The book of Revelation also speaks of the tree of life. It states the victorious Christian is given the right to eat the fruit of the tree of life. It also associates it with holiness. Further, it uses the tree of life as an image of the wholeness found in the new earth which God creates, “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2) The tree of life appears to arch over the river of life in abundant fruitfulness. Not only is the fruit beneficial, even its leaves bring healing to the nations. Genesis began describing the tree of life at the centre of the garden, while Revelation ends with the tree of life in the heart of God’s city.
We are much more familiar with the other tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The phrase, the knowledge of good and evil, is a Hebrew idiom meaning all knowledge. It is used in the way we might say the A-Z of gardening, meaning the whole wealth of knowledge on the subject. While it certainly included the morality and ethics of good and evil, it points to a greater range of knowledge.
In the garden Adam and Eve were shielded from trouble and kept safe.
When they ate of the fruit of this tree, their innocence, holiness and purity vanished. Their eyes were opened and their first experience of knowledge was shame. What a shock that must have been! The intimacy they shared with each other was replaced by the knowledge of their nakedness and they began to cover up and hide from each other. They hid from God and when found out, tried to shift the blame onto others. This was a small taste of things to come, sickness, death, hardship, heartache, envy, anger and more. The extreme cost for gaining this knowledge was when one of their sons murdered the other. This was the knowledge of good and evil humanity entered into.
You may have noticed in the bible, as in life, humanity always has a choice. Moses called on the people describing blessings and curses and imploring them to choose life. Joshua said to his generation, choose you this day whom you will serve. Elijah challenged the people of his age ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ (1 Kings 18:2) Jesus also offers us a choice. Claiming to be the way the truth and the life, he pointed out the narrow path that leads to life and the wide path that leads to destruction.
The brokenness of our world is explained by the fact that the human disobedience seen initially in Adam and Eve continues in us. Rather than choosing the tree of life associated with God’s blessing we tend to want to live without God, choosing the tree associated with death. Jesus has made it possible for us to return to God. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Jesus offers the fullness of life that was earlier symbolised in the tree of life. In a real sense Jesus is our tree of life.
Which tree do you tend to be drawn towards?
What might your life be like if you sat under the shade of the tree of life with Jesus and learnt from him?
Rev John Malcolm