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Rev. Justin Smidstra, pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan

On the third day God clothed His new world with living green (Gen 1:11). Standing tall among these plants are the “trees of the Lord,” full of sap and fruitful (Ps. 104:16). God gave the trees “several offices” (Belgic Confession, Art. 12). He created them to yield lifenourishing fruit, “good for food” (Gen. 2:9), to supply the needs of man and beast. “Behold, I have given you,” God told Adam, “every tree…to you it shall be for meat.” God made the trees to serve as shelter for His creatures. In the trees the birds build their nests (Ps. 104:17). Under the trees man takes his rest (Gen. 18:4). From the trees man gathers wood to build his home; the sturdy fir and scented cedar for the palace for a king (II Sam. 5:11) and the temple of the Lord (I Kings 5:10). Such was the peace and prosperity of Solomon’s reign that the people dwelt safely “every man under his vine and under his fig tree” (I Kings 4:25). God made trees useful but also beautiful: “pleasant to the sight” (Gen. 2:9), delightful both to God and man (Gen. 1:12). Even the wisest man studied and spoke of trees (I Kings 4:33). As part of creation’s choir, “the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord” (Ps. 96:12- 13). The trees even clap their hands when God delivers His people (Is. 55:12).

In Eden God planted two special trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). Of the first God said “thou mayest freely eat” (Gen. 2:16). With its fruit God was pleased to perpetuate man’s earthly life (Gen. 3:22). Concerning the second tree God said “the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). With this tree God drew the antithesis sharply so that each day man might serve his God willingly from the heart. Thus with two trees our first parents were taught to love the Lord their God. In Him alone true life was found. To live apart from Him is death. But then, “the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed” (Belgic Confession, Art. 14). Lured by Satan’s lie, and coveting divinity, man ate from the forbidden tree. Man fell into sin and poisoned his whole nature. Our first parents fled and hid from God among the trees (Gen. 3:8). They sought shelter of another sort that no tree can give: escape from the all-seeing eye of the Holy One. They sought covering for their guilt and shame no fig leaves can provide (Gen. 3:7). Sin brought God’s curse upon mankind. Death and decay, sin’s bitter wages, beset all living things. Exile from Eden. Banishment from the tree of life. What ruin and misery came of man’s treachery!

But God, in boundless grace, promised to provide another tree. Human wisdom little esteems this tree, for it is an offense, an instrument of cruelty most unpleasant to his sight. A crossbeam of dead wood. What life-giving fruit could ever come of that? But this tree God ordained to be the altar whereupon the Lamb of God would die and bear God’s curse away. The tree of Calvary! In the fullness of time, God sent His Son into the world to save His people from their sins. Christ accomplished salvation by hanging upon a tree. For it was written, “he that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23). To bear our curse, the Christ yielded Himself to be crucified upon a tree. Upon that cross Christ was made a curse for us, that we may never be accursed (Gal. 3:13). Now, for every child of God, the cross has become our tree of life. Behold, believer, this tree God gave! What blessed fruit it bears to nourish your soul to everlasting life! To the eyes of faith Calvary’s tree is indeed “pleasant to the sight,” for the cross is our salvation! Dear believer, find your rest under the shade of Calvary’s tree. All the days of Solomon Israel had rest every man under his fig tree (I Kings 4:25). That was but a faint shadow of the rest you have beneath the cross of the true Prince of Peace. Abide there. Eat daily of its fruits. Rejoice in what Christ has done for you.

Now, believer, how should you respond? Thus: with fruitful thankfulness for Calvary’s tree! Live out of Christ’s cross; it is your tree of life, the power whereby you walk in newness of life! Bring forth the fruits of the Spirit to His glory! For, by saving grace, He made you, who were dead, a living and fruitful tree (Matt. 7:17). God Himself, by His Spirit, is “as the dew unto Israel” so that our “branches shall spread” and our “beauty shall be as the olive tree” (Hos. 14:5- 6). Through Christ alone, we are made “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Is. 61:3). So shall we “be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps. 1:3).

That is only a foretaste of eternity. Christ has purchased you a home far better than Eden. New Jerusalem, where, as a pure river, the water of life flows from the throne of the Lamb, and the tree of life on either side bears twelve manner of fruits, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2). There every believer shall be forever planted, drinking from the water of life freely, bringing forth fruit abundantly, never withering, ever prospering, eternally, in the joy of the Lord. For there shall be no more curse (Rev. 22:3). The tabernacle of God shall be with men (Rev. 21:3).

Only because of Christ and Calvary’s tree.