2 Sam. 15. 23, 30-32; Luke 22. 19-20, 39-46; Matt. 24. 1-3; Zech. 14. 4
The exercise behind this paper is to share thoughts of the providence and wisdom of God that enter into the geographical position and the configuration of Olivet in its proximity to the site of Jerusalem; also in its association with David during Absalom’s rebellion, and with the Lord Jesus in His lifetime and in His return to earth in glory.
The mount of Olives runs from north to south about a sabbath day’s journey east of Jerusalem across the Kidron valley, Acts 1. 12. The more we examine God’s handiwork in creation, the more we appreciate its perfection in every detail, as to both plan and purpose, with all things suitable for the places they are intended to fulfil. Before man was formed, or Israel was chosen, or the Gentile nations existed, God the Creator had formed detailed features of the earth, that would subsequently play such an important part in His ways with men and nations on earth.
Amos writes, “For lo, he that formeth the mountains, and created the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name”, 4. 13. He who formed the mountains also formed the grasshoppers, 7. 1, in His governmental dealings with Israel for unrighteousness. Knowing the Almighty God as Father, believers today retain in their hearts a consciousness of His omnipotent greatness and the sureness of His governmental ways. Surely Proverbs 8. 22-31, as well as John 1. 1-3, refer only to the Son, “Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there”. Olivet formed part of the detailed arrangements of that creation, and was in its place to feature in the past and future dispensations accdrding to God’s plan.
Ish-bosheth being dead, David was made king over all Israel, but alas, although his thought was to find a resting place for the ark and to bring it into the midst of His people, yet he fell into sin concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. Nathan’s penetrating words, “Thou art the man”, 2 Sam. 12. 7, reached his conscience, and David poured out his confession and repentance in Psalm 51. His sin was put away and David was restored, for God is a pardoning God, but the governmental dealings of God ensured that chastisement was not withheld. Nathan’s prophecy that the sword would not depart from David’s house and that God would raise up evil against him out of his own family came true. Absalom rebelled! Sin and disorder continued in David’s house, and he failed to punish Amnon for the defilement of Tamar, or Absalom for the part he played in the murder of Amnon, and thus David experienced the chastisement of God’s governmental ways. He expressed his exercises in relation to Absalom’s rebellion in Psalm 3, but he always turned to God and rested on the covenant which God had made with him. God is faithful to all His covenants, however unfaithful man proves himself to be.
How much would be in David’s mind and on his spirit as he fled from Jerusalem. He wept, covered his head, and went barefoot as he toiled up the ascent of mount Olivet, weeping as he went. He had brought much of the sorrow upon himself, but he continued in his exercise until he reached the top of the mount, where he could commune with God. The Holy Spirit graciously records that when David reached the top, he worshipped God! David’s God is our God, and we can learn from his experiences. Whatever we pass through, the way of recovery and restoration is open, so that as we reach the top of our own mount of Olives at the end of exercise we can worship God. Like David, as he confessed that his house was not what it should have been before God, 2 Sam. 23. 5, we all fail, but as David always laid hold on the everlasting covenant that God had made with him, so we know that “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son”, 1 Cor. 1. 9.
The mount of Olives features prominently in the life of the Lord Jesus. When in Jerusalem, it was His habitual place of retreat, “And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him”, Luke 21. 37-38.
How perfect and faithfully consistent every day of His life was Jesus as a servant; how dependent on God, as He retired each night to commune with His Father and to commit Himself and His service to Him. Though rejected as Messiah and King, and finding His preaching of the gospel of the kingdom falling largely on deaf ears and unresponsive hearts, Jesus was there early every morning to continue His work. What an encouragement to all brothers and sisters who seek to serve their Lord and Master in a cold, apathetic and unresponsive world.
In the large upper room, the disciples must have received profound impressions as Jesus handed them the bread and the cup, declaring His love that was faithful to death, and as He led them out to the mount of Olives, Luke 22. 39. How much we need to meditate, as we look upon the emblems, allowing the Spirit of Christ to lead our hearts in worship, as He only can.
In Matthew 24. 3, Jesus is recorded as sitting on the mount of Olives; this seems to indicate a change of position and outlook. He had just left the temple for the last time, telling the Jews that they would not see Him again until they would say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”, 23. 39. Such a departure from the temple would be an occasion of deep sorrow to Jesus, but, rejected as their Messiah and King, and despised as He was, He expressed His love for Jerusalem and its people: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”.
Jesus sat alone on the mount until His disciples came to Him privately to ask questions about His sayings relative to the temple and to His coming in glory. They were not disappointed. Coming to Him and sharing His reproach, they received a further outline of prophecy. This directed their minds beyond this present dispensation of grace to the culmination of God’s governmental judgments on evil according to Daniel’s prophecy, and to the coming in glory of the Son of man. How clearly the Old Testament speaks of this, and how well acquainted we should be with the writings of the Holy Spirit. How delightful to read in Zechariah 14. 4 concerning the feet of Jesus, the Son of man and Lord of glory, as we also think of those feet on this earth during His lifetime of sorrow, suffering and bearing the contradiction of sinners against Himself: “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south”.
God is in control! The very configuration of the mountain will be changed in the power and providence of God for the further carrying out of His judgments on the confederacies of men. How great God is! We can only worship, wonder and adore the One who is God our Father, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the One who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. Let us glorify His Name.
Readers may care to search out other links in the accounts of David and of Christ with the mount of Olives. Both crossed the brook Kidron to the mount of Olives, 2 Sam. 15. 23; John 18. 1. Both had been betrayed by their close associates Ahithophel and Judas, 2 Sam. 17. 1-3; John 18. 2-3; (these two men are linked by the Lord’s quotation of Psalm 41. 9 in John 13. 18). These two men hanged themselves, 2 Sam. 17. 23; Matt. 27. 5. Both David and the Lord received statements of loyalty and devotion from men who loved them well: Ittai, 2 Sam. 15. 21, and Peter, Luke 22. 33.