A Book of Trees (Psalm 1)
Reflections on Psalm 1
Book of Trees
The story of the Bible is intimately woven to trees, like bark clinging to a great trunk. With roots in Genesis and leaves in Revelation, these arboreal giants grow through the pages of Scripture. In the beginning, God planted two saplings in Eden’s virgin soil. These two seeds sprouted into conspicuous trees, and from the boles of both grew the fate of humanity. On the branches of one sprouted fruit that imparted knowledge of good and evil, the path of the wicked. From the husk of the other bloomed unending life, the way of the righteous. To God’s appointed gardeners, first man and first woman, a choice was offered: consume the fruit of one and the vine of the other will be denied to you. The first tree, the ability to know good from evil, vowed to make man into God. The other promised to keep humanity in innocent, yet perfect relationship with the Lord. By the serpent’s guile, we ate of the first and forsook the Father’s love to become what we in essence may never be: God. Eat the fruit of one tree, and the vine of the other will be denied to you.
While juice of temptation’s fruit still trickled down the chins of our first father and mother, God pronounced death’s curse over us. Slowly, bitterly, and painfully humanity slouched in decay to the dust from which we were first formed. By eating the produce of the first tree, we chose neither to stand in the way of righteousness nor to delight in the law of the Lord. We chose to not be satisfied by walking with God. Now our hearts know only hunger as we till arid soil to cultivate dying vines. The promising fruit of that first tree shined like the North Star, yet the glittering skin concealed a rotting husk. Death is now our yield.
Trees provide literary lumber for the Bible’s narrative framework. When we peak at the story’s end, Revelation tells of a garden in the city of God, a renewed Eden. In that celestial city, only one tree remains for us: the tree of life. Eat the fruit of one tree and the other will be denied to you, the Lord’s promise declared.
In the climax of God’s sacred tale, his Son became a man, and dwelled under our curse. The promise of death passed on from Adam became Jesus’ inheritance. He situated himself on the path of the wicked, the soil from which the first tree grew. Despite the doom blooming from its branches, Christ put his hands to the bark. As he ascended to its heights, he declared:
“O all ye who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me” (George Herbert, “The Sacrifice”).
On the tree of our death, Christ died, the righteous for the wicked. Because of Jesus, the tree of life, a restored relationship with God, can be our choice, death forever denied.
Footsteps—putting feet on our faith
1. In your day-to-day life, what are some situations you have to choose between good and evil?
2. What happened when Adam and Eve chose evil?
3. What happened for you when Christ chose good?
Dear God, you daily give me a choice between good and evil. Foolishly, I often choose the latter, and this makes all the difference. Your Son, however, chose the good, and he chose it on my behalf. In him, I have forgiveness for my every stupid misstep. May I cling to your grace, for it is my tree of life. In Christ I pray, amen.