Jesus is My Apple Tree

apple-tree

“Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
    is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
    and taste his delicious fruit.”

Song of Solomon 2:3, NLT

Jesus is my apple tree. He keeps my dying soul alive.

He is the subject of many different metaphors. We know him as a shepherd, a door, and bread. There are many other ‘pictures’ in Scripture, that speak of his ministry and life. There is one that strikes me today, that of Jesus Christ as a life-giving tree– an apple tree. Song of Solomon 2:3 and Revelation 22:1 are the ‘roots’ of this wondrous thought.

“On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Rev. 22:2

To think of Jesus as ‘the tree of life’ or an apple tree is both an honor to Him and a strength for us. We can swirl metaphors around all day and never exhaust their truths. Jesus (a.k.a. “the apple tree”) is seen imparting life and healing through his fruit. He is the source of everything good and grand in our lives. Eating his fruit is not only significant but encouraged. (Like most things in God’s Kingdom.)

The young maiden in Song of Solomon has given us her take on Jesus— her shepherd, lover, and king. She sees him as the finest in the forest. He provides shade to her, as she eats the fruit of his branches.

Oh, what a worthy picture of Jesus our savior. We can look at this all day. As we come to him we can see the One who is gifting each of us his blessings. We do well to consider him this way.  The first few lines set the tone for us.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.”

The song, based on an anonymous poem, first appeared in a New England hymn collection by a New Hampshire preacher in 1784, so it has a history. Many people sing this as a Christmas carol, although there is nothing in the words that refer to Christmas. Go through each stanza. See if it fits you. Perhaps it will cause you to see Jesus in a new way. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

“Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.”   

John Piper

Worshiping With a Knife

 

 by the Forward

In the doctrine of biblical hermeneutics, the ‘Law of First Mention exists.’ Essentially it means that the first time a word or a concept is mentioned should go on to determine the way it needs to be understood throughout scripture. It is a guiding principle more than anything, but a good one at that. The Book of Genesis, being the first book, is a blessed repository for many of these ‘first mentions.’

In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah.

Abraham has tied up his son on an altar to offer him as a sacrifice in obedience to God’s direction (v. 2). This is faith being tested to the ultimate extreme. And Abraham shows us how to enter in.

“Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

Genesis 22:4-5

This is the law of the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible.

It sets the singular tone for all the scriptures on this subject. I guess what is interesting is there were no musical instruments involved. There was just these needful things:

  • stones,
  • wood,
  • rope,
  • fire,
  • a knife,
  • and Isaac, (the would-be ‘lamb.’)

When the Hebrew word for ‘worship’ was used for the first time; it is interlaced with the idea of an incredible sacrifice. Abraham is the first ‘worship leader’ and he has no guitar. No piano, or drums either. No musical instruments whatsoever. No overhead lyrics to speak of. Just a handmade altar, and a knife.

In the end, Abraham raises his knife, and then suddenly, to the relief of us all, he is stopped. His faith has withstood the test, and he has truly ‘worshipped.’

But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Gen. 22:11-12

Principle One: There really can’t be worship without sacrifice.

Recovering this truth concerning worship would be beneficial. It seems we delegate ‘worship’ to a select few who are talented and gifted. We probably don’t do this deliberately, but sometimes we feel it makes a better presentation. We all want to look good, even Christians. (Perhaps this is more substantial than we know.)

Principle Two: The first worshiper didn’t use a guitar, but a knife.

This difference keeps the idea of sacrifice in its definition. There isn’t worship without sacrifice. The knife thrust that he was ready to wield wasn’t backed up by drums or piano. Yet Abraham understood worship every step to Moriah with the knife in his belt.

“The Scriptures include or allude to just about every approach to worship there is: organized, spontaneous, public, private, simple, complex, ornate or plain. Yet there is no comment anywhere about any one way being preferred over another. Rather, it is the spiritual condition of the worshiper that determines whether or not God is at work.”  

Harold Best

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.”

Romans 12:1

Ultimately, we must realize our sacrifice is the Lamb of God. It’s His blood on God’s altar for our sins. As believers, our faith firmly rests in this spiritual fact. We of all people have cause to really worship.

