Monday, November 9, 2009

A Humbling Name

Welcome to the start of a new blog!

As you can see from the verse quoted under the blog title, the name of this blog comes from Romans 11:17 where Paul uses the metaphor of "wild olive shoots" to refer to Gentile Christians. Paul's point in this passage is to encourage Gentile believers like myself not to think too highly of ourselves. He remind us that we descended from nations that were pagan (wild olive trees) and that without the grace of God we would still be trapped in false religions and sinful habits of life. However, God had mercy on us, and after the coming of the Jewish Messiah (Jesus), He grafted us into the cultivated olive tree: the Jewish family. We had no claim in that family but God made us one with the Jews who believe in the Messiah, and we "now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree."

In other words, we have become part of God's chosen people, and we can look back at the history of God's relationship with His people and read it with a strong sense of connection. The heroes of the faith in the Hebrew Scriptures (like Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel) can be adopted as our own heroes. Some of the promises in the Hebrew scriptures (such as the New Covenant mentioned by Jeremiah) we can adopt as our own (although some caution is needed in this since some of the promises were strictly for the physical descendants of Abraham). The joys and struggles of the psalmists become expressions of our own joys and trials as we follow God. The lessons taught by the Jewish Messiah, the death He died on the cross for our sins, and the victory He gained as He rose from the dead, all have become vitally important to us and have become part of the "nourishing root" from which we draw life. In other words, all of the words written in the Bible that were addressed to the Jewish family and all of the mighty deeds that God has done in history for the benefit of that family have now become the very words and acts from which we draw our spiritual life because we have been adopted into that family.

I felt this was an appropriate theme for this blog since I am a Gentile Christian and am one who takes particular delight in the "nourishing root of the olive tree." God has graciously granted me the privilege of learning much about the history of His people: not only the events recorded in the Bible, but also the land where His people lived, the houses and cities that they lived in, the everyday items that they used, the places where they worshiped, and the tombs they were buried in. I am a student of biblical archaeology and biblical history, and would love to have the opportunity to share what I've learned and am learning with my brothers & sisters in Christ. That's why I am starting this blog.

I make no promises about the frequency of my posts (especially since I am currently in the throes of writing my dissertation). But I do promise to limit my comments to thoughts about life in the olive tree of God: whether that be current things that God is teaching me, observations and suggestions about the current state of the branches around me, or insights that (by the grace of God) will bring a greater understanding of the Bible to fellow branches and help them to draw more deeply from the nourishing root that we share. My intention is for this blog to be an extension of (and partial fulfillment of) the teaching ministry that God has called me to.

So whether you are a grafted in, wild olive shoot like myself or a native, cultivated olive shoot, I hope you will allow me to minister to you through this blog as a fellow follower of the Jewish Messiah, and as a fellow branch enjoying life in God's tree. May He be praised for cultivating the tree and for grafting us wild branches in.