Day 7

We’re getting close to the end of our time of fasting as a church family.  But I want to encourage you to keep believing for all that God has spoken to you no matter what you are seeing…or not seeing.  Here is another Advent meditation that I hope will speak encouragement to your heart.
Many prophecies described the Messiah as a branch or a shoot…
Jeremiah 23:5
 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David  a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”
 Jeremiah 33:15
In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land.
Zechariah 3:8
Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.
Zech. 6:12
Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD.
After God allowed His people to be "cut down," they appeared to be nothing but a dead stump. But God and faithful Israelites knew better: Out of that stump came new shoots.  The image here is one all Israelites would recognize: an olive tree.  When the trunk becomes large and old, the branches are trimmed off, leaving what appears to be a dead stump. But the next year, fresh shoots spring from the old stump, and soon a new and vigorous growth of branches again produces an abundance of olives.
And God’s people knew that the shoot of Jesse's stump was a special one because God's Spirit rested on Him…
Isaiah 11:1-2
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD…
We know even more than they did, however.  We know that the shoot from Jesse’s root was Jesus (who was a citizen of Nazareth, a word that means "branch").  Jesus is the shoot from a stump…He is NEW LIFE!  He is a FRESH START!  He is the promise of new fruitfulness after apparent death!
But it wasn’t just Jesus’ birth that followed the metaphor of the olive tree…it was His whole life.  And especially His death.   The olives of Israel had an unusually high oil content.  The black olives were the best for oil, often containing over 50 percent oil by volume.  During the time of Jesus, new olive-pressing systems were in use. In one system, the olives were placed in a large circular basin in which a great wheel-shaped millstone rolled in a circle. The stone was turned by an animal or by people. The pulp was then collected in baskets, which were stacked several layers high in stone pits. A stone weight was placed on top of the baskets, and a heavy wooden beam, with one end in a hole in the wall nearby was placed across the pile of baskets. Stone weights were hung from the beam, applying enormous pressure to the olives and squeezing the oil from the pulp.  The oil ran through the baskets and into the pit below. The smell of the olive oil spread for miles during the fall of the year, when the oil was being pressed.
Since there are no coincidental details in this greatest of all stories, it is worthy of note that Jesus spent the last few hours before His arrest in an olive grove…
John 18:1
When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.
Gethsemane is filled with olive groves.  Jesus went to a place where the olives of the nearby groves were pressed…and there He, too, was pressed.
Luke 22:39-44
39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives…and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."…And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
The great weight of the sin of the world and the coming rejection by His Father led Him to sweat drops of blood.  But be sure to catch this: the blood that came from His being pressed ultimately led to forgiveness of sin.  What appeared to be destroying Jesus forever was actually a doorway to redemption and new life!  
So be assured, dear one, of these two things:  1) Jesus shows up in the deadest of places.  Branches grow from hopeless, fruitless stumps, even when the stump is the result of our own disobedience!  God knew we wouldn’t be perfect, so He provided for second chances in the person of His own Son.  2) For your life to yield the greatest promise, for the best that is in you through Jesus to come out, you must be pressed.
So take a few minutes to look across the acreage of your life.  Ask Holy Spirit to help you locate the stumps.  No matter the cause for the fruitlessness, invite Jesus to show up there.  With Holy Spirit, identify the places you are being pressed, and ask Jesus to redeem those places in your life just as His own time of pressing became an avenue of redemption.  Then…celebrate the wonderful truth that your Father is a God of stumps and branches!

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