“You, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others …” (Romans 11:17)
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! Amen.