The Dove and the Olive Branch

"But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot … for the waters were on the face of the whole earth … And the dove came; … and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf [or branch] plucked off … He … sent forth the dove; which returned not again" (Genesis 8:9-12).

In allegorical language the olive branch tells of peace and blessing, and the dove of quietness and rest. In the Scriptures they teach us exactly this, only the dove being figurative of the Spirit of God makes the olive branch that He brings tell of a peace that is permanent and eternal. Is the peace that the world has been celebrating of this character? It is not, and thankful as all must be for it, we must not deceive ourselves as to it; it is but temporary and partial.

The sword has been returned to its scabbard for a while; but the sea and the waves of unrest continue their roaring — class against class, if not nation against nation.

We may be looked upon as gloomy pessimists; be it so, we follow the Word of God, and it will not lead us astray or deceive us. And following the Word, we were preserved from the folly of those who before the war believed and taught that humanity was making Godlike strides towards a perfect culture and universal brotherhood, Germany leading the way. And when the war shattered these vain dreams, following that same Word, we were preserved from the folly of those who proclaimed that this war would end all war, that it would bind the classes and nations together by the bonds of one common sacrifice; and a better world, purged and purified, would come forth from the awful crucible into which it had been thrown. Those who thus prophesied left human nature out of their calculations, and deceived themselves by dreams and visions. But "hope springs eternal in the human breast" — would that the hopes were centred in the right Person — and men are still seeing visions and dreaming dreams; they may do so, but they will not see the kingdom of God unless they are born again, for so declared the Son of God, and for us His solemn words are recorded in John 3:1-7.

The red horse and his rider, filling the earth with misery and death, follows closely in the track of schemes acclaimed as calculated to set the world free; and it is when peace and safety are celebrated with the greatest satisfaction and gaiety that sudden destruction is at hand. Meanwhile "the Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and are safe."

Peace, true and lasting, can only be where the heavenly dove can abide; and He can only abide where sin is not, or where it has been cleansed and righteousness established, and neither are true of the world as it is.

The Dove's First Visit — No Rest for the Sole of its Foot

But what lessons would the story of the dove from the ark teach us? Let us consider it and see. When first it was let loose from the ark it found no rest on the earth overwhelmed by the waters of death. Here we read in allegory the condition of the world before Christ came into it. Mankind, in whom God would have delighted, had they been subject to His holy will, had rebelled against Him; and "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Moral and spiritual death had submerged the whole race.

In the earliest ages of the earth's history, when it was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters. So when sin like a shroud of death wrapped mankind about, the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand and seek after God (Ps. 14). His Spirit strove with men, but there was no place where He could rest; God could not find His pleasure in mankind, so there was no peace according to God; for the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked" (Isa. 57:21).

We are not overlooking the fact that God in His great mercy rescued some from the universal death, and sent His Spirit to visit them on special occasions; they were but the exceptions that proved the rule, and the rule was that moral darkness covered the earth and lay most heavily upon the people. But the Scriptures were ever full of hope, and those who were lifted out of the surrounding moral death looked onwards by faith as directed by the Scriptures to a time and a state of things when the Spirit of God, the heavenly dove, would find rest in the earth made habitable for Him. There is one passage in particular that must have been full of blessed promise for those who felt the awful chaos of a world without God. It is in Micah 5:2-5. "BUT THOU, BETHLEHEM EPHRATAH, THOUGH THOU BE LITTLE AMONG THE THOUSANDS OF JUDAH, YET OUT OF THEE SHALL HE COME FORTH UNTO ME THAT IS TO BE RULER IN ISRAEL; WHOSE GOINGS FORTH HAVE BEEN FROM OFOLD, FROM EVERASTING … AND THIS MAN SHALL BE THE PEACE."

The Second Visit — Rest in the Olive Tree

Seven centuries waited for the fulfilment of this prophetic word, but they did not wait in vain. The due time arrived at last, and the Angel of God announced the blessed fact to the shepherds of Bethlehem saying "Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord … And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, PEACE ON EARTH, goodwill toward men.'" This Man shall be the peace, for He is more than man. His goings forth were of old, from everlasting. He belonged to eternity, He was its very centre. The Father's bosom was His undisturbed abode, and He brought the peace of that sinless and unchanging Eternity into a storm-tossed and peace-less world. "This Man shall be the peace," for in Him God intervened to bring light into the world's darkness and to establish peace.

Thirty years passed by, years of secret testing and triumph, from which this blessed Man emerged into public witness for God. John, a man sent of God, carried out his mission on the banks of Jordan, and many who heard him speak went down with him beneath the waters, owning thereby that death was the just judgment of their sins. To these, the excellent of the earth, Jesus joined Himself, and though sinless, identified Himself with them in this act of righteousness. Then the heavens opened and the heavenly dove, the Spirit of God, came forth again, not this time to seek a resting place on earth in vain, but to alight upon Him and there to abide, and the Father's voice was heard, speaking from the open heavens, and saying, "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL-PLEASED."

The dove from heaven and the olive tree growing up upon earth were in perfect accord, for Christ was the "green olive tree in the house of God" (Ps. 52:8), the tender plant growing up before Him (Isa. 53:1), whose fatness honoured God and man (Jud. 9:9). Upon Him the Spirit of God could rest with perfect complacency, for in Him, the Man of God's purpose and prophetic word, God found His good pleasure.

