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Olive Tree Be a Green Olive Tree

May 11, 2009

Dear Friend of Mary Craig Ministries,

Sometimes we need a paradigm shift to God's perspective on life. This is especially true when we squareoff against devourers, destroyers, persistent predators, or just plain bad times.

Before David was crowned king, but after God had chosen him and Samuel had anointed him, David found himself up against a man he describes in Psalm 52 as boastful and treacherous, a liar and slanderer, a deceiver for personal gain, a lover of evil more than good, a lover of lies more than truth, a lover of seeing others hurt, and someone up to a lot of mischief. This man was Doeg, an Edomite, a "mighty man" but one who slew 85 priests plus the inhabitants of the town they lived in. How did that happen?

David wrote Psalm 52 when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said to him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech. David had approached Ahimelech the priest and wanted five loaves of bread from the priest's hand. The bread was hallowed bread; yet the priest gave the bread to David along with the sword of Goliath whom David had slain in the valley of Elah. (1 Samuel 21.1-9)

Doeg saw the whole thing. He was Saul's servant, Saul's chief herdsman. Doeg had been "detained before the Lord," meaning he had been held in the priests' power. Whatever his motive, Doeg was determined to persecute David. Pretending loyalty to Saul, he told Saul that he had seen David coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest, how the priest inquired of the Lord for David and gave him the bread and the sword of Goliath. Doeg's subtle act led to Ahimelech being summoned before Saul to answer for conspiracy against the king. The sentence was death to Ahimelech and all of his father's house. Saul's servants would not slay the priests of the Lord, but Doeg had no trouble killing 85 priests and striking the men and women, children and babies, and animals of Nob, the city of the priests. (1 Samuel 22.6-21)

One son of Ahimelech, named Abiathar, escaped and ran to tell David. David said, "I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house. Abide with me and do not fear, for he that seeks my life seeks your life: but with me you shall be in safeguard." 1 Samuel 22.22, 23

Psalm 52 contrasts two men, one cursed and one blessed, Doeg and David. It contrasts two trusts, two destinies, two attitudes, two lives lived before God, two examples, two boastings, two masters, serving evil or serving good, and two ends. David says in Psalm 52.8

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the mercy (hesed) of God forever and ever.

Be a green olive tree. Olive trees are tenacious, able to endure neglect, with dense foliage. The Hebrew for "olive tree" is 'es shemen, "tree of oil," from a primitive root meaning "to shine." The word can mean "richness, anointing, fat, fruitful, oil, ointment, olive." The word relates to the word shemesh, "to be brilliant," and which also is the Hebrew for "sun." Another Hebrew word for "olive" is zayith, meaning "an olive," as "yielding illuminating oil."

Olive trees have a grace and character to them and can grow in almost any place. They can endure great heat and drought. They need pruning, however, in order to bear fruit. Over time they become gnarly, knotted, and twisted because of irregular growth; yet they are beautiful. In old age the tree becomes hollow even though the trunk continues to grow thicker. The olive tree is an evergreen. A green tree flourishes. The olive tree in a healthy state has leaves all the time. Some claim olive trees can live up to 2,000 years. The olive tree can be cut down or even burned and new shoots will emerge from its roots. Psalm 128.3 says the children of the righteous will be like olive plants, i.e., hearty, strong, grounded in a secure root system. Olive yards were to be safeguarded as if they were silver and gold (1 Chron 9.29; 27.28).

The strength of the olive tree is in its roots which go deep into the earth to find springs of fresh water. The glory of the olive tree is its oil, which comes only after much pounding. To make oil, the olives were bruised in a mortar to remove impurities, and beaten for the oil to be used as fuel for the lamp in the Tabernacle (Ex 27.20; Lev. 24.2). A grower might wait 15 years for his first good harvest. Olives are cultivated in olive yards, among rocks, even on the side of mountains. The Bible describes the olive tree as green, fair and beautiful (Jeremiah 11.16, Hosea 14.6), fat and unctuous (Judges 9.9, Romans 11.17), bearing goodly fruit (Jeremiah 11.16, James 3.12), suffering sometimes from caterpillars (Amos 4.9), used in service to God and people (Judges 9.9), providing oil (Exodus 27.20, Deut. 8.8). The two cherubim in the temple were made of olive wood (1 Kings 6.23) and olive wood was used for the doors and posts of the temple (1 Kings 6.31-33). Olive branches were used in the making of the booths at the feast of tabernacles (Nehemiah 8.15).

