Like a Green Olive Tree
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bible, please, to the book of Psalms and notice Psalm 52 because that is the basis of our meditation. We read from verse 1:

Psalm 52:

1 Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.
2 The tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.
4 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.
5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.
6 The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:
7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
9 I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.

I would like for you to think with me about the truth which is presented in verse 8. Notice the first phrase again:

Psalm 52:

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God…

Those of you who were with us in our last study recall that we brought to you what we trusted would be a heart-searching message based upon verse 3 of Psalm 1, where David said of himself and every born-again believer:

Psalm 1:

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

We talked about the child of God compared to a tree not planted in any particular place save where all trees ought to be planted with access to the water, and bringing forth no particular fruit, save the fruit that all trees ought to bring forth in season.

As we turn to Psalm 52, we are going to think about the special phrase in a special place with a special fruit. We will be talking about Christians just as we did in our last lesson, but we will be talking about Christians in a special way. As we meditate upon this one phrase from this one verse, I would like to suggest that there is a picture at which we need to look; there is a privilege all of us should desire; there is a pressure which certainly ought to be considered.

Contrast Between Doeg and David

When I suggest to you there is a picture at which we need to look, I am going to suggest that we can best look at the picture by examining it first from the point of contrast—a contrast between Doeg and David. David is a familiar character to us and we know that he wrote this particular Psalm. Doeg may not be so familiar, and therefore I think it might be wise for us to understand the background of the Psalm and, in so doing, notice the two individuals insofar as contrast is concerned.

Background of Psalm 52

David had been anointed king over Israel, but Saul did not want to relinquish his throne, and so David's life was in constant danger. Saul reached the place where he could not even stand the sight of David, and he made up his mind that David must die. He gave forth the order for his death.

Jonathan, who loved David, gave the word to him, and David fled to the house of Ahimelech, who was the priest over Israel at that particular time. David said to Ahimelech, “I'm hungry and I am defenseless. What can you do for me?” Ahimelech said, “There is no bread here except the bread that has been dedicated to God, but take it, for you are God's servant. There is no weapon here save the sword which belonged to Goliath when you killed him with the pebbles from your sling, but take it and use it for the defense of yourself and those who are in need.”

David took the sword and the bread and ran to hide in the cave of Adullam. No sooner had he set up headquarters there than every person who had a special need throughout all Israel came to David, who had a special need, and said to him, “You had a need; Ahimelech met it. Now we have a need and we have nobody to help us.” Then David said, in so many words, “The cave isn't very big and the bread isn't very much; there is only one sword, but come on. I will stand by you and I will meet every need that you have as strength permits.”

Doeg was a faithful follower of Saul. Saul couldn't find David anywhere, and Saul said, “Who knows where David is?” Everybody kept their mouths closed because they knew that David was right and Saul was wrong. Everybody, that is, but Doeg. Doeg came to Saul and said, “I know where he is, and I know why he is there,” and he dressed up the story real good. Saul said, “All right, I have two jobs for you to do. One of them is go to the house of Ahimelech and kill Ahimelech, his wife and his children, all of his sons. Put them to the sword. Then go find David and kill him.” Doeg did exactly that. He went and killed the household of Ahimelech, then he sought out David. When the word came to David that Doeg was in the process of doing this, he wrote the Psalm which we have read in your hearing. He described Doeg as a man of mischief, a mighty man who devised mischief and whose tongue was like a razor, working deceitfully. He told Doeg that he couldn't continue on that way because he would come to a sad end. He would be plucked up out of the planting of God—out of the house of God—and he would be put to shame.

Contrast Between Righteous and Unrighteous Man

That leads us to the second contrast about which we need to say little, but which we must emphasize if you get the message of the Psalm. That is the contrast between the unrighteous man and the righteous man as it is presented in the name of Doeg and of David, for unrighteous men devise mischief. They love evil more than good, and they love lying more than strength. They do not make God their strength. They make wealth and riches and all of their material prosperity and everything that they can accomplish that about which they boast their strength. God will take that unrighteous man someday and He will pluck him out of his dwelling place. He will root him out of the land of the living and when He does, he will be eternally and hopelessly lost; but the righteous man, in Psalm 52, trusts in the Lord his God with all his heart. He plans to spend not only this life but the life to come in continual praise to Him. Then he sums up his entire career in the testimony which David gave in verse 8:

Psalm 52:

