Christianity 201

February 14, 2018

Tree Imagery in the Bible

Psalm 1:3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Numbers 17:8  Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.
Habakkuk 3:17&18  Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in LORD. I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Read 50 more verses related to trees at Knowing Jesus.

We added this one which I’d like to spend more time focusing on in future, I think there’s a lot going on in the (formerly) blind man’s comment:

Mark 8:24 NLT The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”

Overview: Many articles online focus on the contrast of the “bookended” trees in scripture: The tree in the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life in the book of Revelation. But there are other trees as well, which we decided to think about today. (If quoting from this, please cite the original link, not ours.)

First, a general comment from Rev Douglas Taylor-Weiss:

One of our problems in biblical interpretation lies in our inability to see the world as charged with the power and glory of God. We decide that, for example, the “tree of life” means such-and-such. Then we pretty much discard the actual tree and proceed to its “meaning.” In our world, things have lost their enchantment and their glory, and are just things. To us, a star is just nuclear fusion; a snake is just a reptile; a baby is just an arrangement of cells. We cannot see the inside — the interiority — of things…

…Trees then continue to play their role in the biblical story. We have fig trees and sycamores, the cedars of Lebanon (today mostly destroyed) and the shoot that grows out of a stump. Of special interest is the grapevine — not exactly a tree, yet functioning as one when Jesus tells his followers, “I am the vine, you are the branches, and my Father is the gardener.”

Steve Allison writes,

…Trees are in the background and in the foreground of the Bible.  From the beginning to end.  They are a critical part of the action.  The Tree of Life is mentioned early in the Genesis and also in the last chapter of Revelation, for example.  There are over thirty kinds of them mentioned in the Bible.  Some like the olive tree are mentioned quite often and are well know to us, both as to physical, literal manifestation and some of its symbolic meaning, ie. you know what the olive branch signifies.  In some cases it is not certain what kind of tree it is that is being described.

Perhaps you didn’t realize it but trees figure in the story of Abraham, in several places.  For instance, after the call to leave Ur we are told in Genesis 12: 6  Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  “Moreh” means teacher.  It was a significant tree for Abraham and the Canaanites.  Was some kind of school there? Was it an Oak?  Some think it was…

The balance of today’s article is from Athena:

Significant Trees In The Bible And Their Symbolisms

Many varieties of trees are cited in the Bible.

The cedar became a temple, the fig, a covering, and the gopher an ark. A tree was connected with man’s sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:1-7). Another tree played a key role in the price of man’s sin. At Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ died by crucifixion upon a tree.

The Fig Tree

The first species mentioned by name in the Bible is the fig (Gen 3:7). This tree has sometimes been labeled a hypocrite tree because the fruit is green and not easily detected among the leaves until it is nearly ripe. It is only by close examination in the early stages that the fruit can be detected. Jesus came to a fig tree, desiring fruit, but found only leaves. He cursed the tree, and it fried up from the roots (Mark 11:12-14, 20).

After they have sinned, Adam and Eve used fig leaves to try to hide their sinfulness from the eyes of a searching God (Gen 3:6-13).

One time a fig tree was used to enable someone to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree (a type of fig tree) to see Jesus as he passed that way. It is not unusual for a sycamore tree to reach a height of fifty feet.

The Olive Tree

Another tree of importance, especially in the land of Israel, was the olive. The tree became the Biblical symbol for the nation of Israel (Rom. 11:15-25). Its berries continue to be leading articles of Israeli commerce. This tree has been called an emblem of peace, prosperity, and wealth (Ps. 128). When the olive crop fails, it is considered to be a sign of divine wrath (Jer. 11:16-23).

Needing no irrigation, the olive tree thrives well in the Palestinian hills. Since animal fat cannot be kept for a long time, olive oil became the only source of fat for consumption and frying. Additionally, the oil served as a base for all cosmetics and cleaning products. Used in clay lamps, it was the main source for lighting.

Its economic value was much enhanced by the fact that the great river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia have unsuitable soil and climate for the cultivation of olives; therefore, olive oil became a major item of export.

Olive oil was also used in the tabernacle for light and ceremonial anointing by the priests of God (Exod. 30: 24- 25; Lev. 24:2-4). It even plays a role in the book of Genesis. When the dove returned with an olive leaf in its mouth, Noah knew the waters had receded from the earth.

The Cedar Tree

The cedar tree was chosen for the temple of God in Jerusalem (I Kings 6:9-20). There are several possible reasons for this tree’s having been chosen. “The wood is not attacked by insect pests; it is free from knots. It has remarkable lasting qualities.”

