When we ended our last visit, we did so poised, with our treasure hunting tools in hand, ready for the truth seeking adventure that was promised for today. As you may recall, Tool #1 was the understanding that we had gained as to how the Big, Infinite, Spiritual, and Holy God of the Bible reveals Himself to us–the small, fleshly, finite, and sinful human beings who are living here on planet earth. We learned that this God reveals Himself not only through what He says in His Word, but also through the things that He does; which, as we saw last time, included the separating, dividing, and judging of the very things that He had just created. These actions revealed to us not only what God did at that particular time but they also revealed who He is all of the time—that He is, in His very nature, a Separator, a Divider, and a Judge. As for Tool #2, we learned that this was an understanding of the way that this very same God teaches us about spiritual things; that He does so by using the things that we can see to explain the things that we cannot see, “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18b).”
Now, having re-familiarized ourselves with the tools at our disposal, let’s take a moment to identify the treasures that we will be searching for during this, and our next, visit. After all, we will need to know what we are looking for if we are going to be able to recognize it when we find it. During this visit, we will be searching for Treasure #1, which is “The What” of the trees, or the object lesson that God wants us to give us every time we come face to face with one of His trees. Treasure #2, the goal of our next visit will, on the other hand, be “The Why” of the trees, or the answers to those questions that were posed back in “Redemption, A Story told by Trees,” questions as to why God would want to use trees to tell His story of redemption in the first place.
So, with our equipment now in place, we can proceed in our hunt for…
Treasure #1—The What of the Trees
We begin our search for Treasure #1 by taking a look at our treasure map, the Bible, to see what clues it holds for our discovery. Since treasure is almost always buried, and because the Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth, when we search for the treasures of truth hidden within it, we will find that we need to dig for it on at least three different levels: an earthly level, a heavenly level, and an eternal level. At the earthly level, we will be presented with real people or real events taking place in real time; people and events which God will use to teach us valuable life lessons. Then, God will take those same people and events and use them to illustrate something that He has done or will be doing in the spiritual realm, or some important spiritual truth that He wants us to know. Finally, God will use what we have learned on both of those levels to take us to the eternal level, or that place where He will reveal to us a more complete picture of who He is.
Our earthly level excavation for truth begins with a look at the first verses in scripture that mention trees, specifically Genesis 1:12, 1:29, and 2:8. In these verses, as we see God calling trees into existence, and from the descriptions that are given of them, we very quickly learn that when God created trees, He had some very practical purposes in mind for them. According to His plan, they were meant to:
- Spring up out of the earth;
- Bear fruit;
- Reproduce after their own kind;
- Be pleasing to look at; and,
- Be good for food.
Here, we learn that in creating the trees as He did, God was actually preparing to meet the the natural needs of the people He would soon be creating. As not only the source but also the sustainer of the lives that He was about to bring into the world, God, through the trees, was making provision for their needs even before they existed.
If the meeting of these natural needs had been God’s only reason for bringing trees into the world, that would certainly have been reason enough for their existence. However, if we dig a little deeper into the Word, by going on to Genesis 2:16, we get our first hint that God, in His creation of the trees, may have had more in mind than just meeting the physical needs of man. For, here in this verse, we are re-introduced to the God we first met back in Genesis 1—the God who not only created the world but the One who also then separated, divided, and judged every aspect of His own creation. Here, we find Him doing the same thing, only this time He is focused on separating and making distinctions between two of the trees in the garden that He Himself had made for man; here, we find him differentiating between the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, designating the fruit of one to be good or life-giving, and the fruit of the other to be bad or death-inducing. And here, too, we are given our first clue that He, in this separation, division, and judging of the trees, had other reasons for including them in His created order.
This is a very important clue for us and now that we have it in our possession, we can use it to move on to the next level of exploration—that being the spiritual level of truth-seeking. This is the place where Tool #2 will come in handy; for it is here is that we will see how God applied spiritual principals to the natural characteristics of trees in order to illustrate an important spiritual truth. To explain what I mean, let’s go to Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17, where we read:
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 it fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1: 1-3
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8
You see, when God wanted to teach us what a righteous man or woman would look like, He used trees to make His point. For:
- Like trees, we as human beings are to grow up out of the earth, with heaven as our focus and our ultimate destination;
- Like trees, although still drawing our physical nutrients from the earth, we are to be continually seeking the light of the Son as our real source of life;
- Like trees, for us to remain strong and fruitful, we need to be planted by the streams of God, regularly drawing life-giving water from His Word;
- Like trees, as we grow, we will have to weather many storms which, if we keep looking heavenward, will only make us stronger;
- Like trees, as and when we mature, we are to become fruit-bearing, reproducing ourselves both physically and spiritually; and,
- Like trees, in our maturity, we are to be safe spiritual havens or sources of refuge for others, all while acting as agents of purification for the atmosphere surrounding us.
Just think about it, by placing trees on the earth, whenever and wherever one was growing, God was actually providing people with a living illustration, a silent witness or reminder, of what and who He expected them to be. Each tree was to be a reminder, too, that He was there, not only as the God who had made the trees for their benefit but, as the God who from the beginning had separated, divided, and judged the trees on the basis of their fruit, He would also be there one day to separate, divide, and pass judgment upon them on the basis of the fruit produced by their lives.
When we see a tree, maybe we should do as Jason Gray does, and ask God to use it to “Remind Me Who I Am”…