A Lenten Look at Trees features seven tree species, a sweeping journey from the Garden of Eden to palm’s Sunday prominence, preparing our hearts for the day Jesus hung on a tree. Some trees along the way may be well-suited for your garden; others may be more suitable the table, their fruits found easily in your grocers produce section. Either way, the symbolism and connections yield layers of hidden treasure in God’s Word.
Olive trees speak peace, from their first Scriptural sighting in the dove’s beak—
This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone.
Genesis 8:11 NLT
to their continual implication throughout Scripture in “new wine and [olive] oil” as the measure of God’s favor, abundance, and bustling banter of prosperous productivity.
He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.
Deuteronomy 7:13 NIV
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord— the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.
Jeremiah 31:12 NIV
Fullness is communicated through the olive tree’s horticulture. This tree brings out of scant water supply and rugged surroundings a rich, emollient, flavorful and nourishing fruit, blessing the ancient household in a full range of ways — olive fruit to eat and oil pressed from the fruit for cooking, baking, providing nourishment for skin taut from the arid climate and lighting the evening hours as lamp oil, also summoned to light the house of the Lord (Leviticus 24:1 – 4). The tree itself offered shade in the summer’s heat and a sense of stability in its endurance, able to prosper in the dry landscape unendingly.
—excerpt from “Olive’s Peace and Blessing,” God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, page 23
Psalm 128 builds on olive’s rich imagery, showing the peacekeeping man and his way of life to be an influence pouring out to community, city (Jerusalem), and nation (Israel).
Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
peace be on Israel.
Two Olive Trees
These two leaders [Zerubbabel and Joshua] and their influence, from governing affairs to leading worship, were pictured in Zechariah’s vision as two olive trees…Through the governor and priest’s work to reunite the people and rebuild the temple, the Lord’s blessing and presence was with them as they came together to accomplish the work. “ ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Haggai 2:9), an olive tree declaration if there ever was one!
—excerpt from “Two Olive Trees,” God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, page 1061
Are you discovering along with me, there seems always to be some sort of contrast or tension as we dig into the meanings and subtleties in horticultural metaphors? Olive is no exception!
Though olive is the icon of peace and blessing, the fruits stand up to tension, pressing; the pressure at Gethsemane, that is.
Overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Mark 14:34) — these are the words that meet us in a smaller parcel across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, at the base of the Mount of Olives. This plot, a garden, was named for the olive oil production that likely developed here; Gethsemane meant “oil press” in Hebrew. Here, like David before him, Jesus was hard-pressed… The contorted, craggy, rough-hewn trunks of the olive trees and their squat, misfit stature seem to picture agony, serving as a poignant visual aid to seeing Jesus in this moment.
—excerpt from “Gethsemane: Jesus’ Hard Pressing,” God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, page 1145
Isaiah’s words come to fullness at Gethsemane, in the darkness in this Mount of Olives garden.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed…Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied
Isaiah 53:5,10-11 NIV
Further Olive Readings:
Plant Olive Trees
Olive trees are hardy to zone 9, which means most of us will be growing them in pots to bring indoors for the winter. Fortunately, growers are ready with plenty to delight our gardens and table decorations, as I discovered on a recent visit to Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach, CA, see the pretty topiary pictured here! Options abound in choosing an olive for patio display or a sunny spot indoors. Olives are evergreen, so remember to keep them in the light year-round.
An Olive Poem
To further behold the rich layering of olive trees in Scripture and to continue to take hold of His Words in our hearts, enjoy the latest poem for the A-to-Z Primer of Plants from God’s Word.
Move the cursor over the poetry text to reveal links to Scripture.
is for olive tree,
if there were only one
to picture the peace
we have in the Son
then olive would show us
beyond all doubt
the complete and full blessing
God has poured out.
Though haggard and humble
in habit and form,
the olive tree prospers
enduring all harm.
young, vibrant shoots,
its trunk remains sturdy
its branches bearing fruits.
Rely on olive,
to nourish body and skin,
its oil bringing lamplight
anointing priest of Aaron.
Olive’s wealth shows the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.
From Noah to Israel—
peace, harmony, and one accord.
Our sorrowed Jesus trembled
among trunks of these trees
overwhelmed on his knees.
The mount was shaken,
justice seemed removed.
But the light is still shining,
and THIS IS THE TRUTH.
Read more on olive trees in the devotions on Choosing, part of Garden Work, pages a-20 & a-21, and in the Garden Tour section at the Mount of Olives, pages a-18 & a-19.
Photo Credits: ©2015-2017 Shelley S. Cramm
A special thank you to Roger’s Gardens, all potted olive trees photographed on my recent visit to their home and garden center. And you can visit, too! www.rogersgardens.com