Trees for Bookends
The bible talks a lot about trees. As we continue our short series on trees and the spiritual life I thought it would be beneficial to take a quick glance and the ways in which Scripture refers to trees. The Bible talks about lots of different kinds of trees, listing almost forty different species. When I first started thinking and reading about trees for my sermon on Psalm 1 this past Sunday I had no idea that the Bible spoke of such a wide variety. And its not just the variety of different trees, but also the comparison of fruitful and unfruitful trees, trees that are well-watered and trees that are found in dry wastelands, trees that glorify God the Father and frustrated the Son. Trees are depicted as singing for joy before the Lord(1 Chronicles 16:33). God calls upon fruit trees and cedars to praise His name (Psalm 148:9). Trees are frequently seen as glorifying God in various ways (Isaiah 60:13, Isaiah 61:3, Isaiah 55:12-13). But there is one tree that offers us the perfect bookend to the entirety of our story with God - the Tree of Life.
We first encounter this Tree in Genesis 2:9, "Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Later, God gives clear instructions about both God's provision and God's prohibition: 'And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”' God clearly says not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but seems to leave open the possibility of eating from the tree of life. And yet, at the beginning of chapter three we are standing directly in front of the one tree in the garden sure to bring us death. Why didn't Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Life instead of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Perhaps lurking in each of our own hearts is the answer, for each day we reenact this scene, and each day far to many of us choose the tree that brings knowledge that we aren't capable of mastering, choices to complex. consequences to severe and company to fast and wild. Why didn't Adam and Eve just eat from the tree of life? Perhaps a better question is, why don't we?
Fast forward to the end of our story. We have been dazzled at the end of Revelation 21 by a scene that elicits both wonder and awe, a scene that describes the culmination of God's kingdom as a place where the Lamb is the Temple, God is a light, gates are never closed and where the nations bow to humbly worship the One they once Crucified. And then, at the beginning of Revelation 22, we return to where it all began - the Tree: 'Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.' (Revelation 22:1-2) The Tree of Life, with the perfect amount of fruit, being produced at the perfect time. The Tree of Life, providing the perfect kind of
medicine for a people in need of final healing. The Tree of life, providing shade, comfort and rest for a
people weary from their travel to their eternal home. The Tree of Life, glistening in the Light of the Lamb, ready to provide whatever we need. Won't you eat of its fruit? Won't you partake of its medicine? Will today be the day? Will you choose the right Tree, the Tree that gives Life?