8 But I am like a green olive tree…

That is the reason I say to you that if we are to understand the picture that is before us, we need not only to look at it from the standpoint of contrast, but from the standpoint of comparison which David made for us. Keep in mind that David was a man after God's own heart, but David was a man full of faults and full of feelings and as guilty as sin in not just ordinary little sins, but sins that you and I would feel were of the worst kind. He was guilty of murder and he was guilty of adultery among others, and yet this man who was a man after God's own heart compares himself to an olive tree in the house of God. If you think that is a strange comparison, I would suggest to you that when you have time, you examine all of the Scriptures in which the word olive or olive tree is mentioned. You will find that consistently throughout the Scripture the olive is alluded to as a symbol of peace and prosperity and wealth. A great deal is said of its fruitfulness and its usefulness to mankind, and when we realize that, we realize this is an apt comparison, for what the olive tree was is what the child of God ought to be.

In our earlier discussion, I suggested to you that we were going to think about a special tree in a special place, and that won't be evident if you don't look at the verse with me once again because it is not evident in our own translation, for our translation reads, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.” You would think that there were olive trees planted in the house of God, but there were not. There were no trees planted in the house of God. David was thinking about the tabernacle and the temple, and trees were expressly forbidden within the sacred presence of God's house because when trees were related to groves, they were related to idolatry. There were no trees in God's house.

If we read it that way, we are being misled, but if we read it the way it is written in the original text, we have our lesson very plainly laid out before us because David said, “I, in the house of God, am like a green olive tree.” It wasn't the tree that was in the house of God; it was David, He said, “I, occupying my place in the house of God, am like a green olive tree.” Therein, Beloved, lies the blessing that I trust God will bring to our hearts, the blessing of a privilege which ought to be desired by every sincere child of God, for if you are a child of God, you are in the house of God.

I don't mean bodily in this place dedicated to the worship of His name, but I mean what Peter said when he said, “You are spiritual stones fitly framed together for a holy habitation in the Lord,” what Peter said when he said, “You are spiritual priests offering up spiritual sacrifices in the house of God.” So the privilege is not so much that you are in the house of God, but the privilege is that you can be, if you want to be, a green olive tree in the house of God.

Significance of Green Olive Tree in the House of God

Of what particular significance is a green olive tree in the house of God? Olives were used for food for people living in what we refer to as the Holy Land, but if that was the only use, it was a minor use. The major use of olives in the Holy Land was the production of oil, and we are told that a full size tree in an olive grove would yield a half ton of oil a year. That was how important olive trees were.

If you follow the Scriptures related to the subject under discussion through the Word of God, you will find the chief use of olive oil was to provide light in the house of God. The chief use of olive oil was to provide the ingredient of bread to be used in the worship of God. The chief use of olive oil was in relation to the people of God.

Moses said, for example, in Exodus, chapter 27, verse 20, that the individuals who had the flat should take the olives and put them in a bowl. They should then take a rod and they should beat the olives fine until the oil was all out of them. Then they should bring the oil to the house of God to be used in the lamps that might be given for light in the whole house.

Born-Again Believers Should be Salt and Light

Turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, as I remind our hearts that this is the very thing which the Lord Jesus Christ enunciated as one of the ministries of every born-again believer. Notice verse 13:

Matthew 5:

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Here God uses a very ordinary product as an illustration (listen carefully) of what a Christian ought to be to the world, to the unsaved. Salt describes what you ought to be to the world. Look at verse 14:

Matthew 5:

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Here again is what you and I as believers ought to be to the world: “A city that is set on an hill that cannot be hid no matter what anybody does about it.” But look at verse 15, for there is as definite a change as though you were going from the outside to the inside. Verse 15 is what every Christian ought to be to the house of God, to the assembly of the saints, to those who are born again. Notice:

Matthew 5:

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick [more accurately, lampstand, for that is the word in the original]; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

You don't light a light and put it under a bed, under a bushel, under a cot. You put it on a lampstand. For what? To give light to everybody in the house. Luke emphasizes this even more when he tells the same story. He adds: “So that everybody who comes into the house can see the light.”

There is no question, then, that we are speaking (listen carefully) about the ministry of the saints to the saints of God. Did you get that? The ministry of the saints to the saints of God. Quite often you attend services and the minister will stand up and say, “How long has it been since you have won a soul to Christ?” He will exhort you to be busy in soul-winning. I have no argument with that except to say that I think it would be more scriptural to say, “How long has it been since you have witnessed?” instead of how long has it been since you have won because the Scripture is not based upon the winning; it is based upon the witnessing.

