Wild Olive Trees
Sunday, February 16, 2014
By Rev. James May
Romans 11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
Romans 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Romans 11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
Romans 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
Romans 11:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Romans 11:22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
Romans 11:23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
There is a mountain called the Mount of Olives, just a short distance from Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives was a place where Jesus often went to pray and to teach his disciples. It is fitting to note that the Mount of Olives was also a place where the olives were harvested and crushed to make the oil that was useful in making anointing oil and oil for the lamps of the Temple. Perhaps Jesus went there for some of the same reasons. Perhaps it was a place where, as a man, he often went to be crushed and prepared for the work he came to earth to accomplish.
Olive trees grow all over the land of Israel and are spoken of all throughout the Bible. They are one of the greatest sources export to neighboring countries under the reign of many of the kings of Israel in the Old Testament. Even today, its fruit is in high demand in Israel and around the world.
Concerning their symbolism in the spiritual context, there are many things that we can identify with in these olive trees, and the Lord has many things to teach us concerning these olives. I won’t have the time to go into tremendous detail, for there is more to learn than I can possibly give to you in one message. But I think we can learn a lot in the time we have.
The name of the Olive Tree means “tree of oil”; and comes from a primitive root phrase that means, “to shine”. When you look at the olive tree it doesn’t appear to be such a beautiful thing to see. At times it seems so ordinary in appearance and size and normally, it only grows to a height of about 16-20 feet. Some say that it’s not a pretty tree, and it can be very messy when the fruit that it bears litters the ground at its feet.
The tree has thick leaves, and as it ages, it often grows taller but becomes twisted badly, with knots and turns in its limbs that happen through the adversity that it has to grow under. A fully matured olive tree often has a very strange form. Many of the trees in the region around Israel have been around for over 1,000 years, and were possibly growing and producing fruit in the time of Christ, and are still producing olives today. Many of the trees have root systems that have been proven to be well over 2000 years old.
It’s hard to completely kill an olive tree. There have been many instances where the tree was cut down, and even burned, but its roots keep on growing and from the root a new tree came up in place of the old one. This fact will be important in our message for today.
The olive tree was one of the most valuable trees in ancient Israel. The first mention of it is after the great flood when the dove returned to Noah’s ark with an olive branch in its beak, letting Noah know that it was safe to leave the ark. Whatever else was destroyed in the great flood, the olive tree managed not only survive, but to be thriving and growing after the waters receded from the earth. Since the time of the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, the olive branch has often been used as a symbol of peace throughout the world.
Even today, if you were to take out a dollar bill and look at the front image on the Great Seal of the United States of America, you would see that there is an eagle that carries in its right talon an olive branch with 13 leaves and 13 olives. It’s hard to see the olives sometimes, but they are there. What these symbols say to the world is that America is a nation, created by 13 colonies, and that each of those colonies, which became states all have a desire for peace, and to see the fruits of peace among one another and the other nations of the world. America’s greatest hope is that the world would be at peace.
Of course, the eagle holds arrows in its left talon to also let the world know that we will fight when necessary to ensure freedom and to ensure peace. One thing that is interesting is that the head of the eagle is turned toward the olive branch in times of peace and toward the arrows in times of war. It’s not turned on the currency, but on all official government documents as they are printed and issued.
Of course the olive tree is important for one thing – the olives it produces. These olives are important sources of food, and for the oil that they produce that can be used for many purposes. It can be used for cooking, for anointing, for making of spices and especially for the producing of a bright light when burned.
Olives are harvested, or at least they were in the past, by shaking the trees very hard. The olives would fall. Sometimes the branches were beaten with long poles to make the olives fall.
The Bible makes reference to this practice in Deuteronomy 24:20 When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
The fruit of the wild olive tree is really small and not of much value. Olive trees must be properly tended and cultivated to produce good fruit. To become truly productive, the olive tree must be grafted, a process by which a good olive branch is made to grow upon a wild olive tree and make it productive when that good branch grows. It is done this way so that the well-developed root system of the wild olive tree can be used to support the good branch and it will take far less time before the tree can become useful again. The good branches will eventually take over and wild branches will continue to decay.
