Can a tree represent life and death? Can a tree be cursed and blessed? Can someone who is hung on a tree bring life to all who believe in Him? Yes, yes it/He can. The image of a tree is frequent in Scripture starting in Genesis. “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). These are verses about life and death. Trees are symbolic of a foundation with roots that go deep, or not. I think most folks know about v. 17 that says we can eat freely of all the trees in the garden but one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From this tree all things good and evil and disobedience have been born. You see, man disobeyed God and ate because the first man and woman were deceived by Satan and ate. We as a species are all about ourselves and want everything, good, bad and ugly, and we want it now!
In Deuteronomy 22 we read that any man committing a sin worthy of death will be hung on a tree. “Cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). This cursing begins to point to Jesus’ crucifixion on a tree and the paradox of the curse becoming a blessing through God’s atoning or redeeming and life giving death through the forgiveness of the sins in Christ’s death for those who would believe.
Scripture speaks of trees bearing fruit or not. “By their fruit we will recognize them…a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17). Good fruit is what God wants us to bear. Back in Jeremiah 17:7, we read,
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
This tree or person planted by the water of life or in the Spirit of God will yield much fruit. John would say in his Gospel that we must be planted in and dwell in the vine, “apart from Him (the Vine) we can do nothing” (John 15:5). Imagery of trees, fruit and water are present in Psalms.
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers (Psalms 1:1-3).
This tree is planted in streams of living water, referring to the Holy Spirit that gives life. What an incredibly empowering image of God’s power within the believer. This image in strongly repeated in Revelation 22.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:1-3).
God wants us to know that life is in faith in Him. This vision is of heaven and the bounty and healing, fruit bearing trees that are planted in God, “the river of the water of life.”