 

Grabbing On to Psalm 27

This is a bit of a longish post. My apologies.

This post is a perfect Psalm for broken believers and rascals–those who struggle to believe. We can understand because we each have encountered very difficult things–hard things. So buckle up, here are my comments on Psalm 27. I really hope that they might help you through your personal mess:

Light, space, zest—
    that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
    afraid of no one and nothing.

When vandal hordes ride down
    ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
    fall flat on their faces.

Man alive, we tolerate so much darkness. But the believer understands that God not only chooses him/her, but protects them. And yes, there is going to be a difficulty, that much I understand. I can’t or won’t sugarcoat this.

“Vandal hordes;” and “bullies and toughs” are motivated by darkness–Satan’s kingdom. The psalmist David sees trouble up ahead, he’s very real here and definitely not a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ optimist. But he’s very much convinced of their defeat.

When besieged,
    I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
    I’m collected and cool.

I’m asking God for one thing,
    only one thing:
To live with him in his house
    my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
    I’ll study at his feet.

There exists a place of safety for David. He’s being blasted by the enemy, but in that place, he finds “calmness.” He’s protected and wears spiritual body armor. Wearing that we discover that he’s bullet-proof, for he wears a vest of spiritual steel.

The house of God is crucial, and he wants to live in it, to “contemplate” the wonder of the Spirit of God. David sees it as his castle that stands in resistance against all those who want to destroy him. And believe me, it is his complete focus.

He injects the word “study” which tells us that he’s found Someone that teaches him the things he needs.

That’s the only quiet, secure place
    in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
    far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
    above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
    that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
    I’m making music to God.

Outside the Church, there is very little that can protect a straying believer. David is very much aware that the world is a noisy place (v. 55). But he knows that the very presence of God is a place of quiet and security, it’s “the perfect getaway,” that exists for everyone who believes.

Worship is critical here.

I think it not only exalts and glorifies God but it also is the best way of protecting himself. David is exuberant here, he can hardly contain himself! Perhaps we really don’t understand–it seems rather excessive–may be too zealous for us.

In v. 6 we see the spiritual effort of God holding David in place. He understands that there are many who are trying their best “to pull” him away from the security of God.

7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
    “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
    my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
    Don’t hide from me now!

9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
    don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
    you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
    but God took me in.

Wow! “the top of my lungs” is pretty intense. The passage speaks of seeking–that’s the key of this whole thing. To be an authentic seeker has to be a “heart” issue, and never a brain thing. Heart followers know the difference.

And the presence of God is David’s entire focus. There’s a very real plea for us as well. One of his petitions here is “don’t hide from me now.” As a New Testament guy, I know that it isn’t really possible. See John 14:15-17.

What incredible security we have!

If you’re struggling, like David did, you’re in good hands. Even though it seems like God is distant, He’s not. “God took me in” is a statement of real faith. David knows that the Father’s love is beyond the love of a father or mother.

And now the comes the finale!

11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
    direct me along a well-lighted street;
    show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
    those liars who are out to get me,
    filling the air with their threats.

13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
    in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
    Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.

“Point me” and “direct me” is David’s discipleship to his Father’s ways. He speaks of enemies (“dogs” and “liars”) who are trying very hard to destroy him. “Out to get me” is David’s assessment of the hard things that come.

David is convinced that God is always very good to him, he understands this. It’s the same for the NT believer, although Satan nips at our heels, God protects us–He’s on our side.

He exhorts us twice to “stay with God.”

Maybe that’s where a lot of issues come. “Don’t quit” is David’s plea. This is stated throughout Paul’s epistles written for us.

What a wonderful Psalm. So much security here (as well as the opposition). Psalm 27 is written to us rascals and inconsistent believers in Jesus. I exhort you to spiritually digest this passage. It’s yours!

Illustration: Solomon’s Temple. I’m using “The Message,” a translation by Eugene Peterson.

God in Charge

Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”

Matthew 6:31 

“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”

–C.S. Lewis

“The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”

–Charles Spurgeon

“I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, One who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted for me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.”

— J.I. Packer

 

 

 

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