How to be an Olive… and live!
Okay, so maybe being compared to an olive isn’t the most glamorous of things, but it is meaningful, metaphorical and even prophetic of something greater.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor 4:9
This pressing sounds like the stress we are experiencing today: the woman cussing out her neighbors from behind her steering wheel as the man leaving at the same time everyday offers a smile regardless; or the mama one house down whose husband left her trying to figure out how to keep the house, feed her kids and still trust Jesus; or the father who returns to a job day after day struggling to find the strength to get up again because hope is nowhere to be found; or the little girl who prays for her best friend whose daddy beats her, and the crank turns and the pressure, pressure, pressure builds… until one drop of oil drips down onto a hurting heart or hopeless case.
“Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.” Exodus 27:20
When I read this quote I was surprised. I had been feeling empty. No oil. No joy. No hope… pity settling in like a warm quilt. Pity because I, like you, am struggling with the cares of this world. Maybe it is because I have birthed three babies of my own, but the events occurring in this world today look a lot like birth pains to me. We do not know when Jesus will return, but we do know that he will return. Are you ready? Am I ready?
Welcome the pressing then my brothers and sisters. It is His gift of oil to you. The warning is clear:
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
You are bruised and battered, I know. My heart is tender toward you. You are in the middle of an olive press. Hold fast. Let bitterness go. Forgive those who have wronged you. I too have been taking inventory of those stored up hurts and as soon as I let one go, someone or something else delivers a blow I barely have energy to stand up under. But you are not destroyed. You are not abandoned. You are not even crushed… you are merely pressed and ever so precious to our Lord. Let’s take a look at the olive.
The olive tree is not an instant producer of fruit, rather, it can be an unruly tree with ample leaves. Much like the grape-vine, olive trees must be cultivated and trimmed so that fruit can be produced. It takes anywhere from eight to ten years of patient cultivating before any fruit comes forth. That can seem like a long wait when one is expecting fruit… a similar wait the virgins must have experienced in the parable.
What is more, is the process to make ready the fruit of the olive tree. Even after the harvest the olives are no good. Olives are bitter and must soak in a covered box with salt and vinegar. “Slowly the bitterness is purged from them,” explains T.G. Madsen. Have you experienced the soaking and purging of a bitter heart? I am certain each of you reading has a story to tell. And after the stories, comes the pressing to make ready the oil.
Olive oil is recorded as having many specific benefits; it was used internally and externally, as a healing aid, cooking oil, lamp oil and the list goes on. Why, a study alone could be conducted on the many uses of olive oil and their prophetic and physical benefits. But it is the pressing I am speaking of now– the pressing of the stone onto the wheel, the crushing of the flesh of the olive to release the precious oil.
Be encouraged. This pressing is producing oil for your lamps and this world… you are after all, the light of the world (Mathew 5:14). You are that lamp. I sense the time is short. According to The Ancient Oil Press, “the first pressing was the purest oil and was used mainly for lamps, cosmetics and holy anointing.” Clear oil is needed. Take a moment as the olive press waits. Is there anything in you that might prevent the purest of oil?
Chances are that you have been waiting a long time. It hardly seems fair to have to experience pressing, or become perplexed at the present state of things after such a long wait. However, let the pressing come because you will experience a rich produce from your crop. Your oil will flow out onto the hallways, street corners, and intersections of your life. This oil will continue to keep supple the wineskins of your heart so that your heart will not wax cold in bitterness and resentment. This oil serves a greater purpose… an invitation for The Wedding of our time and you are that Bride. You are the jar that holds the purest of oil. Your Bridegroom waits and you have been dedicated by the anointing oil of God (Leviticus 21: 10-12). Press on… and live.
Ancient Olive Press. http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/olive-press.html
Hana Levi Julian, “Ancient Olive Oil Press Unearthed in Galilee,” Arutz 7 , Aug 7, 2008 http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/127106
Truman G. Madsen, “The Olive Press,” Ensign, Dec 1982, 57 http://bit.ly/c57lho