One of the best decisions I have made in a long time has been a commitment to reading the Bible from cover to cover this year. I have never taken the time to read through the Old Testament like I am now. The way it has come to life for me and to see how it connects with the New Testament has been invigorating to say the least. Once I started realizing that everything in the Bible points to Jesus and that He is the intersection between the old and the new, it has come to life. Here’s a really good example from one of the many things I am learning.
Oil is used a lot in teachings throughout the Bible, from the sacrifices in Leviticus through the Psalms and into the teachings of the New Testament. Why is that? Oil is symbolic in the Bible of the Holy Spirit. Anointing with oil is anointing with the Spirit. This begs the questions of where oil comes from. I believe the type of oil referenced in the Bible is that of olive oil. So my curiosity kicked in and I began researching the process of extracting the oil from the olive fruit. (Side note. We tend to miss the deeper truths in the teachings of the Bible because we do not live in either an agricultural or a farming based society.) So here is what I have discovered…
The traditional method of producing olive oil begins with collecting ripened olives. The olive fruit must be fresh and immediately taken for processing; otherwise the oil will taste weird. The olives are then cleaned thoroughly ensuring that the oil will not be contaminated by dirt, leaves, or the steams.
Once prepared, the olives are ground on a mill stone into a coarse paste for 30-40 minutes. This slow-paced process allows malaxation to take place, which is the joining of the microscopic oil molecules together into larger droplets. After the grinding is complete, the paste is pressed in order to separate oil and water from the fruit. From there, the oil and water naturally separate from each other allowing for the oil to be collected, bottled and stored for later use.
What does this has to do with the Christ-life? A lot and it is quite beautiful imagery. In Romans 11:11-24, Paul teaches that the Gentiles (that would anyone who is not a Jew) have been grafted into the body of Christ. The image he uses? An olive tree. He refers to the Jews as part of a cultivated olive tree and Gentiles as being from wild olive trees. The nourishing root of the cultivated tree is Jesus with the branches being God’s chosen people, the Jews. Through Jesus, Gentiles can now be joined to the tree. The grafting process is another post itself, so I will save that for another time. Here is the implication though.
Once we are grafted into the olive tree, the body of Christ, Jesus begins to supply us with what we need. There is dependency for nourishment since the grafting is not complete yet. Eventually, though, we become intertwined with Him and then growth begins to happen. Leaves start appearing, followed by fruit. Galatians 5:16-26 speaks of a life lived by walking in the Spirit and verse 22-23 list the fruit that grows from the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Once this fruit ripens, it must be harvested. What good is fruit if it is not harvested when ripened? Collect it too early and it is bitter. Too late, it is rotted and sour. And what good is the ripened fruit if the oil is not extracted? (Remember, oil symbolizes the Spirit of God.) The Lord harvests the fruit in our lives, cleanses it from the dirt of sin, and allows us to be placed upon the millstone of trials and suffering so that, by crushing and grinding, the Spirit-oil within us may be refined. Think about how joy is produced. Jeremiah 31:13 says that He (God) will turn our mourning into joy. Think about patience. Ever heard someone say that you should not pray for patience because you will begin to encounter situations that require patience?
Let’s be real. No one wants to go through trials and suffering. Believe me, if I had the chance to avoid the trials of this past year, I would. But then, how much would my life, and those around me, be deprived of the anointing of the Spirit that is being refined in me? I have come to realize that the Lord draws out the Spirit-oil in our lives and bottles it in us for use for many days and years to come.
The question is not if trials and suffering will come. They will. The question is whether we will turn to Him during those times and allow Him to refine us so that the Spirit may be produced in us as an anointing for the world around us.