The cedar forests in Lebanon were famous, and the people traveled great distances just to see them. These trees grew to heights of 120 feet and girths of 40 feet. Their life span was often over two thousand years. The cedars of Lebanon are now very rare; their glory has passed.

The cedar tree was used to build not only the temple of the Lord but also Solomon’s house and other public edifices in Jerusalem. It was used for roofing the temple of Diana at Ephesus and that of Apollo at Utica, and other famous buildings.

The Oak Tree

Another tree known for its longevity is the oak. The sturdy oak stood as a witness to certain events. In the time of the patriarchs, Jacob took the false idols from the members of the household and buried them under an oak at Shechem (Gen. 35:4). It was by an oak tree that, years later, Joshua took idols from the nation of Israel, who promised to serve only the true God (Josh. 24:14-26). Was it the same tree? The scriptures do not tell us, but some scholars infer that this may be true.

When the land of Israel was oppressed by Midian, the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon under an oak tree. There the angel made a covenant with Gideon to deliver Israel from their oppression (Judg. 6:11-19).

Some oak trees also witnessed evil. The heathen worshipped idols in oak groves (Ezek. 6:13); Absalom, David’s son, died in an oak tree (II Sam. 18:6-17); and King Saul was buried under an oak tree. (I Chron. 10:12).

One of the most interesting uses of trees in the Scriptures is as a simile for a person’s life – a productive tree and a barren tree. The principle of the comparison still applies to our lives today.


We’ve used the picture of the Constitution Oak Tree twice before. We discovered it reading Mark Hall’s book Thrive. Caption: Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]  (Mark is the lead singer of Casting Crowns.)

We also used the picture before at an article here titled Be a Tree (2015).


Here’s one more verse:

Isaiah 61:3The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

…which should remind you of this song. Note: This is the original Scripture in Song recording from 1977.


 

 

 

February 20, 2017

Jesus and Melchizedek

We almost never repeat an article here, but this 2012 piece came up in a search I was doing for a pastor on the subject of Bible Typology, which we’ve covered 3 times in the last year, plus this older one. I felt this was worth a revisit for newer readers.


Today I thought we’d really go deep with what is the first of two posts by author Andrew Perrimen at his blog post on the nature of the incarnate Christ. Don’t fret if you can’t absorb this all at once in the first reading; simply get an overview of what the author is discussing and your exposure to this type of examination will register over time. It’s a good introduction to the issues that arise when people try to get too much doctrine out of an isolated text.

One of the arguments put forward by those who wish to find the divinity of Jesus under every stone is that as a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17) Jesus must have been both God and man. This is a misunderstanding of the argument in Hebrews, and I want to set out briefly why I think this is the case. There is a lot more in the discussion that I would like to pick up on, particularly cherylu’s helpful contribution

1. Nowhere in the Bible is a priest identified with God. It’s not part of the job description. In fact, it’s part of the job description that a priest should be thoroughly human (Heb. 5:1-3).

2. Jesus qualifies for priesthood by virtue of his suffering on behalf of his “brothers”, that is, on behalf of suffering Israel (there is no reference to the nations in this argument). When it is said that it was necessary for him to “become like his brothers in every respect” (Heb. 1:17), the point is not that he had to become human but that he had to suffer (2:18); he was tested in just the same way that the recipients of the letter had been tested—that is, by persecution—but without sin, without disobedience, without backsliding (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was “designated” a high priest by God because he “learned obedience through what he suffered” and was “made perfect” (Heb. 5:8-10). That makes no sense at all if Jesus, as some sort of eternal high priest, was already God.

2. Jesus becomes a priest through the power of the resurrection, by the power of an “endless life” (Heb. 7:16). He was appointed as high priest (Heb. 5:5). He was not a high priest before his death and resurrection, so no claims can be made on the basis of this analogy regarding his preexistence. That Jesus would live forever is part of the argument; that he had already lived forever is not. As a human priest after the order of Melchizedek, raised from the dead, Jesus has gone ahead as a “forerunner” on behalf of those who will also suffer and be vindicated for his sake (6:19-20).

3. The reference to Psalm 110:4 indicates that the point of the argument is that Israel’s eschatological king, from the line of Judah, was also legitimately a high priest who could make propitiation for the sins of the people, following the failure of the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:11). The Jewish polemical background is obvious. Melchizedek was both a king and a priest, who predated the Levitical priesthood, and who set the precedent for the new conjunction of the two human roles in Jesus. John Doyle also has some good comments on the significance of Melchizedek in the argument of Hebrews. Divinity doesn’t come into it.