I have no argument with people being encouraged to witness to the lost, but not often do you have a minister of the Word of God ask you the question that I am going to ask you right now, and I trust the Spirit of God will embed it deep in your thinking. How long has it been since you have ministered to the saints of God? You say, “I really don't know what you mean. I know what witnessing means. I know that I can go out and say to someone, ‘What is your relationship to Jesus Christ? Are you saved?,' or witness in some way. I know I can do that, but what do you mean ministering to the saints of God?”

The Strong Should Bear Infirmities of the Weak

I am going to give you some examples very hurriedly. I would like for you to notice first what is recorded in Romans, chapter 15, verse 1:

Romans 15:

1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

What is it? We who are strong, we who have the ability, we ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. Beloved, this is one of ministries of the saints of God. You, as a saint of God, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.

Turn with me to Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 6, for an illustration of the kind of burden-bearing that is your privilege and mine if you are interested in following through with this suggestion. Notice verse 1:

Galatians 6:

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

This is one of the ways of bearing the infirmities of the weak—the ministry of restoration. This passage of Scripture says, “If a man be overtaken in a fault,” and some Christian says, “Boy, I overtake a lot of them. I keep my eyes open. I see everything that everybody does. Nothing gets by me.” Brother, you are all wrong. That is not the kind of overtaking we are talking about here. This passage of Scripture is suggesting that you overtake a brother in a fault. It isn't suggesting that you do some spiritual window-peeking to see what is going on so that you can point an accusing finger at somebody. It is simply saying that if a brother is overtaken in a fault, you don't lock the gates of your ivory tower and say, “Well, I knew that would happen sooner or later because I have seen indications of it all the time. That isn't going to happen in my ivory tower.”

That is not what it is talking about. It is talking about the fact that if you see a brother who is overtaken by a fault, by a sin (You see, Friend, sin is pursuing us all of the time. The Devil is waiting to trip us up all of the time, and sometime it catches up with us.), bear his burden. Don't go to him and eat him out. Don't go to him and rebuke him and tell him how terrible he is. Don't withdraw fellowship from him. Go to him and say, “Brother, I am not guilty of this particular thing, but oh, if you only knew what I am guilty of. I haven't failed in this particular way, but if you only knew how I have failed. I know what it is to fail, and my friend, I want to stand with you in your hour of trial. I want to pray with you. I want to help you any way that I can. Don't let this thing get you too far away from God. Don't let it break your fellowship permanently. God is able to forgive, and He will forgive, and He does forgive.” Then in whatever way God leads you, bear that man's burden by restoring him to fellowship once again.

Remember two requirements. One of them is that you can only do this if you are spiritual. What does that mean? Go to church every Sunday? No. That means if you are directed by the Holy Spirit. That is what it means. If you feel that you are the moral watchdog of the whole community, and you go to somebody with that attitude, you won't do anything but make matters worse; but if you are controlled by the Holy Spirit and go at His direction, you will be of some help.

The other requirement is that you do it in the spirit of meekness. You realize that the same thing could happen to you that happened to him. You say, “Oh, I don't believe that. I wouldn't do a thing like that.” Wait and see; wait and see.

Bear One Another's Burdens

If you are going to carry on the ministry of restoration, look down at verse 2 of this same chapter, and notice the words:

Galatians 6:

2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Then look down at verse 9:

Galatians 6:

9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

My, how we twist the Scripture. How many times this verse of Scripture has been used to encourage the Sunday School teacher who was too tired to prepare a lesson for Sunday morning, but that is not what it is talking about. The well doing that we are talking about here is bearing one another's burdens. Beloved, if you have ever tried to bear someone else's burden, you can realize how tired you can get of it. “Don't be weary in well-doing in bearing one another's burdens, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not.” The victory is over the hill, and God will see to it that you will enjoy the victory if you will. Then notice verse 10:

Do Good To the Household of Faith

Galatians 6:

10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Here again we are brought face-to-face with the realization that our ministry is to the saints of God. Do good to all men, of course. If there is somebody that needs to be won to Christ, win him to Christ, but do good to the household of faith. That is your special obligation today.

