The Fruits Of The Spirit And The Tree Of Life

[Note:  For my Christian living class this year at preteen camp [1], I gave an interactive talk on the relationship of the fruits of the spirit with the Tree of Life.  This post is a written version of that talk for my readers to appreciate and enjoy.]

What is your favorite kind of tree?  If you are like most people, you will pick trees like apple trees or orange trees or mulberry trees or avocado trees whose fruit you like.  You may pick oak trees and pine trees because you like to climb them.  You may pick cedar trees because you like the wood that comes from them.  You may pick trees because of their beautiful leaves or fragrant and lovely flowers.  You may pick trees in whose branches birds make their homes.  You may pick trees like maple trees you enjoy because of their sap.  You may even imagine trees like bacon trees whose food you would enjoy if such trees existed [2].  In most of all of these cases, you enjoy and appreciate trees based on what they give to you or to something or someone else.  Trees are valued and appreciated for what they give us.  I wish you to keep this thought in mind, as we will return to it.

What sort of famous trees can be found in the Bible?  The bible discusses trees a good deal.  There is the olive tree, for example, that gives the oil appreciated by people and used in the tabernacle and temple worship, and whose leaf the dove brought back after the flood.  There is the fig tree under which sat the disciple Nathanael before meeting Jesus Christ.  There are trees like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which many people claim is the apple tree but which has no such indication in the Bible.  Today, though, I would like to talk about the Tree of Life.  Like many aspects of the Bible, not many details are given about the Tree of Life in scripture.  Yet those details that are given are often given over and over again, and when the Bible repeats details, we are meant to reflect upon them and ponder them.

So, what details are we given when the Bible first mentions the Tree of Life?  Let us turn to Genesis 2:8-10:  “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.  The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.”  The tree of life is not given many details here.  In fact, the only details given are that it was planted in the midst of the garden with other trees and that it was planted by a river.  Let us keep this thought in mind, as the tree of life is continually associated with the river of life from which it draws its sustenance.

When we are next introduced to the Tree of Life, we are told similar details.  Let us go to Psalm 1:1-6:  “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.  Not so the wicked!  They are like chaff that the wind blows away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”  Let us look particularly at verse three, which gives us a few details about the Tree of Life.  Let us note that it compares believers to a tree planted by streams of water who yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Just as we value trees for what they can give us, what makes us godly is the fruit and leaves that we provide to others.

We see this pattern repeated when we look at the Tree of Life discussed in Revelation 22:1-5:  “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”   Here we see that the Tree of Life is again planted beside the river of life, and that it bears one fruit for each month and that its fruit is for the healing of the nations.  This is important to remember as it is clear that the world does need a great deal of healing.  All too often we are focused on the healing that we need in this world, but the godly are to be the means by which the world itself is healed, and that is no easy task, one that requires the power of God running through us.  There is one more detail about the Tree of Life here that is worthy of spending a little bit of time on.  Where else in the New Jerusalem do we see the pattern of twelves?  We see twelve foundations made out of twelve stones that match the stones for the twelve tribes in the ephod of the High Priest.  We see the twelve tribes, with twelve gates and twelve pearls ruled over by the twelve apostles.  Our years are made out of twelve months as well.  Here we see a pattern of twelves written over and over again into the New Jerusalem in which the Tree of Life plays a part.

Let us look at one more passage that deals with the tree of life that reminds us about the importance of healing.  This is a somewhat long passage, in Ezekiel 47:1-12:  “The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar.  He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side. As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep.  He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist.  He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross.  He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”  Then he led me back to the bank of the river.  When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river.  He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.  Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.  Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets.The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea.  But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.  Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river.Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

Let us sum up what we can see from this passage.  For one, we see that the healing waters that come from God turn the Dead Sea into a living one.  What makes the Dead Sea dead?  It has good water coming into it because the Jordan flows into it, and the Sea of Galilee is full of life where fisherman can make a living.  Why then is the Dead Sea dead?  Because nothing comes from it.  When all we do is take in good water and have nothing come from us, we become as dead as the Dead Sea is.  For us to be living, we must bear fruit and the waters of the Spirit running into us must come out of us as well.  Do you know of any trees that bear multiple fruit?  There are some trees, for example, that are grafted with many different types of plums or apples, but how many trees bear a variety of different kind of fruits?  Certainly not many, and those that do require a great deal of effort.  Where do we hear of a wide variety of fruits aside from the Tree of Life bearing one a month?  The fruits of the spirit, precisely.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/06/some-thoughts-on-the-2016-preteen-camp-at-camp-arrah-wanna/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/08/05/a-review-of-the-2017-pre-teen-camp-at-camp-arrah-wanna/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/08/05/the-fruit-of-the-spirits-not-a-coconut/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/05/love-bears-all-things/

[2] This was, for example, the favorite free of a teen from the UCG congregation in Salem, Oregon who was a teen helper at the preteen camp this year, and he mentioned it frequently during Christian living class, musing on various questions relating to the bacon.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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