He shone in the darkness as the light of the world, the way of life and peace; but, alas, the darkness comprehended not the shining of the light, nor the meaning of it; and men hated the light and loved the darkness because their deeds were evil. And especially was this the case in the city of Jerusalem, which name means the city of peace, but how false to her name has that city been hitherto, so that we read, "When He was come near He beheld the city, AND WEPT OVER IT, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, THE THINGS WHICH BELONG TO THY PEACE! but now they are hid from thine eyes" (Luke 19:42).

The Olive Branch Plucked Off

The "light of the world" was cast out and the Man who shall be the peace was rejected. More than five hundred years before this event, Daniel the prophet was interceding with God on behalf of Israel, when Gabriel was sent to him to tell him that this would be so, in these words, "And after three score and two weeks SHALL MESSIAH BE CUT OFF, AND SHALL HAVE NOTHING" (Dan. 9:26, marg.). The Messiah was the olive tree, but He was cut off. He ceased to grow in the midst of Israel, for they would not have Him. "Away with Him," was their cry, when he was presented to them as their King. So that from that time until He returns in power to claim all that is His as David's Son, He is "the olive branch plucked off."

What wide-spreading desolation and death covered the whole race of man when Christ lay in death, for "WE THUS JUDGE THAT IF ONE DIED FOR ALL THEN WERE ALL DEAD." But on the resurrection morning He appeared above the waters of death — the olive branch, the pledge of peace to all who seek peace. But this peace was now to be associated with heaven and not with earth, for He was received there after being cast out here.

The Dove with the Olive Branch in his Mouth

But God has not abandoned His purpose to bring men into peace, and the Holy Ghost has come from heaven as a witness of this. He came direct from the coronation of Jesus in heaven to bear witness to Him on earth, and of peace through Him. He came to fulfil the Lord's words: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to YOU from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of me" (John 15:26).

He has come with His mouth full of Christ, for the gospel which is preached to men — the gospel of God — is concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and there can be no peace with God apart from Him. But what infinite grace is this, that the Christ whom men slew is now presented to them as God's olive branch, His offer of peace to the uttermost part of the earth! We learn from this that the cross of Christ, which on the one hand made manifest the hatred of man against God, declared on the other God's love to man, and that that which was the crowning act of man's sin became the means by which God could establish peace on the firm basis of divine righteousness.

The witness of the Holy Ghost, the heavenly dove, to Christ — the olive branch — has resulted in the establishment of God's Kingdom on the earth. It commenced at Pentecost and it continues to this day, for it is a kingdom that cannot be moved. Empires and thrones rise up, decline and fall, but this abides for ever. It is in the world but not of it; it draws no supplies either of wisdom or power from the world, and derives no benefit from man's philosophy or religion, for the "KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT MEAT AND DRINK; BUT RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE AND JOY IN THE HOLY GHOST" (Rom. 14:17).

The question for us all is, how have we treated the witness to Christ that the Holy Ghost has brought? Have we believed His witness? If so then are we in the Kingdom of God, of which Christ is the Royal Head, He is King; and our delight will be to do homage to Him. He is the new "Leader and Commander," the Prince and Lord of a new race. And the exceeding wonder is that the same Holy Ghost that came upon Him who was so absolutely suited to be His habitation now indwells every individual member of that new race.

All who have believed the gospel of our salvation are sealed by this same Spirit. This does not mean that they are free from sin, for the flesh is still within them; but they are now "in Christ" (Rom. 8:1), and of Him, for "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2). The life of Christ — eternal life — is theirs, and one with Him, through infinite mercy on the ground of that once-for-all and perfect sacrifice made at Calvary, they are holy brethren, and have entered the Kingdom of God; thus the Holy Ghost indwells them, and that kingdom is a kingdom of peace.

But the very preaching of this kingdom proves that it is all over with man's kingdoms. They will exist for a while but will finally make way for Christ's kingdom. It also proves that all the schemes for reconstruction are vain. The presence of the Holy Ghost for His great mission of bearing witness to Christ, rejected by the world, demonstrates what the world is; for "when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" (John 16:8-11).

Yet the Christian must not be indifferent to the wants and needs of men. He must do good to all, and show the grace that belongs to the kingdom of which he is a happy subject to the most unworthy and unthankful.

The Heavenly Dove's third visit: the earth full of the knowledge of the Lord

The Holy Ghost will not always abide in-this world bearing witness to Christ, and offering peace with God through Him. Indeed, everything points to the speedy close of His wonderful mission. He will return to heaven, quickening the mortal bodies of those in whom He dwells (Rom. 8), when the Lord rises from His throne to receive those whom the Holy Ghost has gathered out of this world for His name. Then when the day of judgment has come and is passed, and the earth has been purged and cleansed from its defilement and revolt against God, and all nations acknowledge Christ as King; the earth shall be a habitable place for the heavenly dove, and God's Spirit shall be poured forth on all flesh (Joel 2:28). He will come to abide on earth as a place in which righteousness reigns.

The Dove and the Branch will not be divided in that glorious day; for the Branch will be the King who shall reign in righteousness, and the effect of it shall be peace. "For there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and A BRANCH SHALL GROW OUT OF HIS ROOTS; AND THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD SHALL REST UPON HIM, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrices' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious" (Isa. 11:1-10).

"And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken it" (Mic. 4:2-4).