May 11, 2003
PROVOKING ISRAEL TO JEALOUSY
To Israel Moses said, "I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation will I anger you" (Rom. 10:19). In Romans 11 we read, "through their [Israel's] fall salvation is come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy," and again, "If by any means I may provoke to emulation [jealousy] them which are my flesh, and might save some of them" (11:11,14). God had gone to great lengths to make Israel jealous! They should have greatly desired God's blessings now being enjoyed by, of all people, the Gentiles!
So far God had used "a foolish nation," which we take to refer the believing remnant in Israel also called " them that are no people" to incite a jealous reaction (10"19). Further Paul refers to "the fall of them" [Israel] resulting in "the riches of the world," and "the diminishing of them" becoming "the riches of the Gentiles" (11:12). Should not God's eternal riches going to the nations of the world make them jealous? So it should!
But that is not all, for the illustration of the olive tree continues the figure of "provoking to jealousy"! Here the natural branches [Israel] were broken off and wild olive branches [Gentiles] grafted in "contrary to nature." Those who understand the practice of grafting plants know that the normal custom is to graft a tame choice fruit branch or flower bud onto a more hardy wild trunk or stem. Certainly not the other way around. This is true if one is looking for fruit from the engrafted branch. But there is a little known practice of grafting a wild olive into a tame olive tree whose fruitfulness has waned. Such a practice has long been known to somehow put new life and fruit bearing into the languishing tree! The illustration of the olive tree is not to show what God was doing with the Gentiles, but is the fullest example of Him provoking Israel to jealousy.
Certainly grafting branches in and cutting others out can in no way picture salvation. No Gentile could be declared to be justified because of being placed into a position Israel forfeited. And no believer who is justified by faith can ever be separated from the love of God or threatened by condemnation. The threat of excision from the olive tree in Romans 11:22 must refer only to the dispensational position.
Ivan L. Burgener