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As A Tree

 

Unless otherwise denoted, Scripture references are to the New International Version (British text)

 

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 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, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1: 1-3).

 

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

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, by Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), who died in battle during the first World War at only 32. His reputation as a poet rests almost entirely on this one poem.

 

What a stroke of pure genius it was on the Creator’s part to clothe the earth with trees! Most of us are touched with awe at the beauty of Planet Earth, and perhaps have a particular fondness for our own corner of it. The majesty and variety of trees is a source of the greatest delight to the lover of nature. Suppose there were none. Or suppose all vegetation – trees, shrubs, grasses, mosses – were not green, but predominantly red, or blue. Red would not be kind to the eyes, and blue would not give our spirits a lift – we would probably feel blue ourselves! The Creator knew that green was right, best suited to the human eye. And so He robed the earth in living green – forty shades of green, as the Irish boast.

 

Not Only Beauty

The timber of the tree, that amazing fibrous matter, with its adaptability and beauty, wonderfully suited for man’s use, is a product of the Divine mind.

The utility of trees is amazing. The ships that carried the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, the wagons that lumbered westward over the North American plains, and the Cross on which our Saviour hung, were made from that most remarkable substance - the wood from a tree. Through the ages the tree has been the major source for fuel and construction. Even today our homes are built with much timber, as is the furniture inside.

In recent years, we have come to appreciate the tree as vital to the health of the planet: the forests are the planet’s lungs, taking up much of the carbon dioxide which otherwise would invade the atmosphere, and they influence worldwide climatic conditions. Centuries ago, forests that once covered the continent of Europe, habitat for the bear and wolf, were decimated by the expanding populations and civilisations of the later Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, and the wars that savaged mankind. Today, the tropical rain forests are undergoing steady destruction as they are cleared for habitation, agriculture, minerals, and the expanding timber market.

 

Blessed is the Man Who is Like a Tree

Blessed indeed! When the angels of God sang together and shouted for joy at earth’s creation, the Man and the Woman in the divine image were jointly its crowning glory. They were programmed for life, designed by the Master Craftsman to generate a noble race to love and care for Planet Earth.

Falling victim to the wiles of the Adversary, Adam and Eve set into operation the forces of degeneration that have for some thousands of years deferred the Creator’s intentions for the human family. This is not to say that God was taken by surprise. Rather, in His great wisdom He saw that an experience with evil, a practical knowledge of the consequences of sin, would furnish mankind the most powerful incentive to strive for righteousness – even during the period of their affliction.

And so there were some who, though subject to the inherited frailties of all men, pleased God by their efforts to live according to the highest standards of honour and integrity, striving to be pleasing to their Creator. Faith in the promises of God is the foundation of hope for full restoration of fellowship with Him, and for the eventual bestowal of that perfect everlasting life He had always intended. The advent in due time of the promised Messiah gave further grounds for hope, and faith in Him as the Saviour of all people is the basis upon which the destiny of each depends.

Meanwhile, the man or woman seeking to please the Lord in our day does not

 

Walk in the counsel of the ungodly –

does not heed worldly advice in the conduct of life, from secular books, newspaper columns, alluring advertisements on how to better oneself or become more socially acceptable to the unbelieving world, popular psychology focusing on self-esteem – ‘you’re worth it, you deserve it, get it!’

 

Stand in the way of sinners –

does not endanger godly purity by viewing unsavoury films or television programmes that present as entertainment the grossest immoral and violent behaviour of fallen mankind. The godly mother and father stand apart from such debased entertainment and protect their children as far as possible from exposure to degrading material.

 

Sit in the seat of the scornful –

does not join the growing ranks of those mocking the faith of Christian believers, ridiculing the idea of a Divine Creator, and criticising the life style of those whose hopes are in the coming Kingdom of God on the earth.

 

But Their Delight is in the Law of the Lord

The Apostle Paul counselled his protégé, Timothy: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. . . . godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4: 7-10).

The Lord’s faithful people do not lack a heartfelt sympathy for the unbelieving world of mankind, most of whom are unwittingly subject to the god of this world, Satan. He lures them with a spurious temporary prosperity that would lead them only to eternal death, were it not for the provision of a Saviour to come to their rescue. Christ’s Kingdom will offer a full, fair, and glorious opportunity to all victims of the Adversary to return to fellowship with their Creator and to regain their status as His sons and daughters. “When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26: 9).

 

Trees of Righteousness

Paul establishes the concept of God as a Master Pruner removing defective branches, grafting in others, and generally tending the tree that it might grow in a healthy and productive way to match His eternal purpose. God’s pruning of us is not harsh, but severe enough to be effective. Here we see the carefulness of God, who will hurt, but not with intent to destroy. As followers of Christ, expected to bear the fruits of the spirit, we may draw useful lessons from the imagery.

Before we became Christians, we spent more or less of our years growing in this world, its habits, its way of thinking. Our early roots were nourished by the elements of this world – its soil, so to speak – and our characters and personalities were formed accordingly. When we presented ourselves before the Lord we came laden with inherited and acquired imperfections – a rather awkward and unattractive offering. Before the Master Gardener takes us in hand, we may be like a twisted and ragged tree: heavy with useless, dead branches, and in need of pruning. We must now be made to grow in a different direction, and the useless attachments – worldly affections and vanities and faults – must be removed. As trees planted by the rivers of water, as the Psalmist says, we are prepared to bring forth the fruits of the spirit.

“For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job 14: 7, 14, 15, King James Version).

 

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