We learn in Romans 11:17, that we Christians are spiritually grafted into the ancient olive tree of Israel. Our faith does not stand alone, but is supported by that tree. Those who are familiar with the olive trees of Israel realize that these old trees can live hundreds of years. They are wonderful pictures of stability, endurance and fruitfulness.
In ways that we do not fully understand, we are somehow tied to Israel. It is like our spiritual “family tree.” We further see that the church and Israel are both supported by the ancient root of the tree. This is a complex picture with many mysteries involved and we would do well to meditate upon it until it becomes clear in our minds.
MESSIAH IS THE ROOT
We learn in Isaiah 11:10 something very interesting about the root of this old tree. Isaiah says: “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.” It thus appears that the “Root of Jesse” and the root of the old olive tree are one and the same. It is this root that Gentiles are to seek. Also, in Revelation 22:16, we are given a very urgent message by the risen Christ himself. Here is that urgent message: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” We thus learn without a doubt that the root of the tree is the Messiah, whom we Christians know as Jesus (Yeshua).
THE ROOT IS HOLY
In Romans 11:16, we read: “if the root is holy, so are the branches.” Thus we are assured of two things, that the root of the tree is a holy root and that the branches must also be holy. While neither we Christians nor Israel may look especially holy today, there is one thing for certain – the Messiah is holy. He is the essence of everything holy and good.
It is interesting that in ancient times, soap was made from olive oil. In fact, soap made of pure olive oil is still being produced today in Nablus (ancient Shechem). Of course, soap reminds us of the idea of sanctification, cleansing and holiness. It is perhaps this idea that is developed in 1 Peter 1:2, where we see “the sanctifying work of the Spirit” mentioned. The Holy Spirit, or Christ in us, symbolically pictured by the olive oil, sanctifies our lives and makes us holy.
In Isaiah 35:8, we see that our Zion heritage and holiness are closely connected. In this passage we read this about the road to Zion. The prophet says, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.” The time is coming when only holy people will pursue their heritage in Zion.
CASTING ASIDE HOLINESS
Some today are casting aside holiness while attempting to hold on to the “Hebrew roots.” Their efforts will be in vain. For instance, some have lightly regarded their marriage covenant, forsaking the wife of their youth. Marriage is a covenant between husband, wife and God. It is a holy covenant and must not be broken. Thus couples must try their utmost to preserve their marriage agreement.
We see this covenant aspect of marriage pictured in Malachi. Men in that day were flooding the Lord’s altars with tears. They were upset because God did not listen to them anymore. Malachi tells us why their relationship with God had become interrupted: “It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (Mal. 2:14).
If the “Hebrew heritage” movement teaches us anything, it teaches us about covenants. Our Hebrew heritage is based upon the covenants God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These are lasting covenants. They cannot be broken. Therefore we must see the marriage covenant in the same light, just as it is pictured in the Bible.
Some are lightly regarding such things as fornication and adultery today. Some Christians even boast of how God supposedly guided them into these illicit affairs. When we look back to the roots of our faith we see how seriously this matter was dealt with. In ancient Israel, the land of our Hebrew heritage, the adulterer was unceremoniously stoned to death (Deut. 22:22). Adultery, uncleanness, homosexuality and a host of related sexual sins were simply not tolerated in ancient Israel. Neither will they be tolerated in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:15).
Then, there is the matter of the occult – things such as witchcraft, sorcery, fortune- telling, necromancy, or casting spells. In Leviticus 20:6 we read, “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.” The occult has crept into our society in many seemingly innocuous ways and can be very closely associated with some of the forms of motivational training, certain self-improvement programs and even with visualization. There are a number of Christian programs, philosophies and books today that smack of the occult. Today the most popular game sold in the US is Monopoly, but the second most popular game is the Ouiji Board. The later is simply the layman’s introduction into sorcery
There is the whole area of honesty and truthfulness. Some have forsaken this, and yet, at the same time they are supposedly seeking their “roots.” This area of dishonesty certainly includes the matter of hypocrisy or living a lie. We need to remember the stern and alarming words of Revelation 22:14-15: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF HOLINESS
It is written in Hebrews 12:14: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Clearly, we will never see God without holiness in our lives. So we see that the word “holy” is a very important word in scripture, being mentioned well over 600 times. In 1 Peter 1:15-16 we read: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” Holiness has as its root the idea of separation from the world and dedication to God. The road to Zion then, is not just some fad or bandwagon but a dramatic change of life that will surely separate us from the world. It is a pathway that requires us to put God’s Word into practice in our lives.
It is certainly interesting that in Solomon’s Temple, in that most holy place, the cherubim were made of olive wood, covered with gold (1 Kings 6:23). The inner sanctuary doors and jambs were also made of olive wood. The olive tree thus speaks of that most holy relationship with the Almighty God.
So ultimately only holy men and holy women will walk on the road to Zion. Although Zion or Jerusalem may seem a place corrupted today, the time is coming when this will not be the case. We long and pray for that day to come. In Zechariah 14:20-21, the prophet speaks of that day saying: “On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’S house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD.”
– Jim Gerrish
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem (original publication date, 2000).