The Wild and Tame Olive Trees in the Lord’s Vineyard
As the Gentiles begin to learn these things, they are cautioned to not forget from whence their blessing come. In Romans, chapter 11, the apostle Paul, magnifying his calling as the “apostle to the Gentiles,” teaches them not to be “wise in their own conceits.” In other words, he counsels them to be humble, to be teachable, to not think that they know all there is to know about the work of the Lord.
Particularly, in regard to their priority standing before the Lord, at that time, the prophet wanted them to understand that, while the house of Israel had been rejected of the Lord, for their unbelief and iniquity, and cast out to be trodden under foot of men, as salt that had lost its savor, the favor and mercy, which the Gentiles had been shown, because of their belief and faith in Jesus Christ, and their good works in repenting and being baptized in his name, should not mislead them into thinking that the Lord had cast off his ancient covenant people forever.
Of course, Paul had good reason to fear they would take this haughty position, as the history of the persecution of the Jews by the Gentiles now bears him out. Good examples of this pig-headed thinking are not hard to find in the writings of the Gentiles:
St. Gregory: “Jews are slayers of the Lord, murderers of the prophets, enemies of God, haters of God, adversaries of grace, enemies of their fathers’ faith, advocates of the devil, brood of vipers, slanderers, scoffers, men of darkened minds, leaven of the Pharisees, congregation of demons, sinners, wicked men, stoners and haters of goodness.”
St. Jerome: “….serpents, haters of all men, their image is Judas … their psalms and prayers are the braying of donkeys..”
St. John Chrysostom: “I know that many people hold a high regard for the Jews and consider their way of life worthy of respect at the present time… This is why I am hurrying to pull up this fatal notion by the roots … A place where a whore stands on display is a whorehouse. What is more, the synagogue is not only a whorehouse and a theater; it is also a den of thieves and a haunt of wild animals … not the cave of a wild animal merely, but of an unclean wild animal … When animals are unfit for work, they are marked for slaughter, and this is the very thing which the Jews have experienced. By making themselves unfit for work, they have become ready for slaughter. This is why Christ said: “as for my enemies, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them and slay them before me’ (Luke 19.27).”
St. Augustine: “Judaism is a corruption. Indeed Judas is the image of the Jewish people. Their understanding of the Scriptures is carnal. They bear the guilt for the death of the saviour, for through their fathers they have killed the Christ.”
St. Thomas Aquinas: “It would be licit to hold Jews, because of the crimes, in perpetual servitude, and therefore the princes may regard the possessions of Jews as belonging to the State.”
Martin Luther: “A Jewish heart is so stock, stone, iron, devil, hard, that it can no way be moved. They are young devils damned to hell. To convert those devil-brats (as some fondly ween out of the Epistle to the Romans) is impossible.”
Indeed, the teachings of Luther invoked genocide, as a final solution, long before Hitler did:
“Know, 0 adored Christ, and make no mistake, that aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew who truly seeks to be a Jew… a Jew, a Jewish heart, are hard as wood, as stone, as iron, as the Devil himself. In short, they are children of the Devil, condemned to the flames of hell.”
“O Lord, I am too feeble to mock such devils. I would do so, but they are much stronger than I in raillery, and they have a God who is a past master in this art; He is called the devil and the wicked spirit.. They have transformed God into the devil, or rather into a servant of the Devil, accomplishing all the evil the Devil desires, corrupting unhappy souls , and raging against himself: in short, the Jews are worse than the devils.”
“What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews? First, their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder or stone of it. And this ought to be done for the honour of God and of Christianity, in order that God may see that we are true Christians. Secondly, their homes should be likewise broken down and destroyed. Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayerbooks and talmuds in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught. Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threats of death to teach anymore.”
“Now whoever wishes to accept venomous serpents, desperate enemies of the lord, and to honor them, to let himself be robbed, pillaged, corrupted and cursed by them, need only turn to the Jews. If this is not enough for him, he can do more: crawl up into their…… and worship the sanctuary, so as to glorify himself afterwards for having been merciful, for having fortified the Devil and his children, in order to blaspheme our beloved lord and the precious blood that has redeemed us. He will then be a perfect Christian, filled with works of mercy, for which Christ will reward him on the-day of judgment with the eternal fire of hell (where he will roast together with the Jews).”
“In truth, the Jews, being foreigners, should possess nothing, and what they do possess should be ours.”
“…Cursed goy that I am, I cannot understand how they manage to be so skillful, unless I think that when Judas Iscariot hanged himself, his guts burst and emptied. Perhaps the Jews sent their servants with plates of silver and pots of gold to gather up Judas’ piss with the other treasures, and then they ate and drank his offal, and thereby acquired eyes so piercing that they discover in the scriptures commentaries that neither Matthew nor Isaiah himself found there, not to mention the rest of us cursed goyim..”
“If I find a Jew to baptize, I shall lead him to the Elbe bridge, hang a stone around his neck, and push him into the water, baptizing him with the name of Avraham!.. I cannot convert the Jews. Our lord Christ did not succeed in doing so; but I can close their mouths so that there will be nothing for them to do but to lie upon the ground.”
“I hope I shall never be so stupid as to be circumcised; I would rather cut off the left breast of my Catherine and of all women.”
“If we are to remain unsullied by the blasphemy of the Jews and not wish to take part in it, we must be separated from them and they must be driven out of the country.” (The Jews and their Lies, Martin Luther, 1542)
With “saints” like these for neighbors, down through the centuries, is it any wonder that the Jews will not be converted to “Christianity,” until the Lord shows them the wounds in his body that he received in the house of his friends?
