Reforesting Faith: What trees teach us about the nature of God and His love for us by Matthew Sleeth MD / Part 2

Heyyyy, welcome to part 2 of 3 of Reforesting Faith by Dr. Sleeth! Is there anything you’re looking forward to? Are you excited to learn more about God through His trees?

Seeds of Faith

Part 2 is titled “Seeds of Faith” and it goes more along the line of the fruit we have or are given and how all this also relates to the body and tree we are a part of.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.

Thy flourish in the courts of our God.

Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.

Psalm 92:12-14
The Tree of Hospitality

When you spot a tree in the Bible, you can be confident that heaven is on the way – even though the character in Scripture may have no idea. When you see a tree, branch, bush, root, or fruit on the page, look for God.

-page 44, Chapter 4, Matthew Sleeth

Just as a tree invites us to sit under or climb into, God invites us into Him and His arms. Surround yourself with trees and branches of His love, and there you shall be.

God’s approval is based on the spirit in which a gift is given.

-page 45, Chapter 4, Matthew Sleeth (reference to Cain and Abel)
An Ark Made of Gopher Wood

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

Genesis 6:5

What a time to be alive… to know that there was evil THEN and to see that there is STILL evil in the world. The truth is, there will always be evil on this side of heaven. If we don’t go through today’s evil, we will never appreciate and have hope for the new heaven and new earth that is to come when Revelation is fully revealed.

[To read the story of Noah’s Ark, look at Genesis 6-9]

The tree marking this event is the gopher tree. Gopher is simply the transliteration of the Hebrew word for the tree Noah used to build the ark. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that no one knows the exact species of gopher trees. God promised we’d never need it again. This was not the last time, however, that God would use a tree a save humanity….

The gopher tree has a lesson for us today: obey the Lord even if you’re the only one doing it.

-page 46, Chapter 4, Matthew Sleeth
Some Symbolism For Thought

Dove is the symbol of God’s Holy Spirit.

The rainbow is the sign of a covenant between God, humans, and animals to not flood the earth again.

Paintings with rainbows, particularly during the Renaissance, represented God in shorthand.

The ancient world also used olive oil for another purpose: anointing members of royalty.

-page 48, Chapter 4, Matthew Sleeth

Christ means the Anointed One

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.

John 15:1

The dove, rainbow, and olive leaf represent the Trinity: God the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and God the Son.

-page 48, Chapter 4, Matthew Sleeth
The First Planted Tree

Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God.

Genesis 21:33

On every side Abraham’s life was bounded by trees. He encountered a tree when he entered the Promised Land (Genesis 12:6), a tree where he met the Lord’s angels (18:1,4), and a tree where his son was to be sacrificed (22:13). Abraham planted a tree by an altar of the Lord (21:33). And he brought a plot of land that included a cave and all the surrounding trees when it came time to bury his bride, Sarah (23:17).

-page 53-54, Chapter 4, Matthew Sleeth
The Wooden Ladder to Heaven

A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.

Theodore Roosevelt

In Biblical Hebrew the word for “tree” and for “wood” is the same.

-page 56, Chapter 5, Matthew Sleeth

>>>Luz is Hebrew for almond trees<<<

As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel – a man of complete integrity.”

“How do you know about me?” Nathaneal asked.

Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig trees before Philip found you.”

Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God – the King of Israel.”

Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig trees? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heavn open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”

John 1:47-51
Jacob’s Trees

When Jacob awoke in the morning, he was overcome with awe and fear. God was present outdoors and under the trees, so he named the place the house of God (or Bethel in Hebrews; see Genesis 28:19).

-page 59, Chapter 5, Matthew Sleeth
The Tree is Forgiveness

Joseph is a tree! Joseph is the Old Testament archetype of the person described in the first psalm: “a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (verse 3, NIV).

-page 63, Chapter 5, Matthew Sleeth

>>> Tamar means palm tree <<<

There are no coincidences in Scripture. God had a plan when he authored the Bible, and from beginning to end, he used trees to mark the trail.

-page 65, Chapter 5, Matthew Sleeth
Losing Sight

What have you lost sight of? Is it the little things? Maybe the friendships and familial contacts? Is it God’s creation itself?

Yet in the decade and a half I’ve been traveling by plane, I’ve noticed an ominous trend: people are losing sight of God’s creation.

-page 67, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth

People are more inclined to sleep or focus on a screen (on a plane or just during travel) rather than the expanse of clouds and land just outside the window.

People grow bored by what they have ready access to, even if it is a miracle. No wonder God doesn’t show up at our bidding.

-page 69, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth
A Bush Afire with God

Why did God use a humble bush? Why didn’t God call to Moses from a towering tree? The picture of God speaking from a lowly bush reminds me of a father stooping down to talk to his small children.

-page 70, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth

One of the dangers of not pausing to appreciate the glories of creation – including the trees in God’s world and God’s Word – is that we limit our ability to appreciate what God is up to.

-page 70, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth
Calling Disciples From Trees

Over the past decade and a half, I’ve met at least a dozen people who have received their calling into ministry while sitting near, under, or in a tree.

-page 71, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth

God called Moses from a bush. This bush, though fragile, passed through the fire alive, just as all the true believers in God shall pass unscathed through the fires of death into eternal life.

-page 71, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth
Moses’s Walking Stick and the Hyssop Branches

Moses was instructed by the Lord to cast a log into the water and the water become sweet. This was a foreshadow of the cross.

How sweet it is just to KNOW God. How sweet it will be to see His face. How sweet it will be to dwell with Him forever.

