Monday, June 4, 2012

The Lense of Two Trees: Biblical Theology

The lense of two trees?
How do trees relate to Biblical Theology?
More important....what is Biblical Theology?!
One of our last messages at [M28] was taught by our up-and-coming fall intern, JJ Pyche. JJ and his wife Bethany have been such a great addition to [M28] and they both have such a heart for God and a desire to see college kids know, follow, and proclaim God on campus and with our lives. JJ did a great job with his message and his heart for us to come to an understanding of the Bible is so present in what he shared with us.

Biblical Theology is the study of the entire Bible...it's the whole story...the big picture. There are a lot of different ways to study the Bible...one way of reading the Bible isn't better or worse...you can read the details (verse by verse) or you can read the big picture (huge chunks). You need detail to get the big picture and you need the big picture to understand the details. The point is...just read your Bible.

There are 3 main ways to study the Bible....Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology and Exegesis. Biblical Theology is unfolding...it's the whole story of the Bible traced through scripture. Systematic Theology is an ordered study of the important elements of theology...basically you find every passage that talks about that subject and study them all together...and you do that with every subject/element. Exegesis is studying the details...telling the whole story of the Bible with each verse basically...seeing how the verse plays a part in the big picture.
“On the basis of the presupposition that the entire canon is the inspired database of God’s revelation, the two bookends of Gen 1-3 and Rev 21-22 interpret everything between them. This means that the biblical material between these two poles is to be read not only in light of its origins in Gen 1-3 but also in view of its goal in Revelation. Consequently, the foregoing evidence broadly supports the notion that everything in the biblical canon should be seen to have its roots in Gen 1-3 and to move toward its final goal in Rev 21-22.” by G.K. Beale
 Origins and goal....now let me take a minute here to caution you.
  1. This is dangerous...to make broad assumptions of the Bible is not easy...the more you know, the better. You don't want to say too little and not get the whole story.
  2. The metaphor of trees...and any other metaphor in relation to scripture, can be dangerous. You don't want to make too much out of the metaphor. I'm going to point to several passages about trees that fit into this metaphor, but not every single tree that is mentioned in the Bible will relate.
Now that we've got that out of the way....
Luke 24:25-27, 44-45 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
This is the reason that we study the scripture and study it in these ways. We want to understand the Scriptures in order to know our Savior.

Lets start with the bookends:
Genesis 2:8-10, 16-17 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Notice 4 things here...
  1. Tree of life (eternal life)
  2. Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (don't eat this) (could also be called the tree of discernment, or the tree of wisdom, or the tree of judgement)
  3. Water (river, flowing, calm)
  4. God's presence (God dwells, lives in the garden...presence can be him or a tabernacle or temple)
Remember those 4 things, we're going to revisit them a lot.
Revelation 22:1-5 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Notice this time that it's different...it's better than in the garden. It was good in Eden but perfect in Revelation. Remember this...we're going somewhere...our roots are in the garden but our destination is revelation.

Notice in Revelation that we still have the water and God's presence...the tree of life is still there, but we're in heaven so why do we need the tree? Also, there's no more tree of discernment/good and evil...they don't even mention it...the writer assumes we know the story. Lets see why the tree of life is still there and what happened to the other tree.
Psalm 1:1-6 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Jesus says that the Psalms point to him...so read these verses in light of who he is and what he has done. This is a story about him. This passage is just the intro, the header, the thesis...you can understand all of Psalms in light of chapter 1. The purpose for this is a recapitulation of the passage in Genesis 2. Now, lets find the 4 elements.
  1. Water...streams of water
  2. Tree of life...the tree that yields fruit
  3. The tree of good and evil: verses 4-6. Adam and Eve didn't listen...the tree of the knowledge of good and evil became a tree of judgement on them for their disobedience. It was a tree of discernment between right and wrong but now it has turned on them as a curse. The 2nd tree is now a curse.
  4. God's presence: verses 1-2. God's presence is his law. Where the word of the Lord is, so also is his presence. He creates by his word...his words are active and powerful. When we delight and dwell in his word, we are delighting and dwelling in him...when we don't, we come under the curse.
Cool right? I thought so too, I'd never even thought about the connection before. Just remember to be careful...not every tree mentioned in the Bible has anything to do with this metaphor. Can't caution you enough on that one. Make sure you aren't giving a scripture meaning that it was never meant to have. Moving on...

