When God creates all things good for human beings, a specific tree is mentioned: the Tree of Life (Gen 2. 9). It is put in the middle of the Garden of Eden: this garden planted by God (Gen 2. 8).
At the pivot point in the history of humanity is the Tree of the Cross, the life-giving tree.
History comes to an end as the Tree of Life is again mentioned. At the very end of time, it flourishes, perhaps as a group of trees, on both sides of the River of the Water of Life which flows from the Throne of God (Rev 22. 1 – 3). This is in the Holy City of the New Creation.
All through the Bible there is mention of trees and they are often used in familiar stories and events, in poetry and prophesy. They play a part in the story of redemption. In this set of reflections various aspects of trees (some admittedly fairly tenuous) will be examined. Hopefully this will lead to further thought or investigation on the part of the reader.
In general a chronological or historical approach will be used but some freedom and flexibility may also be applied if deemed appropriate or expedient.
This theme has been chosen to take us through the Trinity season because the liturgical colour for this season is green, evoking thoughts of new life, flourishing and hope.
Fir, Pine, Cedar, Cypress
‘Beautify the place of my sanctuary’ [Isa 60. 13]
Acacia had been used for most of the construction of the Tent of Meeting which was carried with the people as they travelled through the wilderness.
When Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem to house the Ark he used a wide variety of other woods to make the equipment that would be needed.
Solomon was famed for his proverbs but he also wrote songs which spoke of ‘trees, from the cedar that is in the Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall’ [1 Kings 4. 33]. While he imported cedar and cypress from Hiram king of Tyre [1 Kings 5. 8 – 10] to build the Temple, he also planted cedars.
In the construction of the Temple Almug or Algum wood was used for supports and steps but also to make ‘lyres and harps for the singers’ [1 Kings 10. 12; 2 Chron 9.10].
Later when the exiles returned to Jerusalem they had to rebuild the Temple. More cedar was brought from Tyre and there was financial support from king Cyrus.
As a description of a great city, several trees are used to portray the beauty of the city of Tyre [Ezek 27. 3 – 11] but Ezekiel prophesies that this city will fall. Similarly, to portray a nation, Assyria, the cedar of Lebanon is used: ‘it was beautiful in its greatness, in the length of its branches … no tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty’ [Ezek 31. 3 – 9]. The people, ‘the righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon’ [Ps 92. 12 – 13]. When the people decide to repent and return to the Lord they will flourish. Like the cedar they will put down deep roots and they will be fragrant [Hos 14. 1 – 6].
In a prophecy concerning the gathering of the nations at the end times the Lord speaks through Isaiah: ‘the glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the plane, and the pine, to beautify the place of my sanctuary’ [Isa 60. 13].
God our Father,
help us to put down deep roots of faith
and raise us with Christ to your eternal city,
that, with kings and nations,
we may wait in the midst of your temple
and see your glory for ever and ever.