Rev. Willem Glashouwer Thursday 26 November 2009
Christianity is a 2000 year old branch, firmly attached to Jewish roots. Beginning with Abraham and the Patriarchs, the Gentiles are promised God’s blessings if they in turn bless Abraham’s descendants. God chose to graft Gentiles into the root. But how did we treat the root?
“If the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” Romans 11:16-18, NIV
“The root of Israel is holy, because this people came forth from God’s chosen ones: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. The root now sanctifies the entire tree to God, who, through the voice of Moses, also named Israel a holy people, a people formed by Himself, whom He created for His glory.”
Mr Isaac da Costa, 1880
(cf. Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 43:1,7,21)
Gentiles engrafted into the root
Christianity is a 2000 year old branch, firmly attached to Jewish roots. Beginning with Abraham and the Patriarchs, the Gentiles are promised God’s blessings if they in turn bless Abraham’s descendants. God chose to graft Gentiles into the root.
And what has happened to the engrafted branches from the wild olive tree during these past 2000 years? Has not God worked in the Church with Gentiles – some faithful and devout, others not so faithful nor devout, and even some completely secularized? The Church has always had its orthodox and liberal members (and everything in between) with an invisible and true Church always present, God’s holy remnant. In short, the root supports the one people of God, whom God has travelled with throughout history. Israel and Gentiles in the Church are indivisibly bound to one another. The Church is not about replacement theology!
Israel the root
What does the Bible say about Israel? At one time, “The LORD called [Israel] a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form” (Jeremiah 11:16, NIV). And God also spoke these words, “I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendour will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:5-6, NIV).
After Noah saw the flood begin to recede, he sent out a dove. Scripture says, “When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf” (Genesis 8:11, NIV). The olive tree even survived God’s judgment! In the Bible olive oil often symbolizes the Holy Spirit, flowing from olives, but only after they are pressed. Israel is the olive, that sometimes has branches removed and that has wild branches grafted in. Yet the Bible even says about the branches that were removed: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34, NIV).
The sin of Christianity
How did we treat the root, Israel? A historian once wrote that three anti-Jewish strategies have been implemented since the fourth century: forced conversion, banning, and destruction. Christian zealots said, “You have no right to live among us unless you believe in Jesus.” Then secular rulers said, “You have no right to live among us.” Lastly, the Nazis completed this with, “You have no right to live.”
A process that started by driving Jews into Christianity, soon degraded into banning the Jews from Christian society, and ultimately led to mass murder by the Nazis. The Nazis, and those who cooperated with them, simply built upon a foundation laid centuries earlier, and completed a historical process. Unfortunately, the Church did little or nothing. The church remained strangely silent during the “Shoah” (Hebrew for holocaust, means catastrophe). Thank God for a few individual Christians who cared. Only when Christianity confesses its sins of the centuries, can there be any hope for its future.
No growth without the root
We should celebrate two thousand years of Christianity with a deeply felt conviction of guilt concerning our treatment of the Jewish people. If God does not save all the natural branches, He will not save all the engrafted wild branches either … and Gentile Christians may also be cut away. Those who look only to the New Testament, leaving out the Old, are like those trying to build the second floor of a house, without building the first floor. Only when the sap starts flowing from the root again, can the real fruit grow!