Which Has More Trees: Heaven is Hell?

He explains further in his book (a little nudge to go read it for yourself 🙂 ), but I think you can figure this question out on your own…

We are but sojourners; God is the earth’s rightful and permanent owner.

-page 77, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth

May your Kingdom come soon.

May your will be done on earth,

as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10
Wonder and Wonderment

We can’t be good stewards of creation unless we open our eyes, our minds, and sometimes our window shades to see things from God’s perspective. We don’t need more wonders; we need a greater sense of wonderment.

-page 79, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth

When you are attacking a town and war drags on, you must not cut down the trees with your axes. You may eat the fruit, but do not cut down the trees. Are the trees your enemies, that you should attack them? You may only cut down trees that you know are not valuable for food. Use them to make the equipment you need to attack the enemy town until it falls.

Deuteronomy 20:19-20
Worshiping the Creation Rather Than The Creator

Maybe it seems silly to some that it would be possible to see all of creation and NOT acknowledge the Creator, but that does happen. We can be in such awe and in love with things of His creation and not even praise or acknowledge His power to create (or destroy).

Purch was Gideon’s servant. Purch means bough of a tree or tree branch. Isn’t it amazing that even the names of people in the Bible have relation to trees and how God used them? It’s remarkable!

Hope Uprooted

His children and servants were killed, and his possession were taken. Still, Job did not curse God. Instead, he praised the lord…” in verse 21

-page 95, Chapter 8, Matthew Sleeth
Trees Help Us Think Long Term

Trees live on a different timescale than humans – some live for thousands of years. SO does the Bible. And trees can come back to life after being chopped down. So can humans who embrace the tree of life and the promises of God’s living Word.

-page 101, Chapter 8, Matthew Sleeth

God teaches short-lives humanity through trees, Sleeth tells us:

  1. trees are the longest-lived creatures on the planet
  2. they are the only creatures that leave a count of every year that have lived
Trees Keep On Giving

This was interesting to read about and now, looking back, I can also connect this with a book I’ve been reading with a friend called A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot. In it she talks about how people who suffer still have so much to give. We are called to give even when we may not think we can or we don’t want to. Just as trees keep going and giving, we too have to press forward and continuing giving through the power of the Spirit. I would encourage you to read Elliot’s book as well if you’re feeling a need to process suffering in your life. It’s been very beneficial to me in my walk.

Great Cities Have Great Trees

You need trees to prevent floods and make drinking water clean. You need trees to cool a city in summer.You need trees to keep the air clean. Trees act to abate noise in a city. But probably the most important thing trees do for a city is to lift the spirits of its citizens. Trees are a city’s stake in its future. Great cities have great trees.

-page 111, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

We can’t begin to imagine how beautiful heaven is going to be, but there’s one thing we can be sure of: it will be a city filled with trees.

-page 111, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth
Trees Bind Us Together

From a biblical perspective God not only expects us to work with nonbelievers on issues such as water, trees, and the air, but he also models love for nonbelievers and demands that we do the same, When Jesus gave a discourse on love, he reminded his listeners that the Lord cares for all the inhabitants of the world.

-page 113, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he vies his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike.

Matthew 5:44-45
What Jonah Teaches Us About God’s Nature

…although the people of Ninevah were the enemies of Israel, nonetheless the Lord cared for and loved them…

…the Bible teaches a respect for our elders and a concern for the generations to come…

…Ultimately faith in God is about believing we can live, love, and exist on a timescale of eternity.

-page 116, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren,

but the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly.

Proverbs 13:22

What is certain is that Christians are instructed to make this earth look more like heaven. Plant trees, care for trees, and preserve old forests. This is a job for believers. After all, we are the religion that brings trees into our homes every Christmas as the symbol of our Savior’s birth.

-page 117, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth
Let’s Work Together

…Christians could do a better job working cooperatively with environmentalists. Believers have a responsibility to steward God’s gifts to us – one of which is the earth, God’s creation.

-page 117, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

Having plenty of trees in the earth a hundred years from now is in everyone’s best interest.

-page 118, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth
Making the World a Better Place

If you just want to fight – take up boxing. If you want to make the world a better place, go plant trees.

-page 119, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth
It’s All Going To Burn Anyway

It’s one thing to say the Lord is coming quickly and expend all your resources in spreading the gospel. You are on safe biblical ground. But it’s quite another thing to say the world is ending soon as an excuse to hoard wealth. I wonder what God thinks about those who wager their grandchildren’s future on bad theology but not their 401(k).

-page 120, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

Stewardship of the planet is something God and many young people care deeply about. Respecting God and his creation is something we can all celebrate.

-page 120, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

Life is a gift from God!

…there is no contradiction between planting trees and planting the gospel.

-page 121, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

By definition, planting a tree is the only thing you can do in your own backyard that makes the whole world better. As Martin Luther is credited with saying, “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree.”

-page 122, Chapter 9, Matthew Sleeth

I’d like to direct you back to the cross with this quote from the book:

The cross is the tree that makes the bitter waters of life sweet.

-page 74, Chapter 6, Matthew Sleeth

Our life is made bitter by the world, filled with the corruption, evil and deceit. Our life is made sweet by the cross and what it means to us who believe.

This concludes Part 2. Thank you for hanging in there and being on this journey to Reforesting Faith! Part 3 coming soon.

Personal Reflection

How could you use today’s insight to share the word with someone?

Have you experienced times in which you forget the sweetness of the cross in your life?

Are learning about trees? What would be your favorite tree? Has any symbolism in the Bible for some of the trees influenced a new favorite?

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