Mankind uses the grafting method in this fashion, but God’s spiritual grafting is done just the opposite. God’s grafting process is to take a wild olive branch and graft it into the good tree. He takes that which is wild and makes it productive using the well-developed and deep roots of the good olive tree.
Now when we look at this from a spiritual sense, we must understand that when God looked upon man after the fall in the Garden, all he saw was a bunch of wild olive trees. There was no good stock left to produce the spiritual fruit that God wanted in the earth, so God chose to create his own good olive tree. God began his planting process by choosing one man as his seed; a man of faith and a man that would be called the “Friend of God”.
When God chose Abraham, and made a covenant with him to make Abraham and his descendants a chosen nation, he planted the seed of the first good spiritual olive tree. From the seed of Abraham came forth two olive trees, both Ishmael and Isaac, because Abraham was impatient and tried to hurry God’s growing process.
In a natural sense, it often takes from 10-20 years for an olive tree seedling to produce a proper harvest of olives. That’s why men graft them often to older root systems. And so it was with God’s planting. It would take time, and God would allow his “seedling” to grow roots and to produce in God’s own time.
Then Abraham interfered and bore a son named Ishmael. Ishmael was not God’s chosen fruit from his olive tree and so Ishmael became a wild olive tree again. It wasn’t until Isaac was born, God’s promised fruit of Abraham and Sarah, that the good, or “tame” olive tree began to grow even more.
From Isaac came his sons Jacob and Esau. Then from Jacob came 12 sons and a daughter, and from those 12 sons the good olive tree of God’s planting began to produce even more.
So now we have the birth of the nation of Israel, and Israel represents God’s chosen people, “his spiritually grown and good stock, making up God’s perfect olive tree”.
Israel was to be God’s fruitful nation, spreading God’s name and God’s ways to the whole earth, being fruitful and multiplying to show the world of God’s grace and mercy and teaching all men about the One True God!
Paul alluded to the fact that we were just wild olive trees, unfit for the kingdom of God, when he wrote these words in his letter to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
The Bible makes a clear distinction between those who are of the commonwealth of Israel and those who are without. Whether it is called The Circumcision and Un-circumcision; or whether it is called Jews and the Gentiles, the meaning is the same. At some point, everyone who was not born of the seed of Abraham was separated from the covenant of God that he had with Israel, making us all wild olive trees in the eyes of God.
What do I mean by “Commonwealth of Israel”? That commonwealth is the confederation of people, specifically 12 tribes, joined together under a “Theocracy”, or a nation that is governed and ruled by God himself. Israel was God’s chosen people, and they alone were given the Promises of the Covenant of Abraham. No Gentile nations were included in this covenant. It is only through the New Testament covenant, under Jesus Christ, that we can be a part of the commonwealth of Israel when we are grafted in by the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. The good olive tree is more than just the nation of Israel, but its roots are established in the God of Israel who supplies all things necessary for the tree to produce its fruit. Wild olive trees are the Gentiles, disconnected from God, blind to the truth and without any redeeming values.
Because of unbelief, the majority of Jewish people today have rejected Christ as their Messiah. Their minds are also blinded to the truth. They failed to produce the fruit God desired, and their branches began to wither and die. God’s good tree was reverting to a wild olive tree once again, so God had to do something to restore the ability of his good tree to bear fruit.
God has broken the rebellious Jews off of the good olive tree and cast them into the fire to be burned, but the good tree continued on. The root system was still there because God’s promises and covenants never fail. He will find a way to keep his Word no matter what men do.
What did God do? He took branches, “people”, out of the wild olive trees and grafted them into the roots of the good olive tree by sending Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, to die on a tree, be buried and rise again to new life, to allow the wild olive branches to be engrafted into the good olive tree that was already there.
Gentiles became part of the good olive tree and now the church was born, and once again the planting of the Lord began to produce the fruit that God desired as Born Again Christians began spreading the gospel through the whole world. We, the church, became a part of that good olive tree of God’s orchard!
But we stand grafted in only by the grace of God. God forbid that we should become arrogant, proud, lifted up, and conceited – for if the Jews sinned in their pride and arrogance and were cut off, God will also cut off any Christian who thinks that they can get away with sin in their hearts.
