“In the midst of the garden were the tree of life…….and…….” (Genesis 2:9)
There it stood in the middle of the most lush and beautiful garden any human could have ever imagined. It was a tree. But not just any tree. No, this tree would give life to all who ate the fruit from it. And not just any life. No, this tree would give eternal life to the one who savored its’ produce. But sadly, there was another tree in that first garden. It too promised a life. Just not a good life. The other tree promised the knowledge of good and evil. And so, man had a choice. Choices determine our life. Sadly, Adam and Eve chose the wrong tree. Once expelled from Eden, God placed cherubim with flaming swords at the entrance of the garden so that the man and woman could not get near the tree of life. And thus, the fallen pair left the garden to live as fallen humanity.
I wonder if Adam and Eve ever reflected back on that tree of life. I’m sure if they did, it was with deep regret in their hearts. Or perhaps they totally forgot about it, never looking over their shoulders. But God didn’t forget about that tree. In fact, God was obsessed with that tree of life, because it was the one tree that he wanted to give to mankind more than any other tree. More than an apple tree, or a pear tree, or a coconut tree. God wanted for mankind that one special tree.
But humans were forbidden to even come near that special tree of prominence that stood in the garden, so the Lord provided a substitute tree for their descendants. And he placed it in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was a new Eden. It was Eden in the midst of a fallen world. And in its holy place, there was a menorah. That menorah was made out of pure gold, with seven branches, three on either side of a central stem. The branches were decorated with flowers. In other words, the menorah was a tree. The menorah was the replacement tree of life, illuminating God’s Eden-like sanctuary with the flaming fruit of light. And today, there still stands a menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem.
You see, a tree giving life has always been on the heart of God. The original tree of life is with God now, in heaven. The Spirit said to John in Revelation 2:7, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” We are also told that the tree will descend to the New Heaven and the New Earth when New Jerusalem descends out of heaven. John wrote in Revelation 22:2 what he saw, “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.” God is obsessed with the tree of life. He always had been. That is why he has made the menorah the symbol of Israel today.
But there is one other tree God has been even more obsessed with than the tree of life. It is a tree that bore no fruit. Nor did it grow any leaves on it. It was a tree stripped of its’ beauty and splendor. A tree bleak and barren. Yet, it was the tree that bore the most spiritual fruit and the greatest light to the world. For God turned the tree of the cross into the great tree that gives us new life.