WEEKLY CHRISTIAN BIBLE STUDY AND DEVOTIONAL FROM GOD’S WORD, FOR THE NEWLY SAVED AND MORE SEASONED BELIEVER, AND FOR OTHERS SEEKING TRUTH. OUR PRAYER IS TO ENCOURAGE YOU AND STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH IN GOD’S INFINITE MERCY, LOVE AND GRACE, AND IN THE GOSPEL OF THE DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, THAT ALL WHO SEEK HIM HAVE ETERNAL, ABUNDANT LIFE.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Seeing the Forest from the Trees
Photo by Anna Anichkova
We often hear the expression, “Don’t miss the forest for
the trees!” It is true that we need to get the big picture and not get bogged
down in the details. But I often think there is much to be learned from the specifics.
In the case of Jesus, the Bible tells us much about Him from the names of trees that refer
to Him directly or indirectly.
Jesus, the True
Vine, sustains us like the vine nourishes the branches. If the branches are
cut off, they wither and die. But those branches connected to the vine grow
grapes, symbolizing the spiritual fruit we will bear if we remain connected to
Him (John 15:1-5). The
grapevine is a symbol of peace and prosperity and a national emblem of Israel.
In the Millennial Kingdom, Christ the King and Judge will
rule over the nation of Israel in righteousness as the Righteous Branch (Jerremiah
23:5). Jesus, the Messiah, King of Israel is anointed with His own
royal perfume,described as
the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:7),
of the myrrh shrub, aloe, and the cassia tree resembling a cinnamon tree (Psalm 45:7-8; Exodus 30:23-24).
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowd broke
off palm tree branches to worship
Him (John 12:13). But the
branches were not connected to the tree, and those who thought He would be King
right away were not connected spiritually to Christ. Those branches withered,
and the excitement of worshipping Him turned five days later to hatred and the
demand that He be crucified (Mark 15:13-14),
because they were not grounded in faith.
But the saints will eternally worship Christ with living
palm branches (Revelation 7:9).
To have eternal life, we need to have a heart relationship with Christ as Lord
and Savior (Romans 10:9), and not
just go through the motions of worshipping Him (Matthew 23:5).
Through that heart relationship we can inherit the
kingdom of heaven, for we are saved by His grace through faith (Ephesians 2:6-9) in Christ, Who is the
firstfruits. He was the first to rise from the dead to a glorified body that
will never age, die, feel pain or sorrow. All who place their faith in His
death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven will also have eternal
life with Him (1 Corinthians, 15:1-4;
20,23,42-57; John 3:16; 14:6).
The almond tree
reminds me of Jesus as the firstfruits, because it is the first fruit tree to
blossom in Israel, sometimes as early as January, with white or pale pink
blossoms. The holy furniture for Old Testament worship, designed and ordained
by God, was decorated lavishly with almond branches and flowers (Exodus 25:33,34; 37:19,20)
God used almond blossoms and almonds as a sign that
Aaron, from the tribe of Levi, should be the first high priest. Each father of
the twelve tribes had a rod or walking stick, but it was Aaron’s rod that
bloomed with almond blossoms and produced fruit overnight. (Numbers 17:1-8). God used the rod of the almond tree as a
symbol to Jeremiah for how He would deal with Israel (Jeremiah 1:11).
The olive tree
is of great Biblical significance, from its first appearance as an olive leaf
confirming to Noah that the flood waters had receded from the earth (Genesis 8:11). Olive oil is a
precious commodity representing God’s provision (Nehemiah 5:11), anointing, and Holy Spirit. It lit the lamps
in the tabernacle (Exodus 27:20; Leviticus
24:2) and was part of the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:24) and of the bountiful supply found in the
Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:8)
God’s temple built by King Solomon used olive wood for
the doors, cherubim, and temple posts, and carved palm trees overlaid with gold
embellished the doors (1 Kings 6:23,31-33).
To commemorate the Feast of Tabernacles, representing God dwelling among His
people on their wilderness journey, the Israelites used olive and palm branches
to build booths, or temporary dwellings (Nehemiah
David described himself as “like a green olive tree in the house of God,” trusting in His mercy
(Psalm 52:8), and the blessing
of children as “like olive plants round
about thy table” (Psalm 128:3).
The olive tree also symbolizes the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6)
It was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus told of the
signs of the End Times (Matthew 24:3),
where He began His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:37), and where He went with the disciples after the
Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:30).
Through God’s grace, Gentiles are grafted into the family tree of God, much as
wild olive branches are grafted into good olive stock (Romans 11:17,24).
God’s two witnesses during the Tribulation are described as two olive trees (Revelation 11:4). Zechariah prophesied
that when Christ comes again, He will split the Mount of Olives in two, with
one of His feet on each side (Zechariah
For us to get maximum benefit from the grape, almond, or
olive, they must first be crushed to yield new wine, almond oil or milk, and
olive oil. To make perfume, all the flowers we have studied must also be
crushed. Jesus Christ was the most precious human flower ever to walk the
earth, because He alone had no sin and was holy, and He gave Himself as a
sweet-smelling sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2).
It pleased God the Father to bruise God the Son, on the
cross, because only His suffering and death could pay the punishment owed for
all our sins, past, present and future (Isaiah 53:10). Jesus faced the
cross with joy because of our salvation to come (Hebrews 12:2). Only when the True Vine was crushed, shedding
His blood like wine is pressed from grapes, could our sins be washed away in
that blood, which alone can make peace between sinners and Holy God (Romans 3:25;1
Gethsemane, the garden on the Mount of Olives where Jesus
prayed for us the night before He was crucified, means “olive press.” How
fitting that the Son of God was pressed even that night, in such agony that He
sweat blood (Mark 15:13), as a
foretaste of How His body would be bruised on the cross. Without the shedding
of blood, there is no remission or forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). In our
Christian walk, may we accept the bruising of trials and suffering as a way to
become more like Him (Philippians 3:10).