I may be found these days in the sunny Mediterranean climate of Croatia meditating on the olive tree, where they grow abundantly.
Some of the oldest settlements in Europe are found along these Dalmatian coastlines, such as Stari Grad on the island of Hvar (visited last night). First civilizations there can be traced back to 3,000 BCE. Settlers in these regions always came with stony olive tree kernels for cultivation.
Ancient stone terraces for olive groves are seen everywhere. I recently visited an old tree in our Croatian town, Kaštela, named Mastrinka (see more here) which is 1,500 years old. Incredibly, old Mastrinka still bears fruit almost every year!
I’ve read the following verse several times during my recent visit to Israel and now Croatia:
But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
This summer I’ve challenged myself to slowly meditate on daily verses rather than my usual rush through the Bible-in-a-year. After all, we’re on a summer sabbatical. I’m discovering what that means. Slowing down takes more effort, discipline and intentionality than expected.
After meditating on the above verse, I decided to do some research on olive trees, asking what this means; “I am like an olive tree, flourishing in the House of God.”
Firstly, what are olive trees like?
Keep reading for 5 facts I discovered about olive trees.
- Olives trees are called victorious because they’re almost indestructible. They’re very tough and hearty plants that withstand extreme temperatures and climates. Am I similarly durable?
- The olive is classified as a fruit. The average bearing age of fruit trees is 4 or 5 years. Olive trees don’t bear fruit for the first 13 years or so. Patience is required. Yet olives trees live an average of 300-600 years! Am I bearing fruit, being patient with myself in the maturing process?
- Olive branches have traditionally been a symbol of peace. Luke 10:5,6 (NIV) says, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.” Do I promote peace to those around me?
- Olive trees require regular pruning. A new friend recently married into a Croatian family with a large olive grove. Her in-laws taught her that the most important thing in pruning olive trees is cutting off the middle and upper branches so the tree spreads low and wide. It will provide a greater harvest! Am I willing for God to cut away things in my life so I don’t become “too high,” and for the maximum fruitfulness?
- The fruit is healthy, tasty and useful. Crushing maximizes its value! Olive oil heals skin and hair, and when burned provides a pure, smokeless fuel. Recently, I visited Nazareth Village in Israel (read this blog for more). Our guide took us into the oil press barn and showed us how oil would have been produced in biblical times. There were three large stones used for three consecutive presses, each with higher pressure. The oil from the first press was the purest and was used for sacred purposes in the temple. The second press (an additional large stone weight was added) produced more oil for consumption. The third press produced oil for fuel in lamps, soap, and fertilizer. Interestingly, Gethsemane means “press,” referring to the oil press inside the Garden of Gethsemane. Similarly, Jesus prayed three times the night before his crucifixion and the crushing was so intense within “the press” that He sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44)! This medical condition is known as hematohidrosis. In times of pressing, am I able to yield to the Father as Jesus did, praying, “Yet not my will be done, but Yours!”
I’m drawn to the second part of the verse, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.“ In the context of my church community, healthy olive trees produce healthy communities.
Am I thriving within my church in a mature, victorious, and peace-promoting way?
Prayer for today:
Dear Heavenly Father, open my eyes to your creation. I unfold my heart before you, humbly asking you to teach me simple truths afresh through things I see every day. Help me to slow down so I can see, hear and use all my senses as Your teachers. Amen.
Meeting artist who painted the olive tree above, Udi Merioz, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem in May was an honor. You may see more of his work here. (Blue and White Art Gallery, Cardo 1, Jerusalem, Jerusalem 97500, Israel)