Trees—who knew there was so much treasure to be found in them; I mean, how were we supposed to know that hidden behind all of those leaves, there would be so much rich spiritual truth just waiting to be uncovered? And yet, as we learned in Romans 1: 19-20, hiding truth in trees was all part of God’s plan to make known to us such otherwise unknowable things as “…his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature…” through the things that He had made. This would seem to imply that all of creation is just one huge treasure trove of divine truth waiting to be discovered, wouldn’t it?
Of course, having had only one little excursion into the woods so far, our excavation for true spiritual riches has only begun; but let’s not despise the day of small beginnings for in just that one outing, we have already uncovered one important spiritual truth which we have labeled as Treasure #1, The What of the trees–the lesson of what we, in comparison to trees, should look like. We are not stopping with that discovery, however—for we are on our way back out among the foliage today and this time, we will be looking for what should prove to be Treasure #2, The Why of the trees—or, the answers to the questions that were raised in Redemption, A Story Told by Trees, questions as to why God would use something as seemingly insignificant as earthly trees to tell His majestic and eternal story of redemption.
To aid us in our search today, we will need to take along the same tools that we used in our previous outing, only this time, we will be bringing along with them the truths that were uncovered during our earlier search. As you may recall:
- Tool #1—was the understanding that from the beginning of creation, God has revealed Himself not only through what He has said, but also through what He has done.
- Truth #1—was that one of the first of those revelations was of God as the Separator, Divider, and Judge of the very things He had created.
- Tool #2—was the understanding that when God created the world, He included elements within it that He would later use as teaching tools for His spiritual truths or principles.
- Truth #2—was that for one such lesson, God used the natural characteristics of trees to illustrate the spiritual characteristics that righteous men and women should exhibit.
With these tools and truths in hand, then, we can begin our search for…
Treasure #2—The Why of the Trees…
… by answering the questions posed so long ago.
Question #1 – Why would God choose to use trees to test the measure of a man’s righteousness?
Since we now know that it was part of God’s plan to use trees to teach us important spiritual truths, and that it was also part of His nature to divide and make distinctions between the various elements of His creation, it should come as no surprise that He would also make distinctions or divisions between the humans He had created—and that He would use trees to do so. After all, if trees were to produce fruit after their own kind—in accordance with the type of seed hidden within them–and if men and women, likewise, were to produce fruit after their own kind—in accordance with the type of seed hidden in their hearts, wouldn’t giving them a choice between two trees that produced vastly different kinds of fruit be the most logical way of revealing the heart conditions of those who were doing the choosing?
We will find this truth borne out for us through a little deeper dig into the Word of God, where:
- In Luke 6:43-45, from the words of Jesus, we are instructed that…
…no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
- In Matthew 12:33, we hear the Lord’s admonition to…
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.
- In Proverbs 11:30, we learn that…
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life…
Surely, the God who had separated, divided, and judged every other aspect of His creation would be expected to do the same with the people He had created, especially since those people had been created in His image and given authority to rule over all that He had made. To rule for God, though, one would first have to be righteous, and what more appropriate way to judge for righteousness than through an inspection of the fruit produced by the tree of that person’s choosing?
Question #2 – Why would God make the choice of one tree over another mean the difference between life and death, not only for the one doing the choosing, but also for all the ones who would come after him?
In designating man as His ruling representative on earth, God was entrusting him with the responsibility of carrying out His will upon the earth. So, in having him choose between the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God was giving man the opportunity to prove whether he would choose to do God’s will or his own. This was the same choice that was presented to Israel, as she was preparing to enter into the Promised Land, when the Lord said…
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord and walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statues and his rules [doing His will], then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear [or do your own will]…I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish…I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.
Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers… (Deut. 30:15-20).
If the first man chose to do his will over that of his Father, and if every tree produces fruit after its own kind, then all of those who were to descend from Adam must, of necessity, be of the same kind that he was, must produce the same type of fruit, and must have to suffer the same consequences. As the old saying goes, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree–or, as we said before…no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its fruit.
Question #3 – Once the choice had been made, why would God make the way to the Tree of Life inaccessible to those who needed the new life that it offered?
The truth is, if God had allowed fallen man and woman to eat of the Tree of Life, then they would have lived forever in their sinful state and, in that state, they would have been beyond the reach of God’s redemption, never able to experience the saving grace and forgiveness that Christ made available to us through the Cross. In reality, it was an act of mercy on God’s part to bar man’s way to the Tree of Life until the time when the Son of Life would come to pay the price for man’s sins and reopen the way to that Tree through His redeeming blood.
Question #4 – Why would God allow an ugly, cruel tree fashioned by men to be the instrument of torture and means of death for His one and only Beloved Son?
When we consider the two trees that were in the Garden, it is important for us to understand what each was meant to represent. Just as God intended for healthy, vigorous trees in the natural to represent the healthy and productive spiritual lives of men and women who were right with God, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil were meant to represent the only two options in life available to mankind—that is, man could opt to do God’s will and in so doing, he would become more like God and end up gaining life everlasting; or he could opt to do life on his own terms, attempting to be his own god, with the end result of that choice being death. The Tree of Life, then, was intended to represent the way of Faith, while the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was meant to represent the way of Works.
The Tree of Life, or the way of Faith, was rooted in Jesus’ submission to the will of His Father, or as it is recorded for us in Psalm 40:8-10…
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
As we can readily see, the sap produced by this tree was one characterized by Submission and Praise, while its fruit was that of God and His Glory.
On the other hand, as the way of works, or as man’s attempts to be god on his own terms, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, had as its root system the same one that Satan had when, as he sought to rebel against God, he said in his heart…
I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High (Is. 14:13-14)
—a root system which could only produce the fruit of “Me and My Glory,” and sap amounting to nothing more than “Selfishness and Pride.”
It was Adam’s choice of this tree that eventually produced every sin, every act of rebellion, every false system of belief—no matter how seemingly virtuous—and every death that men have suffered throughout history. In fact, every work of man, apart from God, has been the fruit of this one choice and has found its representation in this tree. Since the only kind of tree that the works of man could produce was one of dead works, that was the one that Jesus would have to die on if men were to ever be set free from its curse and its power, and if the way to the Tree of Life was ever going to be made available to them again.
Question #5 – Why and how could God make what was a tree of death for One into a Tree of Life for many?
Through His death on the Cross, that tree representing all of man’s futile efforts at achieving righteousness through his own works, and then through His resurrection from that death, Christ became the “firstfruits” of all those who would afterwards come to Him in faith. As the Apostle Paul explains in selected verses of 1 Corinthians 15…
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
In other words, just as the first Adam’s selfish choice reproduced the fruit of death in those who would come after him, the second Adam’s sacrificial choice reproduced the fruit of life in all of those who would come after him in faith—to those for whom “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life…”
I know this dig has been lengthier than usual today but as we consider all of the tree treasures that we have uncovered today, let’s also take a moment to consider this final treasure of truth found in Isaiah 61:1-3. It is Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the promised Messiah, and one with which many of us are familiar. However, I don’t think too many of us have heard, or at least not paid much attention to, the last line, for it in it God reveals the ultimate purpose of our Redeemer’s mission…
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
Wow—who knew that the reason Jesus came was to make us into oaks, trees of righteousness through whom the Lord would be glorified! I mean, who knew that the most precious treasure to be found in the trees would be us?
The Robbie Seay Band on that “Beautiful Scandalous Night”