When fully ripe, the olive tree was shaken vigorously (Isaiah 17.6) and beaten with poles to remove the fruit (Deut. 24.20). The people were not to go over the boughs a second time in order to leave a supply for the poor (Deut. 24.20; Ex. 23.11). They tread the olives in presses to extract the oil (Micah 6.15, Haggai 2.16), crushing the olives to a pulp (Deut. 33.24) and then subjecting them to more pressing. You can see olive presses hewn out of solid rock yet today in Megiddo, Jerusalem, and Taanach, just as you can see ancient olive trees, with some claiming certain trees go back to the time of Christ. The olive leaf has become an emblem of peace (Genesis 8.11) and the gleaning of olives speaks of the remnant of grace (Isaiah 17.6, Isaiah 24.13). The Mount of Olives attests to the prevalence of olive trees around Jerusalem. Gethsemane means "olive press" or "oil press."

The sanctified offerings to be made to God included cakes of bread "anointed with oil" (Lev. 8.26; Numbers 7; Ex. 29.1, 2). Holy anointing oil included olive oil (Ex. 30.23-25). Pure oil of pressed olives was used for the light to make the lamps in the Tabernacle burn continually (Lev. 24.2). Daily sacrifices were accompanied with olive oil (Ex. 29.40). The cleansing ceremony for lepers required olive oil (Lev. 14), and in fact, the log of oil used in the ceremony for cleansing lepers was the largest amount of oil called for in any ritual cleansing as it symbolized the return to favor and the return of honor, joy, and restoration to life. Olive oil speaks of joy and gladness (Is 61.3; Ps 45.7). It was used as a medicine to anoint wounds, internally and externally, and to fight disease (Is 1.6, Mark 6.13, Luke 10.34, 2 Chron. 2.10, 1 Kings 17.12-16).

The olive tree is associated with royalty and ruling. It is an emblem of sovereignty. Its oil was used to anoint those favored by God and to anoint kings (1 Sam. 10, 1 Kings 1.39, 2 Kings 9.1, 6, Ps 89.20). David was an "anointed one." God's people are called by the name Green Olive Tree (Jer. 11.16). Jesus Christ is that holy Root. (Romans 11.16-18; Rev. 5.5, 22.16) Wild olive trees produce fruit that is small and worthless; but branches of the wild olive tree that have been grafted into the good olive tree, cultivated, and pruned, produce good fruit. Paul uses this in speaking of Israel and the grafting in of Gentiles in Romans 11. Read Romans 11 and consider the goodness and severity of the Lord.

By calling himself a green olive tree, David is saying that he is planted, rooted, grounded, and flourishing. He will dwell forever in the house of God. Doeg, on the other hand, may flourish for awhile but will be plucked up by the roots. Because David knows who he is, he trusts in God's mercy (hesed), praises God who is faithful, and waits on God's name for it is good.

Be a green olive tree. Be filled with the Holy Spirit, anointed, strong, with character, gracious, able to withstand heat and drought, producing good fruit, the fruit of righteousness in the kingdom of God. Be rooted and ground in the love of Christ, knowing the love of Christ which passes knowledge that you might be filled with all the fullness of God. Let the Holy Spirit cultivate you, prune and press you until you are a "son of fresh oil."

Serving the Lord of Glory,

Mary Craig

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The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit.
With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it; and its branches are broken. Jeremiah 11.16

For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its root
By the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green.
And will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.Jeremiah 17.8

They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing,
Or any tree, but only those men

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