Today’s reading: Psalm 90-92; Romans 11:1-21
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalm 92:12-15
19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Romans 11:19-21
In these readings, God gives His people a warning and a promise about their relationship to Him. Expect fruitfulness. Beware of arrogance.
Paul addresses issues that must have been bothering the Christians in Rome. Two of these issues are “how should we understand the relationship of the unbelieving Jews to God in this New Testament era?” and “how should believing Gentiles and Jews view each other?” There seems to be a problem (or, at least, a potential problem) of Christian Gentiles looking down on the Jews, in general, for rejecting Christ. The Apostle explains that this rejection was anticipated by the Old Testament, is beneficial to the Gentiles since they are now coming to Christ, and, ultimately, will result in a positive reaction amongst the Jews with a massive turning of them to the Lord. The warning to the Gentile believers is “Be humble about your acceptance before God.” That warning is enhanced by the picture of an olive tree in which natural branches have been broken off and wild branches grafted in. “You could be cut off and the natural branches restored,” warns Paul.
The Psalmist also uses the analogy of God’s people to a tree, in this case, a palm tree planted in the house of the Lord. What is the function of this tree? It is to flourish, grow, and bear fruit. What fruit is expected? Not dates or coconuts, (it is an analogy, don’t forget!), but the fruit of a clear declaration “that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” This promise of fruitfulness is directed to the elderly, who are liable to see their physical abilities in decline, but, promises the Psalmist, their fruit will continue into old age.
We, who believe in Jesus Christ, are securely grafted into the Lord’s olive tree, but it is not our own doing. It is by grace, not by any merit on our part, so we ought to maintain a humble, grateful attitude. You are part of the tree in the house of the Lord, planted to bear fruit. By God’s grace, you will be sustained all the days of your life and keep declaring God’s righteousness. Flee all pride, and aim at lifelong fruitfulness.