December 25, 2011

THE OLIVE TREE

Article and Illustration
By Veronique

I remember standing on top of a low hill and looking at the beautiful vista on my father’s property in the south of France. A vista of the countryside dotted with stucco houses with red tiled roofs, here and there. Windy roads, small farmyards and the occasional patch of trees. To my right was a small olive tree orchard, the olives were green and nearly ripe. It was the most distinctive thing on my father’s property that appealed to me. At the time, all I knew about the olive tree was that they were quite common in Israel. It was not until many years later that I realized how significant the olive tree was.

The olive tree is a significant symbol representing some important Biblical truths. Most people understand it to represent several universal themes such as peace, joy, gladness, wisdom, light, fruitfulness, wealth, as well as representing the nation of Israel. However, there are hidden meanings to the mystery of the olive tree that are not immediately apparent without the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for olive tree is “sheman” which means “tree of oil” (Strong’s #8081) as it is the most common tree in the Mediterranean region for extracting oil. This multi-purpose, highly valued evergreen tree has been regarded as the “king of trees” as exemplified in the parable of Judges 9:8–9, in which the olive tree is asked by all the other trees to be their king.

The oil of olive was used primarily for 7 purposes, here is a list of references:

To anoint people and kings:
Exodus 29:7
Ruth 3:3
II Sam.12:20
I Sam.10:1
I Kings 1:39
II Kings 9:1, 6

To anoint the sanctuary:
Lev.8:26,
Num. 7:19, 25
Exodus 29:1-2, 30:26-33

For the offerings:
Exo.29:40

As fuel for lamps:
Lev.24:2, Exo.25:6

As medicine:
Isaiah 1:6
Isaiah 1:6
I Kings 17:12-16

For healing of the sick:
James 5:14-16

For eating:
Ezekiel 16:13, 19

In addition, the wood from the olive tree is very useful in making furnishings. Scriptures give one example in I Kings 6:23 where King Solomon commanded the construction of the two cherubim for the inner sanctuary of the First Temple, each measuring the 15 feet or 10 cubit high. (I Kings 6:23) Today, olive wood is valued for its distinctive swirl grain patterns and is used for making almost anything, including candlesticks, kitchen wares, pens, jewelry, chessboard, etc.

In the parable of the ten virgins, of which five were wise and five were foolish, the foolish ones allowed the oil in their lamps to dry up. (Matt.25:3) The lamp is symbolic of the Word of God. The oil in the lamp is symbolic of the indwelling Spirit of God so we can understand and obey God’s Word. Our spiritual light is to shine brightly for other people to see, that they might come and hear the Word of God through us. (Matt. 5:14-16) The apostle John wrote of God’s Spirit as an “anointing.”  (I John 2:27). To sum up, oil is often a reference to the Holy Spirit.

In the Greek language, the word to anoint “chriĆ³” means to anoint by rubbing olive oil. It is very closely related to the word “Christos” where our English word “Christ” come from. (Strong’s #5548 & 5547). In Hebrew, the equivalent is “mashach” to anoint and “meshiach” anointed. (Strong’s # 4886 & 4888). When referring to Yeshua the Messiah, it is translated as “the” Messiah or “HaMashiach.” While the belivers are anointed with the Holy Spirit, Yeshua is the special anointed. Psalm 2:2 especially refers to Yeshua as “His anointed.”


BECOMING ONE
The apostle Paul wrote about the grafted olive tree in his letter to the Romans (chapter 11).  The olive branches represent the people who have been joined to Israel, as the body of Messiah, the believers and faithful ones. They get their nourishment from the root who is none other than Yeshua. He is called the “root of Jesse” 4 chapters later in the letter to Romans. (Yeshua is descended from the line of King David, whose father was Jesse.) In this way, Messianic Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yeshua are one in Messiah. The wild olive tree represents the nations or the Gentiles. Paul also gave an analogy regarding the wild olive tree, which has never been tended is naturally small and worthless, like a bush, producing fruits that are small and unappetizing. On the other hand, a cultivated olive tree, is very dense and prolific and produce much better fruits or olives. These trees grow very slowly but can last for a thousand of years, reaching an height of 18 to 20 feet and a trunk thick of almost 20 feet in circumference. The trunk of a very old olive tree is unusual: it is beautifully gnarled or intertwined, like a rope.

