Last week my husband and I traveled from Texas to Virginia. Both states are beautiful. One BIG difference, or maybe I should say TALL difference are the trees in Virginia! My dad’s condo is on the edge of a golf course with a stand of pine trees nearby. The tops of the trees reach for the skies for sure!
We know the Tree of Life bookends the Scriptures. It may have been Rob Bell that coined the phrase “living between the trees,” or at least, that is where I first heard that phrase.1 What is fascinating is that there is so much substance to the theme of trees in scripture!
Trees are the most mentioned living thing in the Bible other than people and God.2 Matthew Sleeth researched trees in scripture and noted nearly one thousand references if you consider the word tree and branch, wood, vine, flowers, and fruit. I haven’t read Matthew Sleeth’s book, Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and His Love for Us, yet, but I have added it to my TBR list on Amazon. Instead, I read interviews and articles and listened to Mackie and Collins Bible Project Podcast on trees.3 The theme of trees in scripture is overwhelming and more than will fit in a blog post. So I want to just focus on one big idea – God likens us to roots, branches, and fruit!
Instead you thrill to God’s Word,Psalm 1:2-3 MSG
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.
The Psalmist teaches us that we are like trees. He uses a passive verb – a tree planted – meaning we don’t plant ourselves; it happens to us. God plants us in His kingdom! We are planted in a healthy environment for life, for growing, for bearing fruit.
Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.Colossian 2:6-7 Phillips
A key to a healthy tree is its root system. Tree roots serve at least three purposes. They stabilize the tree and provide a system for absorbing and storing nutrients.
Roots anchor the tree, and in like manner, we are rooted in Christ! In Christ we move, live, have our being. And in Him, we have everything we need for life and Godliness. As our roots grow, develop, spread deep and wide in Christ, we are anchored to Him so that when trials assail us, we can stand firm.
A farmer went out to plant some seed. … Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.Mark 4:3-6 NLT
For all those words which were written long ago are meant to teach us today; that when we read in the scriptures of the endurance of men and of all the help that God gave them in those days, we may be encouraged to go on hoping in our own time.Romans 14:4 Phillips
Like roots of trees soaking up and storing nutrients, we absorb God’s Word. We read, study, meditate, marinate, think about, and share the Word! God gave us His Word to teach and train us, but also to give us hope! The Word is the sword, both a defensive and offensive weapon, but we wield it only through the power of the Spirit. When we start “Bible-thumping,” it is best to stop and consider how Jesus shared the truth with others.
The scripture says we have the mind of Christ in that we know the gospel, how God has initiated His Kingdom, and we know His plans for a new heaven and new earth. We allow the Spirit of God to renew our minds through His transforming work. We immerse ourselves in scripture and preach the gospel to ourselves as we work out our salvation under the Spirit’s leading.
A life rooted deeply in Christ will stand amid the storms.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.John 15:4-7 MSG
We are like branches. Branches can’t do anything on their own. Remove them from their life source and they wither and die. Branches can only do what the tree to which they are attached will support.
When I think of branches I think about family, especially our family tree. Our spiritual life is like that. We are branches in Jesus’ family. If we are not a branch, we are not in His family.
It is only when we obey God’s laws that we can be quite sure that we really know him. The man who claims to know God but does not obey his laws is not only a liar but lives in self-delusion. In practice, the more a man learns to obey God’s laws the more truly and fully does he express his love for him. Obedience is the test of whether we really live “in God” or not. The life of a man who professes to be living in God must bear the stamp of Christ.1 John 2:3-6 Phillips
Abiding in the vine is not an optional spiritual experience. We must continue and depend on Jesus just as a branch continues and depends on the vine. Difficult trials, despondence, wilderness experiences are not examples of the lack of abiding – scripture tells us we will have trials and tribulation. Instead, continuing in sin and the lack of love for others are quite possibly symptoms of never having been in the vine in the first place.
A soul filled with large thoughts of the Vine will be a strong branch, and will abide confidently in Him. Be much occupied with Jesus, and believe much in Him, as the True Vine.Andrew Murray
A branch fully attached to the vine has no worries –
it is fed, nourished, and supported!
We are asking God that you may see things, as it were, from his point of view by being given spiritual insight and understanding. We also pray that your outward lives, which men see, may bring credit to your master’s name, and that you may bring joy to his heart by bearing genuine Christian fruit, and that your knowledge of God may grow yet deeper.Colossians 1:9-10 Phillips
The fruit of a Christian’s life is the outward sign of an inward change. The Spirit of God cultivates the fruit in us; fruit results from living, walking in step with God. As we focus on believing God, trusting Him, developing our relationship with Him, good gospel fruit grows in us. We do that by staying in the Word, talking with the Father, listening well, obeying, and fellowshipping with the saints.
Fruit is the evidence of God’s work in our lives. At the same time, while we don’t produce fruit, we make every effort to submit to the Spirit’s leadership and allow Him to work in us. As Peter exhorts us, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.Colossians 3:12-14 MSG
Good fruit germinates in a heart that is surrendered to the Spirit.
But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,Jeremiah 17:7-8 MSG
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.
I love how Jeremiah captures the same thought as the Psalmist about our being like planted trees! Growth and fruitfulness are assured as we allow our roots to be planted deep, as we learn faith, trust in the ONE who is our source of life! As we live between the trees of Genesis and Revelation, let’s be like trees, green, growing, and blossoming!
Christ hath a garden walled around,
A Paradise of fruitful ground,
Chosen by love and fenced by grace
From out the world’s wide wilderness.
Like trees of spice his servants stand,
There planted by his mighty hand;
By Eden’s gracious streams, that flow
To feed their beauty where they grow.
Awake, O wind of heaven and bear
Their sweetest perfume through the air:
Stir up, O south, the boughs that bloom,
Till the beloved Master come:
That he may come, and linger yetIsaac Watts
Among the trees that he hath set;
That he may evermore be seen
To walk amid the springing green.
1Tilley, P. (2012, June 28). Between the Trees: Rob Bell speaking at Willow Creek Community Church [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDF9qS7mvrE&feature=youtu.be
2Petersen, J. (2020, January 28). Spiritual Lessons from the Life of Trees: An Interview with Matthew Sleeth, MD. Bible Gateway Blog. https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/07/spiritual-lessons-from-the-life-of-trees-an-interview-with-matthew-sleeth-md/
3Mackie, T., & Collins, J. (2020, January 6). Humans are. . . Trees? Podcast | BibleProjectTM. BibleProject. https://bibleproject.com/podcast/humans-are-trees/