Responsive Reading: Jeremiah 17:1-13
Key Verse(s): Jeremiah 17:7-8
Background Scripture: John 15:1-8; Matt. 13:3-8
From a tiny seed, sown by Christ, springs forth a tree of God. As it is said in the book of Isaiah, Christ came to console those who mourn, to give them beauty for ashes so that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord (Is. 61:3). No gardener likes to see their plants growing and not produce anything to harvest. The Lord is a planter, and He plants His seed for a great purpose; He desires to see that seed grow into a righteous tree.
Trees and God
Something that I don’t believe we realize is just how much God loves trees; trees are very significant and very special to Him. Now, some of you may look at me like I am crazy but let me show you that trees truly are special to the Lord.
God loves trees
When we think about gardens and the Lord, I believe most of us will think about the garden that He planted eastward in Eden (Gen. 2:8). Now, typically when someone tells us that they are a gardener, we will ask them, what’s in your garden? In Eden, scripture tells us that there was a river that parted into four that ran throughout the garden (Gen. 2:10). The standout feature in Eden was very interesting in that flowers weren’t the main feature; the trees of Eden are what scripture focuses on!
Scripture plainly states that the Lord made every tree grow in the garden; they were pleasant to the sight and good for food (Gen. 2:9). In the midst of the garden we are told about two trees: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Elsewhere in scripture we are told of another garden found in heaven, called the Paradise of God, and in its midst sits the tree of life that we will one day eat from (Rev. 2:7)! I tell you, trees are very special to the Lord.
So, how special are trees to the Lord? Well, the Father likens His only begotten Son to a tree! In Isaiah, the Lord said through the prophet that Christ (the Messiah) would grow as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground (Is. 53:2). It is recorded in John’s gospel that Jesus said He is the true vine (John 15:1).
Trees are so highly valued in the Lord’s eyes that in Psalm 1, David likened those who delight in the Lord to being like a tree (Ps. 1:1-3). You see, I believe David understood very well God’s love of trees. So, why are trees so special to God and why does He desire us to become a righteous tree?
Why are trees so special
To answer this question, let’s consider trees for a moment: What do you think of when you think about trees?
Personally, I first think of their beauty; from spring blooming, to their peak green colors in summer, to their peak colors in fall – trees are absolutely stunning. Secondly, trees are huge, they are seemingly always growing. Thirdly, trees are very resilient; in the harshness of winter, they look as dead as a door knob but as soon as warmer weather hits, they are back alive and well. In their resilience, trees live for a very long time; there are trees around today that were around when Jesus walked the earth!
In all of those things, I consider more what the trees provide for all of us — trees give us life! From my science classes, I remember being taught about how trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and produce the oxygen we breathe. In the heat of summer, you can stand under a tree and it will provide you shade. If you’re hungry, some trees have nuts and others have fruit that you can eat.
Trees are incredibly important to us and I would suggest to you that on a general level, we should appreciate trees. If we should appreciate trees on a general level, I would certainly suggest to you that we should appreciate trees on a spiritual level.
The Well Planted Tree of God
So, in looking at how special trees are, why do you suppose that God desires for all of us to become a righteous tree?
Faces extremely tough conditions
I have spoken about Eden and briefly mentioned the Paradise of God, but in order for us to answer that question, we must take a look at one more garden. The garden that I am now speaking of is that same field that Jesus sowed seed in — that field (garden) was representative of the world; the world is also God’s garden.
As we saw in the parable of the sower last week (Mark 4:3-8), the world is a rather difficult place to be trying to grow a garden in, spiritually speaking. If you think about it, only a fourth of the field (25%) had good ground to plant anything in as the rest of the ground was either stony, filled with thorns, or at the edges of the field. Not only was the field terrible but the parable indicated that there were also rough seasons for anything growing in the field.
Most gardeners, I believe, would have looked at the field, saw the stony and thorny soil, and passed it by. Any gardener that decided that they would still try to work the field, would have changed their minds after encountering the harsh seasons. Yet, the Lord did not give up on the field – the world – because, as we know, His thoughts and ways are not like ours (Is. 55:8-9); He is longsuffering.
When we take a look at our world, we know the conditions of the field; we know the wickedness of mankind and our penchant of transgressing each other with no care in the world. Not only do we transgress each other but we also transgress against God with no care in the world. The field is a field of sin and in these tough conditions, the sinful world is always trying to kill anything growing in it.
Built to endure
So, in my key verse for today, God encourages us to trust in Him, and should we do so, we will be blessed (happy and content in their soul). Those that trust in Him, God has said, will be like a planted tree. I want all of you who trust in the Lord to know today that you are not some loose and wild growing plant in the field – you are very well planted by Christ. If you’re going to endure the terrible seasons in this world, spiritually speaking, you must be well rooted – have a solid foundation.
In the key verse, God tells us that His trees are planted by the waters so that their roots can spread out by the river! Do you understand what this means? Let us understand, these rivers aren’t flowing from water that is of the world but flowing from God – these rivers are holy and righteous!
This is confirmed for us in Isaiah 55:10, where God stated that His Word is as the rain that comes down and as the snow from heaven. As we know, the precipitation of rain and snow helps to replenish lakes and causes rivers to flow; it is rain and snow that nourishes and waters the earth. So, the Word of God is what nourishes the trees of God!