This brings to mind the stick of Ezekiel in Chapter 37, right after his vision of the valley of dry bones, in which the bones come to life and become a vast army, the whole house of Israel. Adonai told the prophet Ezekiel, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live…” Ezekiel was then instructed to get two sticks and to write on one stick the name Judah and his house, then on another stick he was to write the name Joseph and his house. Then the two sticks are to be joined together, becoming one in his hand. Thus they will become one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel and there will be one king and one Shepherd over them, His servant David, Mashiach Yeshua.

The Apostle Paul explains that both wild and cultivated branches can be grafted back in the olive tree. However, both groups, Jews and Gentiles can both be easily cut off: the Jews are cut off for their unbelief and rejection of Yeshua as Messiah and the Gentiles are cut off for their arrogance or disregard of their Jewish roots, the foundation of their faith.

Paul has indeed painted a more meaningful picture of what the cultivated olive tree represents: a people who loves Elohim and who faithfully keep His commandments to love one another despite their difference, even though the worldview of the olive tree is much simpler: such as representing Israel. Love the Adonai Elohenu (The Lord our God) and love your neighbors are the two most important commandments. (Mark 12:330-31) Are you a Gentile? Seek the roots, which is the foundation of the Holy Scriptures. Are you Jewish? Do not be quick to reject the message because of past persecution.

We live in a time when interfaith marriages are very common. My marriage is an excellent example. Many Jewish people are married to Gentiles. This is an opportunity to change the way things were done centuries ago when interfaith marriage was not that a common. It is an opportunity to break the mold that traditional religions have bound people for a long time. Despite the fact that some people still resists, we have more open dialogues between two different groups of people than we ever did. In the past, the approach was to “convert” the Jews to Christianity. With the rise of Messianic Judaism and the teaching of Hebraic roots of the faith, the two groups are closer than before. Adonai is indeed transforming people. This is the answer that Yeshua prayed for, just before he was betrayed by Judas, of all places, in an olive grove. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. “ (John 17:20-21).

THE HARVEST
During harvest time, toward the end of November, it was customary to gather the fruits of the olive tree by shaking and beating its branches with poles and making them fall to the ground. (Deut.24:20) For this reason, the other name for olive oil in the Scriptures is “beaten oil.” (Exodus 27:20, 29:40, Lev.24:2, Num.28:5) After gathering them, the olives are ground with mortar and pestle, a stone press, or a large stone roller until they are crushed to a pulp. Then the pulp is placed in wicker baskets to remove the impurities. The oil runs off through the baskets like a mesh and is collected in clay jars or jugs. This first grade, known as “beaten oil” was used to fuel lamps. A second grade of oil is made by heating and further pressing the pulp. (Source: Encyclopedia Judaica)

This particular harvest method of extracting the precious oil from the olive tree is a spiritual picture of the life of the Lord’s people, the body of Gentiles and Jewish believers. Like the olive tree, we too are “beaten” and “shaken.” Adonai allows this process to happen in order to mold us to His image. For we are not to be conformed to this world but converted to His way of life. Like Yeshua, we too are to be beaten and crushed that we might produce much good fruits for His Kingdom. Granted, it is not easy to be a believer but He is always with us and we are never tempted beyond what we can handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice because you are participating in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may be glad and shout for joy when he appears again in his glory.” (I Pet.4:12-13).

In conclusion, we now see a deeper meaning about the olive tree: that it is symbolic of a people who love Adonai and who loves each other in unity, striving to become one, and finally, the harvest and the process of changing to precious oil is symbolic of our fiery ordeal so that we each individually become molded to the image of Yeshua, who is a perfect image or likeness of Elohim himself. (1 John 3:2, Hebrew 1:3).

© Copyright 2011. By Veronique, Signs & Wonders Ministry. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story or illustration might be reprinted, re-posted on the internet, pasted or forwarded in email without permission. Illustration of Olive Tree by Veronique. © Copyright.