Are You Like an Olive?

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What spiritual lessons does God pack into this useful little fruit?

Olives may have been common in the land of Canaan, but they were also considered precious. The olive is mentioned 35 times in the Bible and its most important product, olive oil, is mentioned over 200 times.

The doors and doorposts within the temple's inner sanctuary along with the cherubim were made of olive wood (1 Kings:6:23, 31-33). Booths at the Feast of Tabernacles were made from olive and other tree branches (Nehemiah:8:15). Olive oil was used in the tabernacle lamps for light (Leviticus:24:2), and oil was also used to anoint the kings of Israel (Saul in 1 Samuel:10:1 and David in 1 Samuel:16:13).

In addition, oil was also used in most of the offerings. Even the two witnesses are referred to as olive trees (Revelation:11:3-4). David said, "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God" (Psalm:52:8).

God holds the olive tree, its fruit and its oil as highly important. Our spiritual life can be related to this useful fruit. Let's take a look at the importance this tree holds for us.

Firmly Rooted

The olive tree is a stout evergreen fruit tree that has been cultivated for thousands of years. It is revered for its longevity and the tenacity with which it remains rooted in the ground, thriving despite adversity. It can withstand conditions of frost, drought and poor soil, typically living for 500 years, though there are claims of trees that are much older. This is because an olive tree has strong, hardy roots. The root system spreads out wide and long, making the trees hard to topple.

As Christians, we should be like the olive tree. Proverbs:12:3 reads, "The root of the righteous cannot be moved." We need to be well rooted in our lives by keeping God's truth in the forefront in our lives. Our use of God's Word should be wide-ranging as we apply it to many situations in our life. Reading, understanding and applying God's Word helps us become rooted in His way, making it difficult for Satan to topple us.

Fruitful

Olive trees do not produce fruit for six to 10 years after planting, and only when they are about 20 to 25 years old do they produce a full harvest. Olive trees produce a small, bitter oval fruit that is green when unripe and black when ripe. We often find this fruit as an hors d'oeuvre at parties or as a topping on pizza.

Proverbs:12:12 tells us that "the root of the righteous yields fruit." Once grounded in God's Word, we should produce fruit in service and love towards others—abundantly like the full harvest of the olive tree. Learning to serve with love and care takes time and effort, much like the olive tree takes time to produce mature fruit.

For proper fruit development, the olive tree needs pruning. Pruning regulates production and helps shape the tree for easier harvesting. Radical pruning is often done to keep the olive tree at a desired height. Yet, the olive tree thrives after such trimming.

In like manner, God prunes us to produce fruit. Consider John 15. Christ is the true vine and God the vinedresser. According to verse 2, "Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." God wants us to have His righteous character. He prunes us accordingly to help us develop as His begotten children.

Full of Oil

Olive oil is actually a fruit juice. The longer the olive ripens, the greater the oil content. Olives begin to grow in late June, but the best olive oil is made from ripe berries gathered in November or December.

From 10 to 35 percent of an olive is oil, but in order to extract the oil, the olive itself must be pressed. This is done either using a mill with wood or stones or by stomping with one's feet. Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing and is the purest oil with the best taste.

The Holy Spirit is often symbolized as olive oil in the Bible. As firstfruits, God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us know and understand His way (1 Corinthians:2:12-13). The Holy Spirit gives us strength to overcome our sins and the pressures put upon us by Satan. Our trials can be compared to the pressing or bruising done to the olive to produce the oil. God allows trials to help us stir up His Holy Spirit within us. And with use, God will increase our measure of His Holy Spirit much like the oil content increases in the olive as it ripens.

Olive trees were abundant in Israel and the oil was a staple in the people's diet. Today olives are still a main food item in the Mediterranean basin of Italy, Greece and Spain. However, in other parts of the world this fruit is considered more of a delicacy. God used this common daily item to help Israel understand their purpose in following Him. As spiritual Israel, we can still relate to the symbolism found in this simple fruit tree. We too should be able to say of ourselves that we are "like an olive tree in the house of God." UN

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