Jeremiah 17:7-9, 12-13 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lordwhose trust is the LordHe is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes,for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? A glorious throne set on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth,
for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.
Alright...you know what to do:
  1. Tree of life....wait a second, didn't we just read that in Psalms? Yup...sure did! He's actually quoting Psalm 1...how cool is that?! When someone in the Bible quotes something in the Bible, that usually means it's important...so take notice of what it's saying!
  2. Water...we have a new theme of water here....God is the fountain of living water!
  3. The tree of good and evil....now it's definitely a tree of judgement...to judge and curse the wicked.
  4. God's presence...it's his sanctuary.
Lets move on to the new testament...
John 4:10-14 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?   Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Let's paint a picture here...this is Samaria...'good' Jews didn't like Samaria, but Jesus goes through Samaria and meets a woman at this well (a woman of a sketchy nature no less). This woman is faced with a choice...next to water. She is faced with right and wrong by a stranger. Samaria is the opposite of Eden...it's the middle of the desert and it's full of sin. God's presence is literally Jesus himself! He offers her life! He is resetting the story and giving us the choice of good/evil, life/death(representing the trees). One encounter with Jesus changes everything! Not to mention that they are next to a well....water...it seems as if eternal life revolves around water.
John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Jesus offered life:
  • in me you have life
  • eat from the tree and you will have life
  • I am the tree of life, take and eat
  • you can have him now
  • he becomes life for us
This is why you go to church....to take and eat, most obviously displayed through communion. Go to church, eat from the tree of life. It's his life he offered to you...take and eat.
God created a wonderful world full of beauty and majesty; He created man to be a part of that world and the pinnacle of all creation. Man could have lived in God’s presence all of his days, with the waters and tree of life and the tree of judgment. These elements were all good for man. Man needed water and fruit to be sustained, but they were more than just simple sustenance; they gave eternal life. And man also needed the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He needed this tree to be reminded that he was still part of creation; he was not God; and in order to have life and life to its fullest, he needed to remain in the presence of God through his obedience to God’s commands. This obedience to God would have given man access to eat of that Tree of Life someday and would have taken man into the life to come. However, we all know that didn’t happen. Man rejected and continues to reject God. This is the story of the Bible; it starts in Gen 2 where we started and continues through all of Scripture. God loves man; God offers eternal life to man; man rejects God because he is wicked. But there is one element of the story we have left out….what happened to the second tree in the story of Revelation? Where is its story in Scripture? - JJ Pyche
So that's where we will finish up...what happened to the second tree? We have to figure out why it's not there. Well...the simple answer is sin.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
The 2nd tree...the tree of judgement that became a curse when we sinned...the curse of the tree was placed on the one man who could stand in our place. He didn't just offer life...he took our death.

Yeah...take a second and re-read that. Take a moment to let that sink in....I know that you've heard it a thousand times that he died on a cross for you...but just think about it for a moment. The world doesn't understand the cross...they see it as foolishness. Jesus took the curse...it wasn't cheap, fun or easy...it's hard - we rejected him and we wanted to be our own god...but he didn't kill us when he should have...when it would have been totally just and right for him to do so. He humbled himself and took our penalty to give us the taste of life. How amazing is that?!

I hope you've enjoyed this journey through the Bible as much as I did as JJ taught that night. Just a few practical applications before you click over to Facebook or go to work...
  • Pray to know Jesus when you read the Bible...all of scripture testifies to him, it tells you who Jesus is every time you read the Bible!
  • Meet with God in his word to get a taste of eternal life.
  • God wants you to know him - he wrote himself down for that entire purpose...the challenge is...do you want to know him? Do you want to taste or are you satisfied?
That's it for the tale of two trees...I pray that you are freshly aware of God's mercy and grace in your life and find a renewed hunger for his word.

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