Romans 11:17-24 – 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 consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
Definition of STERN
Do you like it when someone is stern with you?
Most of us are not a big fan of having people be stern with us. Why not? Probably because if someone is stern with us, it’s pretty likely that we’ve done something wrong. People really don’t like the idea of God being stern. They don’t like to think that they could do anything that would cause God to cut them off. But, we see from these verses that God is stern. If we don’t believe Him, our unbelief breaks us off from Him. It puts a division between us.
How can God’s sternness be a good thing?
God is not stern without cause, but when people deny Him, He wants to draw them back to Him. Like the Israelites who made it a habit to draw close to God and then to lose their way. They found out that life without God not on your side isn’t good. They were well aware of the amazing things The Lord had done on their behalf when they had clung to Him. He led them out of Egypt, gave them plunder of the Egyptians and then parted the Red Sea. Then when He promised to give them the promised land, they doubted His power. They broke themselves off from God and it resulted in a sternness from The Lord, in 40 years of wandering around the desert. Even in the desert The Lord provided for them.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.
God never kicks us to the curb. When we try to kick Him to the curb and exclude Him from our lives, we deserve and should expect His sternness. Just like our earthly families, if we deny them, ignore them or act as if we’re more important than them, they may not stop caring for us, but they may not be quick to show their kindness. In the same way our Lord shows us sternness when we deny Him, make ourselves more important than Him or just ignore Him.
Kindness to you, provided you remain in His kindness
But there is good news for those who know The Lord and keep Him at the forefront of their minds and actions. For those who believe and seek The Lord, we can expect His kindness. We can expect Him to show up when we need Him. We can expect Him to show up and provide all our needs in amazing and unfathomable ways.
This story from 2 Chronicles 20 reminds me to expect God’s deliverance even when His way seems impossible.
15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”
20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his[c] holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”
22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing[d] and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah[e] to this day.
God is stern and God is Kind
My prayer for you and I is that we continue to seek The Lord and are amazed by the ways that God shows up on our behalf while not being surprised that He did. We can trust that He will be there for us, even when it seems there is no way out.