Behold then the kindness and severity of God
Romans 11:13-36 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
In today’s text it says: Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness. It is one of the difficulties people face, that we tend to view things as either one thing or the other. We have a difficult time reconciling a God who is loving, merciful and kind, yet is also severe, righteous and just. Our finite minds limit our ability to know and comprehend the unlimited character and qualities of an infinite God. Our inability to reconcile the truth of these seeming opposite qualities and principles is demonstrated in the polarization of our society, our culture and even the church. Those who perceive God as loving, merciful, compassionate tend to minimize, marginalize or even disregard His righteousness, His Justice, the fact that He could be severe to those who fall. Those who see the severity of God’s justice, His judgment of sin, often fail to embrace God’s kindness, or at least fail to extend it to others.
It is not that there are no absolutes with God. It is not that in all things we should accept all things. While God’s character includes both kindness and severity, there are absolutes in the truth of His principles. 1 John 1:5 says: This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. Isaiah 5:20 says: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Rather than seeing God as infinite and incomprehensible, we limit our perception of Him and instead we blur the lines of God’s absolutes according to our own liking. God Himself says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) We instead think our ways are higher than God’s, that surely we understand truth regarding good and evil better now, in our “enlightened” society than God did thousands of years ago. We think that God should change to keep up with our ways, rather than we remaining steadfast to His higher ways. The truth is, in our “enlightened” society and culture there is nothing new in regard to sin, to disobedience to God. The same immorality, addictions, deceit, violence and murder that exists today has been part of culture as long as man has lived. Our culture says that because we are enlightened, we accept, tolerate and even embrace darkness. We call things a choice rather than calling them evil. Our choices do not change God.
The text says: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! We tend to view judgment as a bad or negative thing. Yet without judgment there can be no justice. Judgment is not bad, bad judgment is bad. People today say they want justice. They want what is their right. Yet they say God and His ways are no longer relevant. If God’s ways are not what determine what is good and right, then what rights do we really have? The reality of man’s existence is summed up in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— A time to give birth and a time to die. Nothing else is guaranteed in this life. We have no other rights aside from the grace of God. Only when we accept the richness of both the wisdom and knowledge of God, a God who demonstrated His love, not in acceptance and tolerance of our choices of darkness and evil, rather: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) While we chose evil, because of His kindness, He chose the severity of the cross. Behold then the kindness and severity of God, revealed to us and for us in Christ and the cross.
Heavenly Father thank You that as the psalmist says: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. Your ways are indeed higher than our ways. Thank You that when I deserved severity You showed me kindness. When death was what I deserved, when dying was my right, You gave me life in Christ. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Amen.