Revelation 22:2: “On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

In the beginning God planted beautiful, fruit-bearing trees meant to be enjoyed. Sadly, one of the trees became deadly to mankind, namely, the ominous tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God issued a stern warning to stay away from that particular tree (Genesis 2:16):

“You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

We know how the story goes. The fruit of that tree was consumed anyway introducing death to creation. Thus it gained the bad reputation of a tree bearing the fruit of death.

Let’s pause here for a minute and think about what this tree stands for. Obviously it does not mean pursuing knowledge equals evil. There is a vast array of knowledge to be gained – not the least of which is getting to know people. Some English Bible translations employ the verb “know” when it comes to intimate relations between a man and a woman (Genesis 4:1):

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have gotten a man from the Lord.’”

Children are born as a result of Adam “knowing” his wife. Another prominent example of knowledge pursuit in the Bible is King Solomon’s desire for wisdom and understanding. At the onset of his reign he asked God for discernment to govern the nation of Israel wisely and the Lord gladly granted his wish.

So apparently, there is good knowledge and bad knowledge. The opening chapter of the book of Proverbs, largely authored by King Solomon, says to this effect (Proverbs 1:7):

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.”

Fear of the Lord puts God in the middle of all aspects of life. We love Him, we walk with Him and we explore with Him. God will reveal things unknown to us. I believe that all great scientific discoveries are based on divine revelation. Although knowledge in itself does not kill us, attempting to know better than the Lord unfortunately does. 

In the book of Deuteronomy the prophet Moses talks about the death penalty, specifically execution on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23):

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.”

The fact that God initiated a law to ensure proper treatment for people on death row shows that He cares for criminals and intends to protect their rights. Paying last respects to an executed person by providing a grave is an act of decency. But there is more.

I believe the Law of Moses requesting to remove a dead body from the tree was also written in anticipation of Jesus’s execution. Approximately 1400 years later the Son of God was killed, His hands and feet nailed to a wooden beam. A law-abiding Jewish citizen, Joseph of Arimathea made sure that the Lord was taken off the cross and placed into his tomb. Jesus emerged from there three days later – resurrected from the dead. He would become the one and only antidote to death, saving God’s creation from corruption. Jesus turned a tree of death, the cross, into a tree of life.

Metaphorically speaking we are like trees and if our roots dig deep to get to know the Lord we turn into the tree as described in chapter 22 of John’s book of Revelation. Growing on both sides of the river, we bear fruit in and out of season and our leaves are used to bring healing to the world – which is what God’s peacemakers are called to do.

Jeremiah 17:7-8: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Trees have always fascinated me. When I was a teenager, I painted a big tree on my bedroom wall. Next, I attached a hook on top of my painting, and on that hook I hung my guitar. Hanging a guitar on a painted tree has a curious effect. It’s basically mixing a two-dimensional painting with 3-D reality. Later in life I did it again, when I painted a tree on our backyard fence planting flowers right in front of it. My husband and I called it our “fence tree”.

Painted trees on fence and bedroom wall remind me of the nature of our hopes and dreams. Our dreams come two-dimensional at first. They take shape in our hearts and can be as defined as a good painting. Dreams turn into three-dimensional reality when we start acting upon it. We often call this action a leap of faith – and leaping we must when the time comes.

Walking with the Lord, we experience peace that surpasses all understanding. In agricultural terms, we thrive under His care, even in the driest desert conditions. – Speaking of thriving in the desert, the people of Israel had wandered the Sinai desert for decades after their exodus from Egyptian slavery. A contemporary named Balaam took a good look at their vast campsite while the young nation was in the trenches, preparing to claim the territory east of the Mediterranean Sea. He prophesied over them saying (Numbers 24:6-7):

 “How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
    your dwelling places, Israel!

 Like valleys they spread out,
    like gardens beside a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
    like cedars beside the waters.
 Water will flow from their buckets;
    their seed will have abundant water.”

Rooted in the Lord, nothing is impossible. A believer is similar to a fruit-producing tree, undeterred by drought. They thrive like trees planted alongside a river, a river that never runs dry.