Turn to James, chapter 5. Here we have an illustration of what we are talking about, that in the light of the green olive tree with which we began our meditation in the matter of doing good to all of those who are in the household of faith. Notice verse 13:

James 5:

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

This passage of Scripture is usually related to healing the sick, and there is a great deal of discussion about whether it is for this day or whether it isn't. We don't have time for a theological discussion. In case you are wondering, I believe that when God directs, the elders of the church can anoint the sick with oil and if it is God's will to heal them, He will raise them up because “the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” The prayer of faith is a prayer of obedience. Somebody says, “What about those God doesn't raise up?” God doesn't say that this is a sure-fire thing regardless. He says that this is one of the things that you can do. For example, He said in verse 13 that if you are sick, you need to pray yourself; but if the job is too big for you, get somebody else to pray with you. Then did you notice what He said? “Let the elders anoint with oil.” Look at that word oil ? It comes from the Greek word elaion , which is the word for olive. This is the lesson that I want you to get: If I were to ask you one thing that was emphasized in this paragraph above all other things, what would you say? If you were listening carefully, you would say, “Prayer.” Prayer is the thing that is emphasized above all else. It isn't the anointing of oil that saves the sick; it is the prayer of faith. The anointing of oil is incidental. It is like the green olive tree in the house of God. It is an illustration. It is a symbol. It is a point. What is the main thing? Prayer.

Turn with me to the book of Zechariah, chapter 4, and notice one of the most interesting illustrations of what it means to be an olive tree in the house of God. In the book of Zechariah, there are several visions, all of them telling a very definite lesson. Zechariah said, in verse 2:

Zechariah 4:

2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick [lampstand] all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.

Get the picture firmly fixed in your mind. Zechariah saw a seven branch candlestick as was used in the temple, but this one was different. It had a bowl right upon the top of it, and that bowl had two spouts, one on each side. There were two olive trees, one on each side of this seven branch candlestick, and these two olive trees were bending over pouring oil into the bowl that was on top of the candlestick. There was one other difference. From that bowl on the candlestick went one pipe to each one of the branches of the candlestick, so it was a candlestick that never had to be replenished with oil by human hands. Nobody had to bring the container of oil and fill the lamp as they had many, many times. It came direct from the tree to the lamp and there was a constant source of supply. The Angel of the Lord said to Zechariah, “What do you see?” He told Him. He said, “What does it mean?” “I don't know.” Then Zechariah said, “I've got a question for you. I have seen a dozen of those lampstands. They don't mean a thing to me, but I want to know about these two olive trees. What do they mean?”

If you read the rest of the chapter, the angel said, “Those two olive trees represent men. One of them is Zerubbabel, and one of them is Joshua. As Jerubbabel and Joshua stand in the house of God in an intercessory ministry, the light of God continues to shine. He goes on to say that the mountain that is facing the whole nation right now is going to be rolled out into a plain, and there will be no more problems and no more burdens.

Endure the Pressure

I want to leave with you one other thing. I said that we would look at the picture and we would consider the privilege that we have been talking about. We have to give some attention to the pressure involved. Listen to me, Beloved. The olives on the olive tree do not produce the oil until they have been put under pressure, and that is the only way. Sometimes there is a little bowl with a few olives, and a man takes a round stick and puts on the pressure. Oil comes forth, so oil does come with a little pressure. Then sometimes the olives were put in a flat wooden trough. They were laid out. They weren't piled one on top of the other because you could get too many olives and not get the right kind of oil. Then one load of wood was put upon them. Then another load of wood was put upon them, and then another and then another until all the oil was crushed out of the olives and seeped through the cracks into containers underneath.

There was yet another way. This time the olives were put in a great rock basin which had been hewn out of the rock and a great round wheel with a spoke right through the middle was put in that basin. Two individuals, one on each end of the stick, walked round and round and round until the olives were literally ground into the rock. That is the reason Moses said, “People who know how will be able to get oil out of a flinty rock.” He was talking about the olive oil that was ground into the rock because of the tremendous pressure.

What am I saying to you? I am saying that if you are going to minister to the saints of God, if you are going to produce the oil that keeps the light burning, if you are going to produce the oil that will heal the wounds, if you are going to produce the oil that will restore health, then you are going to have to endure the pressure. It may be no more than the little pressure in the bowl. It may be as bad as four heavy loads laid flat upon you, or it may be a continuing grinding, but there is no way to enter this ministry of the saints without it.

We sang a song earlier in the service about Gethsemane. Do you know what the word Gethsemane means? It means olive press . There was an olive press there in the garden and it was there that they brought the olives to be pressed that the oil might flow forth. I don't think that it was any accident that it was there that the Lord Jesus Christ went most often to pray for you and for me and for all those whom He loved. I don't think that it was any accident that the greatest physical pressure He endured while He was on this side of the Cross was endured there in Gethsemane.


I want to ask you one question. I am talking to Christians now. Have you built a Gethsemane in your life? Is there somewhere in your life and experience room for an olive press? Is there? It is the only way that you will ever be able to minister to the saints. I am not talking about playing at religion. I am talking about ministering to the saints. Are you ready to do it? God wanted you to have this message.

Home Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting