Friday, March 19, 2010

The Vine, the Wheat, and the Olive Tree

Several years ago I stumbled over these verses in Deuteronomy:
19* When thou reapest thy harvest in thy field, and forgettest a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not return to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow; that Jehovah thy God may bless thee in all the work of thy hands.
20 When thou shakest thine olive-tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
21 When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterwards; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. (Deut. 24:19--21).

They struck me as significant then, because I recognized two of the crops that are named as New Testament symbols of Christ: He compared Himself to a grain of wheat that needs to fall into the ground and die (John 12:24) and as the Vine (John 15:1). I spent some time looking through my Bible, and sure enough, the olive tree has prophetic significance too:

16* Jehovah had called thy name, A green olive-tree, fair, of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and its branches are broken.
17 For Jehovah of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done for themselves, to provoke me to anger in burning incense unto Baal.
18* And Jehovah hath given me knowledge, and I know it; then thou shewedst me their doings.
19* And I was like a tame lamb that is led to the slaughter; and I knew not that they devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered. (Jer. 11:16--19)

There are some interesting parallels in Psalm 52 and Hosea 14 as well.

So I've mulled these verses over for the better part of the last dozen years. And there's no doubt I've not plumbed their depths... but there is something interesting right on the surface: The farmer under the Law was to harvest from his grain, his vine, and his olives only once. After he cut down and gathered his grain or gathered his grapes or shook (KJV translates it "beat") his olive tree, he was to leave the rest "for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow."

This goes back to what I said last time: the Law supposes an offering is more than enough. That's not because an ox's or a lamb's or a goat's blood is enough to wash away sins (Heb. 10:4)... it's because the Law was looking forward to the Christ, who was an over-abundant offering to God.

In the same way, the Law only considers a plant to give more than enough. When the owner of the field or the vineyard or the olive tree went to harvest, there would be enough to leave some for those in need.

And in this sense, the Law was looking forward to Christ as the True Vine (or the Green Olive Tree, or the Grain of Wheat) that was here for God's benefit. And God says, "After I have beaten my olive-tree, I will take what I need. But there will be enough left over for the strangers and the fatherless and the widows. I will let them have it."

All of the "every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ" in Ephesians 1 is really the result of the overflow of the Son offering Himself up to God.

1 comment:

Gwen said...

Well, now, this is just plumb wonderful. Thanks for posting this.