This is the last in series of three post which began with: Water from Broken Wells several weeks ago and was continued two weeks ago with The Whisper Beneath the Sound and Fury I hope these post have helped us all to focus on receiving our hope, peace, and sustenance from Christ and Christ alone. So let’s conclude…
I’ve heard it said, time and time again, that as Christians we should care about the things God cares about. We should be passionate about the things He is passionate about. We should care deeply about what God has taken the time to create, and the things which He has written to us in scripture about. On that note, it seems God really likes trees, so perhaps we should too.
Now, I know what you are thinking, this post will begin with an opinion about trees; I’ll quote a verse or two, and end things by convincing you we should all walk outside together and hug on some trees. Perhaps as Christians we could stand to care for the natural world God put us in charge of slightly more than we currently do, however this post isn’t about us hugging trees, instead it’s about us being trees (more on that in a moment.) Yet, it is unavoidable to see that trees are vastly important to God, let’s examine this thought.
In the beginning God created all of nature, yet the thing he points out the most to Adam and Eve is a tree in the garden.
“The tree of life was in the midst of the Garden…” (Genesis 2:9, ESV)
And as we flip to the end of Scripture we see emphasis on another important tree.
“The angle showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2, ESV)
In a sense, time begins and ends with a tree. Sure there are rivers present at Creation and Re-Creation, as well as many other things, but there seems to be some importance on trees in both passages. More importantly, it’s the comparison of us to trees that falls between these two passages, in a massive book given to us by God, which should draw our attention. We, as people, are compared to many things throughout scripture, one of my favorites is our comparison to sheep (thus the Title of the blog being a take on the “All we like sheep…” quote from Isaiah 53:6), but let’s look at a few instances where we are compared to trees and try and find some importance to walk away with.
Psalms begins its first chapter by comparing the Spiritual Life of a person to a Tree.
“He is like a tree…” (Psalms 1:3, ESV)
Jump to the New Testament, even Jesus calls us trees when discussing displaying fruit:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit…Each tree is known by it’s own fruit… the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good.” (Luke 6:43-45, ESV)
Again, in Jesus’ ministry we see Him curse a fig tree to teach us about ourselves, we are called “branches”, and Paul uses the fruit tree analogy to show us what the Spirit has come to “produce” in and through us. The point of these passages are that God longs for us to be full of life, for us to grow, and for us to produce good fruit; all of this so that others will see our “good works” and praise our Father in Heaven.
Now, Jesus said in Luke 6 that “Each tree is known by it’s own fruit.” In my front yard we have three massive trees. Every fall our yard is blanketed with pecans, this would be why when people ask what kind of trees we have in our yard, we respond, “Pecan Trees.” It’s common sense right? Trees that produce oranges are Orange Trees. So it seems the point of a tree is its fruit. That is what Jesus is telling us, and its a lesson that is often a hard pill to swallow, our “fruit” is telling, and it’s by fruit that we will have to stand before God and account for at the end of our lives. Maybe we should take the tree analogy a whole lot more seriously than we do.
Yet, even though a tree’s purpose is its fruit, perhaps the fruit is not the most “important” part of the tree. Though fruit is the point, it is the tree’s roots that feed life into the tree so that it is able to produce fruit. Where a tree is planted and how well it is rooted is the single most important part of a tree’s existence. Without proper placement around a water source and deeply grounded roots, a tree will never be able to produce its fruit.
A good friend who is a landscaper was recently in our church office. In mid conversation he had to take a phone call from a client. He had recently planted a tree for the customer, and after the job was done the client decided they didn’t like where the tree was placed, and wanted to get my friend to dig up the tree and move it to a specific spot they had in mind. My friend responded politely that he would be more than willing to do the work to move the tree to anywhere the client wanted it moved, but that he wanted to be up front with them that if he moved the tree to that specific spot, the tree was going to die. The client was silent on the other end of the phone. My friend took the silence as an opportunity to explain what he meant. The spot the client had in mind was beyond the irrigation system that had been installed, so if it was planted there it would not get the water it desperately needed. Also, the spot they had in mind was overly shaded and this particular tree needed more sun than shade. In the end the client relented and chose to leave the tree where it was, they grasped the concept that if a tree is not rooted and grounded where it should be planted it will die. We are no different.
Let’s look back at Psalms 1. Here, David begins his epic book of worship by telling us that we are in one of two camps, those counted as righteous or those counted as wicked.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a TREE planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.” (Psalms 1:1-4, ESV Emphasis added)
God is instructing us that if we want to be a tree that prospers and brings forth life, we should be rooted and grounded in God’s instruction, His Law, and the entirety of scripture. Our council on our daily lives should not be any particular segment of society or a movement, but God’s word and God’s presence. There are a lot of movements in our world, a lot of leaders who are seeking us to follow them; even within the world of Christianity we find this to be true. Not everything that is trying to give us instruction is bad, but as Christians we have to make sure that who ever or whatever we are following lines up with scripture. Then and only then do we become “like a tree planted by streams of water,” or as Eugene Peterson put it in the Message Bible “A tree replanted in Eden.”
From the beginning God has had a plan for us, and we abandoned Eden, and in our daily lives we continue to abandon Eden in our choices. God is drawing us back, longing for us to be replanted there. He wants our roots to feed on the Bible, that is the water we feed on. But remember, where a tree is planted is as key as what nutrients it has access to. God, through the Psalms, instructs us where that place is as well.
“The righteous flourish like the PALM TREE and grow like a CEDAR in Lebanon. They are PLANTED in the HOUSE of THE LORD, they flourish in THE COURTS of GOD.” (Psalms 92:12-13, ESV Emphasis added)
Here we find that God’s word is to be our supply and we are to be planted in the House or Court of God. We should live and grow in His presence, through His Spirit living inside of us. As we saw in the previous post “Water from Empty Wells,” if we are trying to replenish ourselves from any other source than Christ, we may or may not flourish for a season, but eventually we will run dry. The tree that God longs for you to be is a tree that flourishes every month, regardless of the natural conditions. The “House of the Lord,” meaning His presence, His spirit, and His word are supernatural things. Even if our natural conditions are not favorable to growth (Times of stress and depression, financial turmoil, the death of a family member or struggles in a marriage), the supernatural things can remain present, and if we can stay rooted in every season life throws at us, we can continue to bloom. This is what God wants for us, but where we are “planted” is ultimately up to us. Root yourself wisely.
Grace and Peace to You.