3. In Hebrews 7:3 we have this description of Melchizedek:

He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

Melchizedek is a “type” of Jesus here only in one respect: he continues as a priest forever, which is an element in the convergence of the priestly and royal themes. The other statements made are not part of the typology or analogy—clearly not, since Jesus had a mother and a genealogy, in fact, two genealogies. You can’t have a genealogy and be eternal. So the writer is not saying here that Jesus was also without beginning of days. This cannot be used as an argument for the divinity or preexistence of Jesus.

4. The strongest case for the preexistence of Jesus in the New Testament, in my view, is probably to be made on the basis of statements which connect him with the original act of creation (eg. Col. 1:16). The fact that the argument with regard to Melchizedek and the nature of priesthood is exegetically and theologically is flawed does not mean that the case cannot be made on other grounds.

~Andrew Perrimen

Here’s the link to part two


 

May 12, 2016

Biblical Typology

Today’s scriptures are found in the links of the blockquote, and the key scripture in the image below.

You’re listening to a sermon where the preacher says something like, “…in this, Joshua is a ‘type’ of Christ.” What does that mean? Maybe a ‘type’ is someone that someone else likes, as in, “She’s definitely my type.”

Bible TypologyNo, it’s actually Biblical typology. GotQuestions.org explains:

Typology is a special kind of symbolism. (A symbol is something which represents something else.) We can define a type as a “prophetic symbol” because all types are representations of something yet future. More specifically, a type in scripture is a person or thing in the Old Testament which foreshadows a person or thing in the New Testament. For example, the flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6-7) is used as a type of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20-21. The word for type that Peter uses is figure.

When we say that someone is a type of Christ, we are saying that a person in the Old Testament behaves in a way that corresponds to Jesus’ character or actions in the New Testament. When we say that something is “typical” of Christ, we are saying that an object or event in the Old Testament can be viewed as representative of some quality of Jesus.

Scripture itself identifies several Old Testament events as types of Christ’s redemption, including the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the Passover. The Old Testament tabernacle is identified as a type in Hebrews 9:8-9: “the first tabernacle . . . which was a figure for the time then present.” The high priest’s entrance into the holiest place once a year prefigured the mediation of Christ, our High Priest. Later, the veil of the tabernacle is said to be a type of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-20) in that His flesh was torn, (as the veil was when He was crucified) in order to provide entrance into God’s presence for those who are covered by His sacrifice.

The whole sacrificial system is seen as a type in Hebrews 9:19-26. The articles of the “first testament” were dedicated with the blood of sacrifice; these articles are called “the patterns of things in the heavens” and “figures of the true” (verses 23-24). This passage teaches that the Old Testament sacrifices typify Christ’s final sacrifice for the sins of the world. The Passover is also a type of Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Discovering exactly what the events of the Passover teach us about Christ is a rich and rewarding study…

For years, I assumed that this was simply a human way of defining aspects of a book with divine characteristics. After all, we say “Trinity” but the word itself isn’t in the Bible. But we know what we mean when we say it, but we recognize the actual word to be a man-made construct. Is it possible that our notion of Biblical typology is simply a human construct to try to make sense of certain parallels and similarities?

Well, it turns out, that the Bible itself makes the case for doing so.

This week as I watched a sermon online, this verse came on the screen:

Zechariah 3 8-9

What does this mean? I believe there are three things here beyond the immediate context.

Key – In a sense the Bible is herewith giving us permission to this type of textual analysis. The verse isn’t prophetic in the sense of having direct application to Joshua himself, but is Messianic in nature; referencing one who would follow after Joshua.  Thus we have a direct indication here to pursue this interpretation (hermeneutic) method.

Promise – The International Bible Commentary says it is “the divine guarantee that God is to do something better through his servant “the branch,” …a future Davidic ruler.” The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary says that Joshua and his associates are “a pledge of the approach of Messiah’s kingdom…” We can therefore look for these various ‘types’ to appear and know they indicate the One who is for them, someone who will come after but for us, someone who has already appeared.

Mystery – On the other hand, scriptures generally don’t fully connect all the dots. The correlation is there in general terms, but nowhere does the text say things with the bluntness that we, living in a bullet-point, cut-to-the-chase world would prefer. We must work these things out ourselves. We are within our rights to look for other examples of these types throughout scripture.


Related:

  • February, 2014 – Biblical Typology (This article gives far more examples than we had room for here today.)
  • April, 2012 – Jesus After the Order of Melchizedek (One of the most challenging ‘types’ we encounter since so little is actually said about him.)
  • Sermon: Prophetic Pointers – If you go to this sermon series by Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House (also the source of today’s scripture screen shot) and choose Week #4 of the series Jesus BC, you can see the sermon where I heard the verse from Zechariah. Interestingly, Week #5, The Mysterious Stranger, is entirely about Melchizedek. (Warning: Bruxy may not look like the pastor of your church!)