And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:8.
The first trees I remember the poplar trees that stood as sentries guarding our driveway at 5 years. Then the Elm Tree in our backyard that shaded our sandpile became my friend. One Christmas we dug up a live evergreen tree. After Christmas. We planted it in the front yard to remember the joy of Christmas.
Then I learned trees added a ring every year. Every time I found a stump, I counted the rings to measure the age. Then I sang Joyce Kilmer’s poem and trees became so precious to me, for the lyrics led me to thinking about how the trees bring messages from God to His Children.
I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed, Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in Summer wear, a nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.
Trees are shelters for birds and wild animals. From the front window, I now watch as birds praise God for a place to perch. I now watch as the squirrels encircle the trunk of the tree, always rising, and then scurrying away to find another tree.
God made the tree to be beautiful and also good for food. God made the tree as a signpost in the Garden of Eden, as the tree of life, a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t long until Satan saw his advantage and the first scam began in Genesis 2:1-5. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Judgement came quickly for the Serpent, and Adam, and Eve. Would we have succumbed to the same temptation? Would we have rationalized sin? We do every day.
And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an Ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark and cover it inside and out with pitch.” Genesis 6:13-14. God gave Noah explicit instructions on how the Ark would be built, and the purpose in Genesis 6. Noah was found to be a righteous man and walked with God. He and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives would be saved from the flood by the building of the Ark. The chapter ends with verse 22, Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. When God commands, obedience is the next and only step to take.
The beginning of God’s Covenant with Abraham happened by the oaks of Mamre. The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” Genesis 18:10. This is the beginning of the covenant God made with Abraham at the age of 99 years of age. God said Sarah would have a son.
Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:18-19.
After Abraham made peace with Abimelech, Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. Genesis 21:23. This was the beginning of planting trees for memorials.
The Ark of the Covenant was constructed of acacia wood (Exodus 25:10-16) according to God’s instructions. The Ark is the presence of God to the Israelites and carried with them as they traveled through the Wilderness for forty years. It contained the tablets of Mosaic Law, a pot of manna, and the rod of Aaron. Again, God used a tree for His purposes.
Is there more? Yes. When Jacob called his sons together, he told them what would happen to them in the days to come in the 49th chapter of Genesis. Jacob, a son of Isaac, under the covenant of God through Abraham. Joseph, son of Jacob, would be sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. His father has this to say about Joseph, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall.” Genesis 49:22. Despite the treachery of his brothers, later he would save his brothers from starvation. He is a tree who bore fruit of love.
Jesus changed the life of Zacchaeus, a short man who climbed a tree when He entered Jericho and was passing through. “And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So, he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:1-5. Another story about a tree.
Chapter 22 of Luke tells us, after the Lord’s Supper with his Disciples, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray, until His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. His disciples had fallen asleep nearby. Then Judas came to betray Jesus. This was the beginning of trials by judges, those who ridiculed and beat Jesus. In the next chapter of suffering, Simon of Cyrene dragged the cross made of wood on which Jesus would be crucified.
Trees, created by God, are given to us for the purpose of feeding us, giving us shelter, and shade. We are also created for a purpose. From the very beginning, men are given two choices. To obey God’s commands or not obey. We relive this choice each day, just as Adam and Eve had.
When I gaze upon a tree, swaying in the breeze, telling the season by the color of its leaves, I listen and praise God for the many ways He teaches us through His Creation. May I be like a tree, planted by streams of water, and bearing fruit for Him. I will delight and meditate day and night on the law of the Lord.
Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. Psalm 21:13.