Although trees have been used metaphorically in all cultures, they seem particularly prolific in the Hebrew Scriptures. King David describes himself as “an olive tree flourishing in the house of God”. The righteous are “like a tree planted by streams of water”, called “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor”. The Apostle John records Jesus using a gardening metaphor to describe the righteous being like a vine that is pruned to produce more fruit; and I have examples that would fill pages, if I continued in this vein.
However, getting back on track, as God had called Abram, He called Moses’ name out of the fire in a burning desert TREE. He had revealed to Abraham, some 500 years earlier, that the land in which he resided then as an alien, would be given to his descendants as a possession. They would, however, need to be away from the land for 400 years, a period of trial and suffering for them, but a period of Grace for the “Amorites” living in the land at the time; after these years had run their course, they would return to possess the land.
That time is now, and Moses is called to lead Israel out of Egypt and into the land that God had shown to Abraham earlier, a land where “the trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted”. When Ezekiel, (in chapter 36), proclaims the return of Israel from the Diaspora, a judgement event already predicted by Moses, he hears God saying to the mountains of Israel to have their trees “produce branches” because He is bringing His people back home. Since the late 19th century, we have been witness to this process.
Jesus, of course, knows the prophetic pronouncements regarding this restoration when He encourages His disciples to watch the signs. When the fig tree, symbolic of the Nation of Israel, begins to stir internally and “its twigs get tender and its leaves come out”, they should know that the prophecies regarding the wrap-up of History are being fulfilled. That metaphorical FIG TREE returned to life in the 1948 reconstitution of the Nation of Israel, and has been growing and flourishing ever since.
This is prophesied history unfolding before our eyes. (There is content here for weeks of blogs that I will pick up later).
Although reflections on the trees in the Hebrew texts could go on for some time yet, I will transition into thoughts on the central TREE in History. The Torah readings for Shabbat, Feb. 1st, called “Mishkan or ‘Dwelling Place’, are certainly an appropriate coincidence for these observations, since they elaborate on the theme of God’s desire to tabernacle with man. Although the Tabernacle was an element in Israel’s life since the instructions for its building were given to Moses, and played a central role in the life of the Nation, (as seen in the stories of the Prophet Samuel’s work), it was always a temporary dwelling before the physical Temple on Mount Moriah was finally built by Solomon. After it was destroyed by the Babylonians, who then took the Jews into exile, it was rebuilt by Nehemiah and Ezra, who were authorized to do so by Cyrus, the new Persian king of Babylon. In this whole context of God placing His Name in Jerusalem, which was the purpose for building the Tabernacle and the Temple, He chose the Incarnation as a means of giving His residence on earth a more personal thrust.
At this point in Time and Space, about 2,000 years ago (in time), and Jerusalem (in space), the Incarnation, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Yeshua/Jesus the Christ establishes this new, and CENTRAL TREE of LIFE. This tree becomes the TREE of LIFE by being the TREE of DEATH and thus providing the opportunity of RESURRECTION/LIFE. Here Yeshua, crucified, according to Pilate, as "The King of the Jews", now opens the door for a wider offering of LIFE, not only to the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but to the whole world.
In the Apostle/Rabbi Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he uses another gardening metaphor to explain his view of God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in His Redemption plan for all the nations of the world. Already in His Covenant with Abraham, He had included the whole world by saying that Abraham and his descendants were to be a blessing to all nations. To illustrate that the Gentiles inclusion in God’s plan is not an afterthought, Paul sees the Gentiles as being grafted into the root that is the source of LIFE for God’s chosen people. The people that later became known as “Christians” became a part of the plan to redeem mankind through the descendants of Abraham. So, here we are; no wonder we feel so passionate in our support for Israel and its people; our brothers and sisters. We have an obligation, Paul declares, to repay the Jews for the Spiritual heritage they are sharing with us by supporting them. This understanding motivated Grace and me to work as volunteers in Israel, with Bridges for Peace, in 2012. It is this same motivation that supports the decision to blog in an attempt to advocate for Israel and its people.
The photograph accompanying this blog has a deep meaning for me. The tree is located on the top of Tel Hazor, and overlooks the new grain fields north of this ancient site. The Biblical record tells of Joshua’s conquering and burning of this city shortly after entry into their new inheritance; archeological evidence supports the Biblical account. But that is just a story, if I leave it there.
What intrigued me was the poignancy of seeing these ready to harvest fields, which had been planted by the newly returned descendants of Abraham, from the vantage point of one of their ancient ancestral homes. I’d love to take our Prime Minister Harper to see the reconstitution, on the Mountains of Israel, of the towns and villages of Judea and Samaria, and to show him that our Canadian Foreign Policy is in error when it says that the “settlements” are illegal. Thankfully there are others in Government who are working to change this longstanding error. Thank you, Mr. Harper, for your support of Israel.