sun shining through trees

Trees in the Psalms – If Trees Could Talk!

 January 4, 2022

Trees are significant in Scripture. The Bible begins and ends with a tree – beginning with the tree of life in the garden of Eden and ending with the tree of life in New Jerusalem in the book of Revelations. The Book of the Psalms begins with a tree. If these trees could talk, what story would they tell us? What can we learn from trees in the Psalms?

Trees in the Bible

Trees were important to the Hebrew nation, as evidenced by the number of times they are mentioned in the Bible – 111 times in the King James Version. There are more references to trees than any other living being in Scripture other than God and people.

Trees provide shade and shelter and sustenance. Leaders often gathered under trees to chat. Nathaniel is found under a tree and Zacchaeus climbs a tree to see Jesus.

In Job trees are seen as a sign of hope. “For a tree there is hope, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again and that its tender shoots will not cease.” (Job 14:7)

And the trees talk, taking on this human trait. “Once the trees went to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ …” (Judges 9:8-15)

Trees have long lives, much longer than human life. As such, they are a sign of long-life and prosperity.

Jesus and Trees

Jesus often mentioned trees in his teaching, encouraging his disciples to think about what fruit they bear.

  • So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:17-19)
  • For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:31)
  • The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Mt. 11:12-14)
  • Either declare the tree good and its fruit is good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit.” (Mt. 12:33)

Trees in the Psalms

The book of Psalms starts with a tree. The righteous are described as trees by a flowing stream. “Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked . . . He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” (1:1-3)

The Psalms remind us to be like trees.

  • But I, like a green olive tree in the house of God, trust in the kindness of God forever and ever.” (52:8)
  • The just man shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.” (92:12)
  • Well watered are the trees of the Lord, the cedars of Lebanon, which he planted; in them the birds build their nests; fir trees are the home of the stork.” (104:16-17)

Enemies might try to hack down trees, “They are like men coming up with axes to a clump of trees; and now with chisel and hammer they hack at all its paneling,” (74:5-6) but they will not prevail. As great as trees are, they will not outlast God. Even flourishing trees will pass. A wicked man may appear to be flourishing like a tree, but they too will die. “I saw a wicked man, fierce, and stalwart as a flourishing, age-old tree. Yet as I passed by, lo? He was no more.” (37:35)

And the trees talk in the Psalms as well. They exult and sing out for joy at the coming of the Lord. “Then all the trees of the forest exult before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to rule the earth.” (96:12-13a)

If Trees Could Talk

If trees could talk, what stories would they tell? Many have lived so much longer than any of us. They have the knowledge of the ages. What’s even more, they lived during the time that Jesus walked the earth. Incredible to think. What stories would they tell about the man who was born a baby in a simple manger and died on a cross made from a tree?

Perhaps they would remind us of what is important. That we need to be like the trees in the Psalms, rooted in faith, standing by God’s living waters, yet able to bend in the wind. In this way, we can withstand whatever storms life may throw in our paths.

This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of  Still Dancingthe second book in my Dancing through Life Series.      click here to sign up

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