up to chapter 12 of Romans in three posts, and still I can’t find anything in Paul’s words (actually the words of the Ruach HaKodesh) that tell me that the Torah has become void or that we can disregard the commandments.  This again is in keeping with the words of the Master Himself in Matthew 5:17-20.  If you know something that I don’t, you can leave a comment, or email me.  The address is in the sidebar.

You can move on to part IV in this series by clicking here.

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