I started life as a carpenter. I’ve never really stopped. Over the last several years, I’ve completely re-trimmed the house I live in – doors, floors, and all.
A new kind of door
One part of carpentry that separates the weekend warrior from the journeyman is hanging solid doors from scratch. Doors throughout time and across cultures are remarkably similar. They hang from hinges and close on a jamb. A door is topped by a header – or, as the Bible puts it, a door has two side posts and is topped by a lintel (Exodus 12:22). When the Passover Lamb’s blood was applied to these three boards at the time of the Exodus, the door locked, and the angel of death could not enter.
At a Passover celebration 2,000 years ago, Jesus made a new and very strange kind of door. To be sure, it is a narrow door. Unlike all other doorways that require three boards, it uses only two: a vertical piece and a horizontal one. When Jesus’ blood is applied to these two crossed pieces of wood, the doorway to heaven opens. There is no other way to unlock it.
I believe the Bible has a forest of trees because trees teach us about the nature of God. Just like a tree, God is constantly giving. Trees have been giving life long before human beings had a clue oxygen existed. Trees give life, beauty, food, and shade. The desk I’m writing on is made of dead maple trees. No wonder God uses trees to instruct us about life, death, and resurrection. Trees, like God, give life even after death.
You’d think that Jesus might have held it against trees after he was crucified. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. On Easter morning, when Mary went down to put flowers on the tomb, her eyes were raw from crying. She looked up and saw Jesus. She did not mistake him for a soldier, bureaucrat, or merchant. She mistook him for a gardener (John 20:15). This was no mistake. He is the new Adam, back on the job where the old Adam failed – dressing and keeping the garden. His invitation to us in the Bible’s last chapter is to keep his commandments, so that we can meet him at a tree – the Tree in Life before God’s throne, with branches that bear fruit in every season and leaves that heal the nations.
An investment in humanity’s future
Those who plant or protect trees because of their faith are in good company. In fact, the church where I was once suspected of tree-hugger tendencies eventually planted trees on its grounds. Moreover, the church’s logo now sports a stylized Tree of Life. I believe that this response is emblematic of what will happen when Christians rediscover the trees that God planted in Scripture and reforest their faith.
Abraham was the first person in the Bible to plant trees. At the time, Abraham owned not a square foot of land. Scripturally, tree planting started as an unselfish act of faith. “And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God” (Genesis 21:33, KJV). By virtue of the way that trees work, Abraham’s act made the world a better place.
Today, we understand a tree’s role in the global oxygen, carbon, and water cycles. But all that was unknown to Abraham. Nonetheless, Abraham’s grove is a blessing to all the families of the world (see Genesis 12:3). Abraham planted for the next generation, and the one after that.
The Old Testament ends with an admonition to think long-term and to give thanks for those before us. The hearts of one generation are to turn toward the hearts of the next, and vice versa (see Malachi 4:6). Only the Lord knows the mind of a man, but in Abraham’s case, the planting and protection of trees were tangible evidence of what was in his heart. Long-term thinking is godly. Short-term thinking is not. Perhaps this is another reason why the first psalm says that the righteous man resembles a tree.
Indeed, the writer of the first psalm offers one of the clearest insights into God’s thinking on trees. King David danced and shouted for joy when the ark containing the Bible, a jar of manna, and an almond branch was moved to the tabernacle he had prepared. He wrote a song of thanksgiving to celebrate the occasion. The song looks forward to the second coming of the Messiah. Even the trees join in the celebration: “Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth” (1 Chronicles 16:33). The Bible says that many people will hide under rocks to avoid judgment in the Second Coming – but not the trees. They finally get their day in court, and they know exactly what the verdict will be.
I believe that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead, as the Bible says. But what about those who argue that the Lord’s return relieves us from any concern about trees? “All resources,” they say, “should be put toward evangelism.”
If someone believes this and acts accordingly, I say, “Amen!” But too often this sentiment is expressed with all the sincerity of Judas Iscariot advocating for the poor as Mary anointed Jesus with fine perfume (see John 12: 1–8).
Trees are God’s investment in humanity’s future. They are the only living thing to which God gives a ring on each birthday. Only he knows the exact timing of Christ’s return. I hope it is tomorrow morning. But, in the meantime, I’ll plant trees that will take a century to grow, and I’ll try to spread the gospel like there’s no tomorrow.