Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Israel and the Olive Tree

Olive trees near Florence

When God inspired men to write down His words in what we call the Bible there is never a word wasted, never a word untrue, never anything scientifically in error, never anything fictitious.
I continually learn new details about something I did not know before that reveals yet  again God's infinite wisdom and attention to detail.
Recently, I learned some very interesting facts about the farming of olive trees in Bible times that support  Paul's analogy using the olive tree to illustrate the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles as God's people. 
This analogy is found in Romans 11:2-25.

The following characteristics of the Olive tree make this passage deepen in meaning and enlighten our understanding in its application.

1.  An olive tree can lose its fruitfulness and become unhealthy. 
A farmer watched carefully over the health of his olive trees , to maintain their ability to yield a good  crop of olives.
So also God watched Israel blessing them, caring for them, wooing them to Himself  but they became wayward and rebellious ... finally, He declared them hopelessly 'unfruitful' .. He says .. "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people." (Rom. 10:21) 

2. Save the tree, don't destroy it ! 
A farmer with limited time and space was not willing to just cut down the unproductive olive tree. He desired to save it .
So also God, was not willing to totally reject Israel and start over ..  In Rom. 11:1 Paul declares .. "Has God cast away His people?  Certainly NOT !"

3. Grafting restores the life of the tree . 
The olive tree farmer knew he could bring back the health of a suffering olive tree by grafting in branches from the wild olive tree.   NOTE - The olive tree is the only plant where the wild is grafted into the cultured - in every other plant grafting it is always the other way around, the cultured grafted into the wild. 
Paul's analogy could  fall apart except for this unique fact about the olive tree.   The cultured tree was Israel, the chosen people of God, 'cultured' in God's vineyard.  But in God's plan the Gentiles - the wild olive tree - would be grafted into the cultured olive tree of Israel - so God created the olive tree with this unique characteristic. His foreknew how important this little detail would be to Paul's analogy. 
The work of grafting involved the farmer cutting off some of the branches of the cultured olive tree. He would then cut branches off the wild olive tree and graft them onto the cultured tree where the branches had been cut off the cultured tree. 

4.   Keep the cut off branches. 
When the farmer cut off the cultured branches he would lay them down at the bottom of the tree. 
  For three and a half years the cultured olive tree would force its sap up into the newly grafted in wild olive tree branches...  Then, after that time, he would bore holes into the grafted branches and graft back in the 'dead' olive tree branches that had been lying on the ground for 3 1/2 years.   These branches came back to life and become 'jealous' fighting for their share of the sap.
 The now healthy tree brings forth an abundance of fruit ! 

Isn't that the neatest picture of what Paul talks about ?  How the 'fall' (to the ground)  of the original olive tree branches  is not meant as their rejection ...but that these 'dead' branches will again be grafted in and come back to life. 
Paul even refers to the horticultural fact that these grafted back in branches will be provoked to jealousy, recognizing what they have lost and desire to once again to become fruitful in God's kingdom. 

The careful 'grafting' produced  a 'healthy tree'  of both Jew and Gentile. bringing the two into one so that "all Israel will be saved".  The olive tree (Israel) restored to health and life by the grafting in of the wild olive branches (Gentiles) fulfilling God's plan  that the ONE people of God  would "preach the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the earth - to every nation, tribe , tongue, and people !"  (Rev. 14:6) 


Lenora said...

Thank you, Julie for sharing these insights into GOD's Word! What a wonderful GOD we serve.

Anneliese said...

What a fun detail about the grafting process ... the wild grafted into the cultured and how the old branches can be brought back - that part surprises me. So great when we find details like that and they make the analogy more meaningful.