Olive Tree Imagery
The olive tree is one of the plants most frequently mentioned in the Bible. Scripture writers used olive tree imagery to describe Jesus’ Jewish roots and the relationship of Jews and Gentiles.
When an olive tree gets very old (often hundreds of years old) and has reached its maximum production, farmers usually cut it down to improve its future growth. Soon, new shoots grow from the old stump, and the tree begins producing olives again.
This aspect of the olive tree provides an image of Isaiah’s prophecy, ‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from His roots a Branch will bear fruit’ (Isa. 11:1). As a descendant of David, Jesus was the shoot from the stump of Jesse (David’s father).
As the Old Testament frequently notes, the olive tree is beautiful (Jer. 11:16, Hosea 14:6). The faithful followers of God are compared to vigorous olive trees, and their children are said to be like the shoots that appear at the tree’s roots, guaranteeing its survival.
The New Testament uses olive trees to help illustrate God’s pan of salvation. In Rom. 11:11-24, Paul describes Christians as either natural olive branches (those of Jewish background), or olive branches that have been grafted onto Jesus (Gentiles). As branches grafted into Jesus, Christians will only bear fruit if we are attached to (and have a personal relationship with) him.
The olive tree provides an excellent lesson for Christians who are not Jewish. Though God cut many Jewish branches down because they rejected Jesus as Messiah, he did not uproot the tree. The shoot of Jesus and the branches of his Gentile followers grew from a Jewish stump. As Christians, we are branches growing from Jewish roots.
The olive tree can be a constant reminder that Jesus is our source of life; our branch springing from Jewish roots. The beautiful olive tree reminds us of God’s amazing plan of salvation and his expectation that all his branches will bear fruit in abundance.
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