Only God can make a tree. The wonderfully succinct words from the short Joyce Kilmer poem “Trees” ( in full below) clearly attribute creation to God. It was first published in 1914, a few years before the poet was killed in France while serving in the United States Army during World War I.
Earlier this month, the Jewish religion celebrated Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees. The observance is named for its date, the fifteenth of Shevat, the eleventh month on the Hebrew calendar. While it is based on a passage in Leviticus 19 about the timing of eating the fruit from newly planted trees, in modern days it has become Israel’s Arbor Day.
Yet God’s focus on trees goes profoundly beyond Tu B’Shevat, something typically overlooked by my Jewish brethren. It is certainly noteworthy that God chose to include trees in His account of creation in Genesis Chapter One. Think about it: there were a myriad of things He created which weren’t specified, but trees were.
Additionally, He used trees in the Garden of Eden for important purposes. In Genesis Chapter Two, we’re told the garden included the tree of life, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God used trees to represent life and knowledge. There are references to the tree of life in several Scriptures.
Incidentally, in Judaism the Torah is called the tree of life, based on a reference from Proverbs 3:18, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.” In fact, there is a liturgical song, Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) which is sung during a Torah service.
Concerning the worship during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall, the Lord commands the use of trees. In Leviticus 23:40 He explains, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.”
Furthermore, God uses trees as a metaphor for humans on a number of occasions. The psalmist who wrote Chapter 1 refers to the man who walks in righteousness to be (verse 3), “ . . . like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”
Yeshua adds to the comparison in the Gospels. Speaking in Luke 6:43-45, He cautions, “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. . . A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.”
Notice, God’s creation includes both good and evil. But this word tells us that no righteousness can proceed from the unrighteous. This is particularly critical to recognize in our society today when persuasive arguments to ignore God’s ways literally surround us. As King Solomon warned in Proverbs 5:3, “For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil.”
For example, Satan is unrighteous and is the father of lies. He, like unrighteous humans, is like a bad tree that cannot bear good fruit. In John 8:44, Jesus proclaimed, “ . . . there is no truth in him.” But the righteousness of humanity is based on faith in Messiah, which can change the fruit produced.
Yeshua explained in Matthew 12:33 that change is possible. He said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” His analogy is not about legalism, but about spiritual faith in Him.
God’s significant use of trees continues in Romans 11 where He associates the natural olive tree with Israel. In verse 16, the Jewish Apostle Paul gets botanically spiritual as he expounds, “. . . and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” So what makes the root of the olive tree (Israel) holy? I believe it is the faith of Father Abraham. As written in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
Again, that faith for righteousness was expanded to Jesus by His sinless life, death and resurrection. In fact, even at the cross our Lord used a tree to accomplish the greatest gift to mankind ever - the gift of salvation. Messiah’s crucifixion had him nailed to a cross made of wood from a tree. This is particularly stated in Galatians 3:13 where Paul references Deuteronomy 21:23, “Messiah has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).”
In the Book of Revelation, once again we see the tree of life which was present at creation in the Garden of Eden. This time, it is pictured in the New Jerusalem, which is believed by many to be synonymous with Heaven, as a symbol of eternal life. Verse 14 says the righteous (good trees that bear good fruit), “ . . . may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”
So God has biblically used trees in a powerful way. Starting in the beginning, He created them to set the stage for the ending. He called for trees to be used in worshiping Him, made several important comparisons between mankind and trees, alluded to Israel in a tree correlation, and included a tree as part of Yeshua’s sacrifice.
Yeah, only God can make a tree.