May I suggest to you that because the roots of God’s trees are being fed by the holy and righteous Word of God, that His trees are well fed? Therefore, I would tell you that a tree of God is built to be able to endure the harshest of seasons in this world! You, because you trust in the Lord, are built to endure in this world.
Has great resilience
So, as trees are resilient, in general, the tree of God is also incredibly resilient. Again, we will see in the key verse, the Lord states that His trees don’t fear when heat comes nor are they anxious in drought because they are planted beside His rivers. You see, the roots of God’s trees run into the rivers, which means that the Lord’s trees have an endless supply of nutrients and minerals. The endless supply of food means that God’s trees remain in great health, even in the harshest of seasons!
Now, when I first planned to preach this sermon months ago, this statement from the Lord caused me to think about the trees in my backyard; I would tell you that most of them are pretty solid trees. However, as strong as I like to think they are, when the heat of summer has reached its worst, and we have stopped getting much rain, the once pristine green leaves of those trees fall to the ground very discolored – they needed more rain.
In life, we know for certain that we all have good and bad seasons; we have our ups and downs and life can be a struggle at times. All of us have our afflictions whether they are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, yet, the Lord said that if we trust in Him, we remain in good health when we diligently feed on the Word of God.
Spiritually speaking, a tree that is not in constant supply by the rivers of God, is a tree whose leaves don’t remain green; such a tree ends up being a withered tree. I want you to understand that when we live by the Word, we don’t end up being a withered tree.
Bearing Much Fruit
As a tree of God, the Lord certainly desires for us to remain standing upright in this world, however there is another great desire God has. You see, there is a great purpose as to why the Lord planted you and we will see that purpose stated to us in the key verse. The Lord said through the prophet that the righteous tree has been planted by the water so that it does not cease from yielding fruit! Let us understand, the righteous tree of God doesn’t just survive in the harshest seasons, it thrives and it bears fruit for the world!
The Father’s upkeep
To thrive means to grow vigorously; to flourish. The righteous tree of God flourishes and it bears fruit. As I said at the start, no gardener likes to see their plants growing but not produce fruit or anything to harvest. God planted you so that you can grow and bear fruit in the world. So I ask you today, are you bearing fruit?
Now, Jesus spoke of this great desire when He said that He is the true vine and the Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). As the vinedresser, Jesus pointed out that the Father takes away every branch in Christ that does not bear any fruit (John 15:2). As you have heard me say before, this statement has nothing to do with losing salvation as salvation cannot be lost by those who genuinely believe.
The removal of branches that aren’t bearing any fruit is part of the Father’s pruning and upkeep of His trees. Jesus also stated in that same verse that the Father prunes the fruit bearing branches (John 15:2). Why is this being done? Because the Father desires for His trees to bear much fruit!
Gardeners prune their plants for a few reasons. Firstly, they cut away the parts of the plant that are unhealthy or may have died to give way to the parts that are healthy and living. Secondly, plants are pruned to make room for the parts that are trying to bloom, or in this case, bear fruit. So, to not speak figuratively, the Lord prunes us – He takes away the unhealthy or dead parts of us – so that we can thrive and bear much fruit.
Fruit of the righteous tree
You see, the primary purpose of a righteous tree of God is to bear much fruit. Sadly, many of the Lord’s trees today aren’t bearing much fruit. Why is that? Well, sadly, some of us may not be able to do what we were once able to do and there is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, some of us simply aren’t moving as we ought to move.
Those of us who are able to bear fruit should move in a manner to actually bear holy and righteous fruit. So what is the holy and righteous fruit we should bear? In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote that the holy and righteous fruit born from the Spirit – the Word of God – is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
In order to bear the holy and righteous fruit, Jesus said that we must be connected to Him, the true vine. If a branch that does not abide in Christ, then that branch will never bear any fruit of Him (John 15:5-6); that fruit will not be holy and righteous fruit. As Jesus said, “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit (Matt. 7:18). So, in order to bear the holy and righteous fruit, one must first be connected (attached) to Christ.
When Israel was living sinfully, the Lord said to them, “learn to do good (Is. 1:17).” What did God consider to be doing good? Good to the Lord was seeking justice, rebuking the oppressor; defending the fatherless, and pleading for the widow — helping those who are in need of help!
Greater purpose of the righteous tree
This is the greater purpose of the righteous tree: to not simply live for ourselves but to live for all of those around us; we are to live to be a blessing – to uplift – in this sinful world. We should ask ourselves, are we bearing love, joy, and peace in our world or are we choking out and tearing down others as a wild growing vine?
The Word of God has been planted and sustains us so that we can give life to those around us and also sustain life. As trees release oxygen for us to breathe, those around us should be able to breathe in life around us. As a righteous tree of God, you should also provide cover and shelter in the harshest of seasons so that those around us can have a chance to make it. God encourages us to be a tree of life in a world that needs life.
Some of us believe that the Word of God was planted in us for soul winning but winning a soul can’t happen if you aren’t bearing any fruit. You see, soul winning is the end result of bearing much fruit. So, I encourage you today to continue to feed off the Word of God so that you can not only be resilient but so that you can bear much fruit.
If we all continue to feed off the Word of God, then we will thrive for all of those around us; they will have an opportunity to live and to thrive as well. To all of you who are of the world, I encourage you to find a tree of God and taste and see that the holy and righteous fruit of God’s word is truly good. I desire to see you truly thrive in this world.