I know it has been a while since a real post, but I wanted to share this. It has been in draft for a while now so I finally took the time to finish it. So thankful for the re-teaching of this lesson today.
I recently completed a study in Psalms that focused on the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134. These pilgriming Psalms are latent with allusions to family life in Israel and the joys and hardships that accompany a nomadic people. Psalm 128 caught my attention as it talked about the benefits of the man who “fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.” This Psalm speaks of how the righteous man’s walk with the Lord will directly effect his family.
The Psalm reads:
How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
Your wife shall be a fruitful vine, within your house,
Your children like olive plants around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion, and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Indeed, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel.
In keeping with our study on this Psalm I decided to research the significance of the olive tree. I figured it must be a good thing for your children to be olive trees, but the simile was lost to me. Why an olive tree? I’ve heard about the mighty oak, but never the mighty olive tree. In fact, these trees are pretty puny looking if you ask me, never growing quite as tall as the others and not nearly as ravishing.
I found this simile in other passages as well; Psalm 52:8 records the voice of a man who praises, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the loving-kindness of God forever and ever.” Hosea 14:6 speaks of the promise of God to make Israel’s beauty like that of the olive tree. Romans 11:17 speaks of the olive tree as rich in root and Jeremiah says that it’s beautiful in form and fruit.
In a state where orange trees are far more prevalent than olive trees I found it difficult to be excited about the quest to become an olive tree. Frankly, I didn’t find it in the least bit desirable, as the Psalmist did, neither would I have count it a blessing as Israel did. Thankfully, my handy dandy book of manners and customs in Bible times helped me to understand the true beauty of the olive tree.
Olive trees were considered a vital element of the food supply in the middle east. One olive tree takes nearly 15 years to grow to maturity and grows roots that go deep deep down into the soil. Despite its slow growth, once a tree reaches maturity is grows olives in abundance and for centuries; old roots give way to new stems, maintaining the legacy of the strong olive tree for generations over.
One of my favorite characteristics of the olive tree is that its beauty comes from the sun. Supposedly, the olive tree is not really a beautiful tree on its own, but as it reflects the sun it takes on its shine and becomes beautiful! Isn’t that great? An olive tree’s extravagance is not from itself, but from an outside source, one that shines so bright as to change the appearance of this otherwise ugly tree and make it beautiful.
Isn’t that the life of a Christian? That we mature with roots deep to bear fruit that we might see our “children’s children” reap the harvest and bear more? It can be discouraging thinking about the time it takes to grow to maturity, and I am reminded often that I am drinking more milk than I thought. But as the olive tree teaches me, it is a process to grow to maturity and even if it takes my whole life, it’s worth it because the fruit will reap an abundance.
Maturity does not come without hardship and reaping the harvest does not come without work. The greatest gift from the olive tree is the oil that the olives produce, but such a gift comes with great effort and often, sacrifice. The tree’s branches are beat until the olives fall to the ground. The harvest is taken and crushed over and over until its dry, leaving the most coveted and prized product of the olive tree: its oil. This is the beautiful picture of Christ, the one who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our sins, chastised and punished to bring about the greatest harvest of all: weak and wicked sinners turned righteous and given a great inheritance all to bring glory to God.
Just think of the comfort this idea would bring to a pilgriming Israelite along a long, unknown journey: “Fear the Lord, my child, and your children will be like olive trees, firmly planted with roots deep, bearing fruit until their branches break, leaving a legacy for centuries to come, all the while reflecting the majesty of the Son and lighting the world in His marvelous glory.” And to us pilgriming home to the Father we have the same comfort in Christ. Bought with His blood we have these promises for our children. If we fear the Lord we too can raise olive trees- little guys and gals firmly rooted in the love of Christ, bearing fruit and mirroring their Savior. There is little else that I would love more than to see my children walking in the ways of the Lord and delighting in Him alone.