Aloha Friday Message – March 14, 2014 – In the Shadow of the Olive

1411AFC031414 – In the Shadow of the Olive

Read it online here, please.

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea. E pili mau na pomaika‘i ia ‘oe a me ke akua ho’omaika’i ‘oe! (Much love, Beloved. May blessing always be with you and may God bless you!) We are continuing with passages from the book of the prophet Isaiah. His name in Hebrew is Salvation of Jehovah – יְשַׁעְיָה (Yesha’yahu). The book of Isaiah is written mostly in poetry which is why, in some Bibles, when you look at it, the text is in short lines with frequent indentations. Take a quick look at this passage from Isaiah chapter 9. You’ll recognize some familiar phrases there like “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and “ for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah is called upon by God to prophesy to the people and repeat God’s covenant promise that Salvation will come and it will come, as promised, through the house of David.

Isaiah’s message is to the people of Israel who have been through some terrible times. The Northern Kingdom was cut down by the Assyrians around 721 B.C., and Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem two decades later (around 701 B.C.). It seemed at the time that the promised glory of Israel could never come about because the nation was pretty much destroyed. In the poetry Isaiah used, the image for destruction is that of a tree cut down. In Isaiah 10:33-34, Isaiah prophesies that Assyria will be lopped off, cut down, and that it will not recover. There will be nothing regenerated from the leftovers of that destruction. Here in Isaiah 11, the prophecy is that Israel will be regenerated. A new Branch, a new Rod (a new Sapling), will spring up from the stump left after the “tree of Israel” was cut down and “left for dead.” The olive tree in biblical literature represents Israel because the tree symbolizes the characteristics of the “true (obedient) Israel” as steadfast, fruitful, and faithful. That was what God expected from his People. At this time in their history, they were experiencing what parents call natural consequences. Their lack of fidelity, their corruption by surrounding cultures and religions, and their lack of devotion to God led to their conquest by other nations. Isaiah is there to tell them that even so, they should not give up hope because God has a plan for saving them – a shoot from the stump of Jesse. We should look into that poetic image a little closer so we can understand why that particular image is one of great hope.

Olive trees were an essential part of daily life throughout the entire region of the eastern Mediterranean nations. The wood was used for decorations and building. The oil obtained from the olives was used for anointing and for fuel for lamps. The best of the oil was used for religious ceremonies, for social customs (a visitors head was anointed with scented oil at a banquet), and for food purposes. The lesser byproducts of the olive fruit were used for the oil lamps. The tree provided shade and shelter from inclement weather. The trees were cultivated in large groves. Wild olives were grown from seeds, but the trees in the olives groves were grown from saplings that came up from the roots around established trees. This is why, in Psalm 123:8, the psalmist says, “your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” Olive groves were a haven for travelers who could find a place to rest from the harsh Mediterranean heat during the day. There would usually be a source of water nearby for irrigation and for drinking. Large groves also had oil presses. You’ve probably heard the word for “oil press” frequently – it sounds like “Gethsemane” and comes from the Hebrew or Aramaic words Gat Shemanim – oil press.

Olive trees can live to be hundreds of years old. As they age they become more gnarled and even hollow, but they still produce fruit – good fruit! Eventually, though, a tree stops producing fruit, and is cut down. The stump is left. The extensive root system that formerly feed the ancient tree is still in the earth. It continues to feed the wood in the stump. With careful attention, the stump can send forth a shoot that grows to be a new olive tree. It is tender and fragile like any sapling, but it has a tremendous advantage – an extensive, well-established, efficient root system! The sapling can be easily broken off or munched by an animal, but if the one who tends the grove takes care of the shoot – it grows and produces excellent fruit. That is Isaiah’s message. God is saying, “I’m going to cultivate a new tree from the roots of the old, and the new tree will give you everything the old one did and even more.

olivetree_nazvillage_fjenkins_043010_140tThis image used by Isaiah was something the people of Israel understood clearly. Isaiah’s poetry was largely a commentary on the historical changes in the nation during his life – the wars, the intrigue, the failures of leadership, and the eventual defeat of Israel’s enemies. A significant feature of that victory for Israel would be a victory for the whole world – even for the gentiles who had been their enemies. It would be the fulfillment of the covenant prophesy of salvation: The Messiah.

In the book of Isaiah, chapters 6-12 are verses that prophesy the coming of Emmanuel (sometimes the section is called the “Book of Emmanuel”). The next two verses after our reference verse for today tell us about this Messiah: Isaiah 11:2-3The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. Does any of that sound familiar? Well, yes, we often read the first 10 or 12 verses from this chapter during the second week of Advent, but also we can find a list similar to this in Paul’s list of Gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Isaiah’s message was one of Hope, and that Hope is fulfilled in Jesus. Like the shade of the olive tree which spouts up from the roots of antiquity, we are sheltered by the “overshadowing of the Holy Spirit” just as Israel was protected and sheltered by the Pillar of Cloud that went before them during the day and became the Pillar of Fire during the night. This Sunday, you may hear the passage from Matthew 17 – The Transfiguration of Jesus. God appeared on that mountaintop as in a luminous cloud covering and surrounding Jesus, Peter, James and John as Jesus was visited by Moses and Elijah – symbolic of the Law and the Prophets. Peter got so excited about the event that he wanted to build three tabernacles – little tents – for Jesus and his visitors. Peter, at that time, did not realize that event was the beginning of promise of God found in Isaiah 43:18-19“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

We can learn from the old things, from the Old Testament, from the Prophets and the Psalms, from the histories and the poetry. We can learn that under the shade of the olive tree, Jesus taught his disciples. Under the shade of the olive tree, Jesus prayed during his Passion. We can remember that under the shade of the olive tree, we can find the one who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. In the shadow of the olive tree, it is Jesus of whom God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

“Almighty, Ever-Living God, grant us ears to hear and hearts to obey.” Beloved, think on these things.

Share-a-Prayer

Please join me in praying for WP who is struggling with pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal condition with little or no treatment to even provide symptomatic relief in someone in their 70’s, and for his wife K who is frail, and ill, and needs help caring for him.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved

 

chick

 

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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