What Kind of Tree Would You Be?

I guess, if this analogy holds up, I'm the raven.

I am an unapologetic nerd who loves following a trail of factual breadcrumbs until I reach a fresh baked loaf of knowledge, doubly so when it takes me through the Bible and secondary texts. Footnotes, sidenotes, notes that climb on rocks, Greek words, Hebrew words, even words…well, you get the idea.

I’ve been trying to read through the Old Testament as of late, which is informative in the extreme. However, keeping up with the prophets, the wars and occupations, and the kings in Judah and Israel can be more than a little daunting. (Especially when two of them have the same name but ruled different kingdoms at different times!) Therefore, every few days or so, I take a break and go on a sort of scriptural scavenger hunt. I start in the Bible or in a devotional work and start digging until I strike oil, metaphorically speaking. Monday of this week, I prayed over my Bible before I began, asking God to reveal something to me that He would have me learn. For some reason, I felt led to pull my copy of Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon off my shelf. (If you don’t have a copy of this amazing devotional, I highly suggest you get one ASAP. You can also read it for free on the Internet here.)

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

For October 24, he references Psalm 104:16, “The trees of the Lord are full of sap,” and discusses the correlation between sap, the mysterious life force of a tree, and the Holy Spirit, the source of a believer’s spiritual sustenance. In this devotional, Spurgeon writes, “Our root is Christ Jesus, and our life is hid in Him; this is the secret of the Lord.” The “sap” is what produces the Fruit of the Spirit as it is the outward manifestation of God’s grace in our lives.

Always a proponent of keeping things in context, I turned to Psalm 104 and read it in its entirety. It is a song of praise, one of many that can be found in this book. As a lover of literature, it appealed to me because of the gorgeous imagery and the many creative uses of figurative language it contained. For example, God is “clothed with honor and majesty” and “covers [Himself] with light as with a garment” (vv. 1-2). He is described as stretching “the heavens like a curtain” and walking “on the wings of the wind” (vv. 2,4). In essence, the entire psalm discusses the ways in which God designed everything, put all things in their places, and how He keeps everything from the seasons to the life cycle in check.

I didn't take the picture, but you get the idea.

That alone is cause for deep contemplation! Living in Georgia, I actually experience a change in the seasons. I am able to observe the transformation of the leaves, feel the bitter cold of winter (which I do not care for at all), and relish the rebirth that spring brings. Walking into work yesterday, I was struck by the thought that the sunrise I saw only came up and painted the sky a glorious shade of apricot because God instructed it to do so. The chill in the air was there because my heavenly Father set the change from summer to autumn in motion. Even the white vapor that was my breath moved in and out of my lungs because the Lord saw fit! How easily we take these things for granted, but when we take the time to focus on them, we begin to see just how mighty and generous our God truly is.

Not content with a spoonful of knowledge about the Lord, I dug a little more deeply.

My Bible has cross references for many of the verses printed in the margins, and I saw that verse twelve of this psalm could be correlated to Matthew 8:20. It reads:

Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’

That verse, in turn, led me to Luke 2:7 and 1 Corinthians 4:11.

Luke 2:7 reads:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

1 Corinthians 4:11 reads:

To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless.

All of this ties directly to Psalm 104 where I started my search. In it, the psalmist speaks of the multitude of ways in which God provides for His creations. Birds nest in the trees He has provided, the beasts roam the high hills, and even the cliffs are refuge for those designed to dwell there. However, Jesus Christ, God in man, was not afforded the same blessing as the beings who owed their very existence to Him. Instead, He who would become the Bread of Life was born in a stable and placed in a bin where grain was served to those beasts.

Likewise, Paul was often homeless and without “creature comforts” in the service of Christ. (This is poignant considering the fact that before he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul was a tent maker, a creator of beautiful dwellings.)

This truth revealed something to me, something I had heard a thousand times but never really grasped until this study. This world is not our home; we are  “in” it but not “of” it. Jesus Christ was, for lack of a better term, a “transient.” Everyone who follows Him—from Peter, Andrew, James, and John, those first four who chose to lay down their nets and become fishers of men, to believers today—must give themselves up and follow Him because He is our home.

I returned back to Psalm 104 and re-read it with my new appreciation for God’s creation as well as His mercy and grace, and I noticed that the second half of verse sixteen, which had been omitted from Spurgeon’s meditation was also worthy of inquiry. It reads:

The trees of the Lord are full of sap, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted.

A Cedar Tree

I have run across references to “Cedars of Lebanon” many times in the Old Testament. They are mentioned during the building of temples, palaces, and the masts of ships. They are praised for their strength and beauty. (You can read about the many times they are mentioned in Scripture here.)

These amazing creations of God can grow more than one hundred feet tall and have a circumference of fifty feet. Cedar wood is fragrant, and it is both rot-resistant and knot-free. That’s why it was useful in construction and Solomon chose it as the framework of the temple he built as a dwelling place for the Lord.

Psalm 92:12 reads, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” Think of it symbolically. As we grow spiritually and become more Christlike, we are like the cedar. Our lives become “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). Also, we are no longer susceptible to eternal decay or rot, for we are granted eternal life through Jesus. Likewise, what was once “knotted” in us because of sin is made perfect through Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross.

As Charles Spurgeon said, Christ is our taproot, the source of our strength. Because of Him, no longer is the church simply a place built of hewn logs. Those who profess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of the Living God, we are those timbers. We are the church, the “cedars of Lebanon” Christ uses to build His kingdom, and because of that, He has a home in us and we in Him!