The olive tree is an evergreen tree that grows best in direct sun light and thrives in rocky and unproductive soil; it basically grows where other trees won’t. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean area and adjoining coastal areas of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. Its trunk is gnarled and twisted, but its bark is smooth and the color of ash. Its leave are leathery and silver-green, and are known to have tenacious strength. Its wood is solid and yellowish in color, and its flowers are small, white, and feathery. The edible fruit the olive tree produces is called an olive.
The olive tree is considered hardy because it is resistant to drought, disease, and fire. Its root system is capable of regenerating itself even if its trunk has been destroyed by fire. It lives a very long time; some olive trees are estimated to be over 2,000 years old.
It is mostly seen as a symbol of peace, and is associated with the color green, which signifies life. It is also a symbol of wisdom, fertility, pureness, power, and glory. In Genesis, when the great flood had washed all living things from earth, besides that which was on the ark, Noah sent out a dove to see if the waters had receded and land had started to emerge. The dove came back with an olive leaf….a sign of life.
He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. (Genesis. 8:10-11, NIV)
Ok, ok, so that was a lot about the olive tree, but what about the olive. What about this tiny fruit that the olive tree produces? What does this olive represent? You’re on the edge of your seat aren’t you? Hold on, be patient, I’m getting there….
The olive tree was the root, the strong foundation, and the source of life. From this strong foundation grew the olive. The significance of the olive is what’s inside of it – the oil. The oil was used for many things like anointing, healing, cooking, lighting lamps, and perfumes. This hidden treasure inside the olive is what made it, and the olive tree, so valuable.
There was (and still is) an art to getting at the oil inside the olive without completely destroying it. You see, the olive had to go through a process called extraction which is separating the oil from the other contents. I’m no expert in oil pressing, but a simple explanation to the process would be first to ground the olive into a paste by using large millstones. After grinding, the paste is then placed on fiber disks where pressure is applied to separate the oil from the water. And voila – olive oil! Like I said, I’m no expert and my simple explanation does not do the overall process any justice. However, you get the gist of how the oil is extracted from the olive.
Outside of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, the olive tree is the most significant tree in the Bible (yes, I’m back to the tree…but we are getting closer, I promise). Significant because it represented life, but not just any life, a good life as the oil from the olive was needed in daily living. What else or should I say, who else, is needed for daily living? What else is our strong foundation or better yet, who else is our strong foundation? Jesus! He’s our strong foundation, He’s our source for daily living, He is the one who gives us life!
So if Jesus is the olive tree then the olives are us! We are the olives!!
You see, life gets hard and it presses down on us. It grinds us until we feel like we can’t take anymore. It’s the grinding and the pressing process of life that reveals the value that we have inside of us. No, we don’t want to go through trials and tribulations, but they are necessary for us to grow and become something different.
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10, NIV)
Just like the olive when pressed, is not destroyed, but transformed into something else, so that the world can benefit from its value. We too become something different. It is through this refining process that Jesus reveals who we are in Him. It is through our tests and testimonies….our value….that we demonstrate our faithfulness to Jesus and how we help others.
“This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.'” (Zechariah 13:9, NIV)
That’s great to know, but knowing doesn’t take the pain of the tribulations away. Some scars are deep and need healing before we can begin to use them for the good of others. We were each created for a purpose, and we can not let the effects of life keep us from that purpose. Our souls need healing so our light can shine in this dark world and be a light for someone else. That healing and sustenance for life can only come from our source….our tree….Jesus Christ!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)