It is only by the mercies and grace of God, and obedience to his Word that any of us has a chance. Our only chance is to remain attached to the Good Olive Tree Branch, and Jesus is that Branch.
Even so, the unbelieving Jewish nation is not lost completely. The promises of God to Abraham will not fail and God already has a plan to restore the good olive tree of Israel once again. He has kept a remnant of Israel alive and safe and He has brought them back to their land once again so that they may be established as the good olive tree in the days to come.
The Bible tells us that in these last days, the church will experience a great falling away. That means that the church will be losing its ability to produce fruit through becoming too worldly, and its branches and leaves will begin to revert to wild olive trees once again.
After the rapture of the remnant of the church that is still a part of that good olive tree, God will send a revival among the Jews and there will arise from that original good olive tree, 144,000 Jewish virgins that will produce fruit for the Kingdom of God in a way that the world has never seen. Israel will fulfill its mission to be the good olive tree once again and show the world how productive the planting of the Lord can be. In a short period of time these good olive trees will produce more converts, more fruit, than the church produced in its last days.
When the good olive trees of Israel, and of the church, are taken into heaven through either rapture or persecution, all that will be left upon this earth is wild olive trees once again. At that point, God’s wrath will be poured out and every wild olive tree will be broken, crushed and burned in the fire.
This picture of the grafting of the olive tree, and the possibility of it reverting back to a wild olive tree that is cast into the fire, should make each one of us sit up and take notice – to consider the severity and justice of God, and also His abundant mercy and goodness. Our salvation is up to us and the choices we make!
As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12, “ . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
As we showed before, in ancient times, the olives were harvested by shaking the branches hard or by striking them with long poles, causing the olives to fall to the ground.
The “shaking” and “beating” of olives, to harvest them and extract the oil, is a type of the life of God’s people. The shaking pictures each one of us, who must literally be “shaken” up in order for us to repent of our sins. It takes a beating of the rod of God’s correction among our branches to get us to let go of the things that keeping us from bearing as fruit in our lives. The fruit that we bear as wild olive trees is rotten and useless in the eyes of God. No matter how good your works are, they are as filthy rags in the sight of God unless they are born of a tree that has been engrafted into the Family of God and governed by his Word.
Like the olives that fall from the tree, we must often be “humbled, beaten down from our attitudes of pride and arrogance by God’s spiritual shaking. Often we are led into places where we must suffer for the Kingdom of God, or be bruised for the cause of Christ, and sometimes even face affliction. But even though it may seem hard for the moment, we must know that this is what it takes to produce the pure anointing oil; that oil that will give off the brightest light possible. Wild olive trees don’t bear olives that are very good; but when we become engrafted into the good olive tree, then the olives we bear become acceptable and usable for God’s work.
David wrote in Psalms 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all”.
In Psalms 55:22, he wrote, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved”.
In Psalms 119:71 David also wrote, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes”.
When we go to the New Testament we read where James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”
And Peter wrote in I Peter 4:12-13, “Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy”.
Just like the poor olives, we too must be crushed, beaten down, and humbled, so that we can produce much good fruit for God’s Kingdom!
No one likes being walked on, mashed down or crushed! Sometimes it’s hard to take it when you’ are feeling humiliated or humbled. Yet sometimes this crushing is for our own good, to give us an entrance into the glorious kingdom of God! It’s the crushing that creates the oil, the presence of God, and the faith to trust God more!
We were all wild olive trees! We didn’t know anything about the wonderful things of God. We were strangers to the promises, the covenant and the blessings of God. We produced olives, but the olives we produced were bitter fruits, unfit for the Kingdom of God. Our olives were born of a life a sin and darkness.
But thank God, when we accepted Jesus Christ, we were wild olive trees no more! Now we grafted into the same commonwealth as the nation of Israel. Some have said that we are spiritual Jews, and I guess that’s okay, but it’s more than that!