So, what was Paul’s message to the Gentiles? The answer to this question is crucial, because, as the quotes above show, the Gentiles did just what Paul counseled them not to do: They became wise in their own eyes. In fact, the German holocaust, wherein six million Jews were slaughtered and the world-wide antisemitism that continues to increase today, are gruesome testimony that the Gentiles, in general, do not just hate the Jews, but believe that God hates them as well!
This could not be further from the truth, and Paul was trying to get the Gentiles to understand why that is: The Jews in particular, and all the house of Israel in general, were and are and will ever be, his chosen people, “the apple of his eye,” through whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed. Don’t the Gentiles realize that it was through the rejection of the Jews and their suffering the judgments of God that came upon them to the uttermost that a knowledge of Christ was spread throughout the world?
Of course, the leaders of the unbelieving Jews rejected Christ and they were provoked to intense Jealousy by the Gentiles adopting their God, as it were. In fact, this was so much the case that they taught many hateful things about the Gentiles, justifying themselves and their hatred toward them in their own Talmud. This caused many of the Gentiles to hate them, in turn.
However, the truth is their God loves them, and as Paul writes in Romans 11, though they were admittedly wicked and God severely punished them for it, yet in his wisdom, this fall of the house of Jacob turns into a great blessing for the Gentiles, and he tried to teach them that, even though they were cursed for the sake of the Gentiles, this would not always be the case:
9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
How blessed are those who have come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, who have learned of the creation of the heavens and of the earth, of the fall of mankind through Adam’s and Eve’s transgression, of the plan of redemption, prepared from before the world was, of the crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection from the dead, with healing in his wings for all mankind? This great knowledge has come to the Gentiles by means of the fall and suffering of the Jews, precisely because, when those among them hardened their hearts and rejected it in their synagogues, their prophets took the message to the Gentile congregations instead, who received it in faith.
But, says Paul, if you think the fall of the Jews was a blessing to the world, “…the riches of the world,” and that “the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?” This is the crux of his message that is so crucial for the Gentiles to understand!
The ancient covenant people of the Lord are not cast off forever. God has promised them, by the mouths of all the holy prophets of Israel, that for a small moment he has forsaken them, and they have been scattered, but with great mercies, he will gather them again, as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings.
The Gentiles have been given the land of America, and set up as a free nation, and they have been exceedingly blessed upon the land, inasmuch as they have become the wonder of the world, but there is another reason why this great blessing, these incredible riches, have been so abundantly poured out upon the Gentile nations, in America and around the world.
The reason why this mercy has been shown the Gentiles, and why they have been so greatly prospered upon this land, which is choice above all other lands, is not only because of the faith and belief of their fathers in the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, but also because God deigned to do what Paul said he would do:
Paul explained to the Romans that they were strangers, from the perspective of the house of Israel. That’s what the word “gentile” means, and he compared these nations of strangers to wild olive trees, wild relative to the house of Israel, which he compared to an ancient, highly prized, tame, olive tree, which the master of the vineyard sought to save from decay.
To do this, the Master cut branches from the wild trees and graffed them into the tame tree, from which he cut out many of the tree’s natural branches and planted them in other parts of the vineyard. So, the branches from the trees, which were wild by nature (the Gentiles), were graffed into the highly cultured and tame tree (the house of Israel), and the natural branches from the tree, which were broken off from the natural tree, which were tame and highly cultivated (the Israelites), were transplanted to other parts of the vineyard.
In this parable, Paul is showing the Gentiles how God had graffed them into the covenant, which he had made with the house of Israel, and to do it, he had to cut off the nations of the Jews, so that they no longer could be nurtured by the roots of the tame tree (the ancient covenants), but in his wisdom he preserved them for his own purposes.
But, warns Paul, the Gentiles should be careful not to misunderstand: The Jews are not cut off forever, because God can graff the natural, transplanted branches back into their mother tree again (since he has preserved them for just such a purpose), and he can also cut out the wild branches from the mother tree to make room for the natural branches to be graffed in from the trees that had grown up from the natural branches that had been cut off and transplanted, anciently:
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:13-36)
As the apostle Paul explained, the condition upon which the gentile nations can maintain the blessings of the God of Israel is to continue in “his goodness,” otherwise they shall be cut off in modern times, as the Jews were cut off anciently. When Jesus was born, and began his ministry among the Jews, they rejected him as a nation, and were cut off, but now, because of the unbelief of the Gentiles, the nations of the house of Israel are to be gathered in again and the Gentiles, who obtained mercy when they were in a state of darkness anciently, by the suffering of the Jews, are to show them mercy, in turn, by seeking to recover them and helping them to understand that God concluded us all in unbelief that he might have mercy on us all.
In a word, the first (the Jews) that became the last, and the last (the Gentiles) that became the first, after the days of Jesus, are to see things turned upside down again in these last days: The last (the Jews) shall become the first, and the first (the Gentiles) shall become the last, as the Lord turns the world of the wicked upside down, once again.
To explain all this is not easy, but the Lord does explain it and no where more clearly than in Isaiah, where it is hidden in plain sight. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord explains the promises and describes the events that are connected with his act, his strange act, and his work, his strange work, which is to turn things, the ways of the wicked, upside down. It is the work that culminates in the thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth, when the knowledge of God shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas.