Trees in the Bible
Trees are both obvious and important in the unfolding of biblical stories. A good example is the Olive, useful and ubiquitous, a tree found throughout the Bible. Trees feature from Genesis to Revelations, familiar to Abraham and to John on Patmos: “On either side of the river stood a tree of life …” (Rev). Such is their importance that in several quotations, trees are referred to as ‘the tree of life’ (Prvbs 3). In the First Letter of Peter, we are told that Christ “bore our sins, in His body on the tree.’ At the end of Revelations (22) we find that “the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.” Psalm 1 offers “The one who delights in the law of the Lord, is like a tree planted by streams of water.” Isaiah writes about the principal of tree regrowth: “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11), and in that same book trees are a “sign of blessings in the coming Kingdom.”
My favourite tree quotation is found in Ezekiel (17) It is an early expression of the Messianic hope of the Jewish people: “I will take the top of a tall cedar and break off a tender sprout; I will plant it on a high mountain, on Israel's highest mountain. It will grow branches and bear seed and become a magnificent cedar. Birds of every kind will live there and find shelter in its shade.” And hope is expressed in the Book of Job: “At least there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down it will sprout again…. It will bud and put forth new shoots.” Job’s book speaks of a felled tree, giving new growth, which is the principle of coppicing, in forestry practice. Read about the Sidonian tree fellers, who felled Cedar trees for Solomon: “No-one is as skilled in felling timber …” (1 Kings). In Hosea lovingkindness is a keyword and God tells him: “I am the Pine tree which shelters you.”
Zacchaeus (Luke 19) cannot see Jesus. Robert Frost’s shortest poem tells us: Zacchaeus he/Did climb a tree/Our Lord to see. Turn the pages of Luke back and read about the Mulberry tree and the Mustard seed (Luke 17). Further back (Luke 13) read about the birds perching on the tree branches. Ephesians (3) speaks of growing – of being rooted in love. A tree is recognised by its fruit (Matt 7). Isaiah: “I will pour down rain on a thirsty land … they will spring up like Poplars by a flowing stream.” Finally from Isaiah 55 “… and the trees of the fields shall clap their hands …”
Trees in the Bible are a metaphor for something bigger than us, beyond us. In this they can stand, silently witnessing to God, creativity, His concern for the universe. Trees in their grandeur, their usefulness, help us to understand who we are as individuals, what we are, as God’s people.
‘Seeds of love grow into trees of hope, and forests of faith.’
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