We are now partakers of the same promises, the greater covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ; heirs to the promise of the Messiah, the Son of God. We are now joint heirs with Christ! We are founded upon that same root system that Israel had through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and so many more; and through the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
One thing that I find very interesting about olive trees is that they thrive and grow the best in the worst of ground.
Olive trees have been transplanted or planted in fertile soil, in the same conditions as many other crops and trees. There they were fertilized and watered and tended to for a long time. But they never produced much fruit. In that kind of ground they become too susceptible to disease. In addition to that, the tree may get pretty, full and green, but there will be little useful fruit produced. It seems that the tree worries about its appearance more than its fruit when times are easy. And when they did bear fruit it was often unusable.
Olive trees bear their greatest harvest of fruit when they’ve been planted and grown in rocky, sandy soil where there is little water. It seems that their fruit requires great adversity to really produce.
But keep in mind that from the time the olive tree is planted until it begins to bear a lot of fruit can be as long as 15-20 years. That requires a lot of work and patience on the part of those that tend to the trees.
Let all of us learn the lessons that are given here! In adversity our faith is grown! In the hard times, we learn to trust God more! In the dry times, when it seems that there is little water spiritually, we learn to appreciate more that which God gives and we learn from it. Through great adversity we will be a light for Christ in this dark world. And through much tribulation, we shall be made overcomers and God will be magnified by our obedience to his call!
Like the olive trees in fertile, easy conditions, Christians often get too concerned with their own needs and their own fleshly desires rather than being concerned about the kind of fruit they are bearing for the Lord. When we look inwardly and begin to develop pride and self-reliance, believing that somehow we have become more than we are, we are like that beautiful olive tree; full of self-indulgence but bearing little fruit; but oh don’t we look good to everyone else!
Also, let’s lean to serve the Lord with patience and to have a lot of patience with other Christians who are still growing too. We aren’t all growing at the same speed! For most of us it takes time and a whole lot of growing, a constant time of learning and changing. Some Christians seem to take a very long time before they will begin to bear fruit for the Lord. Others grow faster and produce fruit quicker. Remember, we weren’t all planted in the same ground, or circumstances of life, but we are in grafted into the same good stock, the root system of Jesus Christ. For reasons known only to the “Root” some have to face a lot more adversity and take a whole lot more growing and changing before their light shines brightly.
Now, as we come to close of this message, let me ask first of all, “Are you certain that you are grafted into the good tree? Are you still a wild olive tree or are you growing to be a part of the good olive tree?
Are you serving the Lord, or serving self? Is your first goal in life to be fruitful for the Kingdom of God or is it to just kick back and enjoy life and then bear fruit for God when you have nothing else to do?
Is there an anointing in your life that will allows the light of the gospel to shine forth brightly, or is your light so dim that you have to light a match to see if your light is working at all?
If you’re a part of that good olive tree, then thank God for it and just let the Spirit use you to produce much fruit. If you are, and the fruits of your life aren’t so plentiful, don’t give up! You may still be in the early stages of growing and learning. The day will come, if you just keep growing, that your light will shine just as bright as anyone else. Who knows what God has in store for your life?
Another question is, “If you are connected, grafted in through Jesus Christ, are you standing firm with Him? You see, it’s easy to allow the things of this world to begin to draw you aside, ruining your connection to the good olive tree, and then causing you to revert to a wild olive tree once again. That’s what happens when a Christian falls away, turns away from serving the Lord and backslides. A backslidden Christian, who has become a wild olive branch once again, will be cut away, pruned from the good tree and cast into the fire! Don’t let that happen! Make your calling and election, your grafting in, sure and steady!
Let us beware lest we become too complacent. For if God cut off the branches of his chosen Olive Tree in the nation of Israel; never let us think that we won’t be cut off as well.
Finally, let’s be so very thankful that we are chose to be grafted in and can become good olive trees and no longer wild olive trees! We have been grafted in so that we will bear the kind of fruit that God can use. We are now grafted into the family of God and have become Children of God!
It is not God’s desire that we remain wild olive trees, but that we all become a part of his tree. We are to be the planting of God; his good olive trees, producing fruit that will shine forth brightly in this dark world to let others know about Jesus!
Thank God that we don’t have to be a Wild Olive Tree anymore!