"Strip away her branches, for they are not the LORD's."
Paul in Romans 11:17-24 uses a similar analogy of branches of an olive tree being removed and replaced with wild olive branches. Just like Jeremiah, Paul is discussing Israelites who reject God. The wild olive branches grafted into the tree represent Gentiles included in God's kingdom. Paul reminds the Gentile believers that the reason the Israelites were broken off is their unbelief.
Chapter five of Jeremiah makes it abundantly clear Jerusalem has the same problem. In verse one, Jeremiah infers Jerusalem is worse than Sodom since at least Lot was righteous. But in Jerusalem, the LORD cannot find one man who seeks justice and truth so that He may pardon the city. The people, both the poor and the great, have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent. God asks the question, "How can I pardon you?" since you have prostituted yourselves after other gods. Even though in verse 18, God promises to keep a remnant, His final question is, "What will you do when the end comes?"
Paul's discussion in Romans 11:16-24 flows from previous statements. In Romans 9:6 (NLT), "For not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God's people!" Paul asks in Romans 11:1 (NLT), "Has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not!"
In Romans 11:16-24, Paul reminds the Gentiles not to become arrogant or proud because they are grafted into the "true" olive tree. Verse 21 says, "For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you."
Romans 11:22 is a profound statement that relates not only to Jeremiah 5 and Romans 11 but us today. "Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness."
It is so easy to focus solely on the kindness and love of God, but He is equally severe. Reading passages like Jeremiah 5 forces us to honestly face the true God, the God of the Bible, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. And the ultimate question is "What will you do when the end comes?"
Oh Sovereign LORD God, forgive me for wanting to accept parts of You and not the whole. When I read Your prophets of old, I am forced to understand the need for all mankind to fear You. Please help me strengthen my resolve to continue in Your kindness. May I finish my life by faith in You alone knowing You are both kind and severe. Your severity is as perfect as is Your kindness.
While writing about Israel's pursuit of other gods in Jeremiah 5, I thought of this man. It is so easy to see other people's idols of the heart, isn't it? The LORD provided this song for me as I became aware of my idolatry, Clear The Stage by Ross King. I hope you find it of as much value as I did.