June 12, 2018
32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
I’ve shared here before about my Father’s nearly forty year tenure as the teacher of the five year old Sunday School Class at the First United Methodist Church of Dumas, Arkansas. One of his class traditions in those early years was to plant a tree together on the church grounds. Those trees became longstanding, living reminders, flourishing markers of the fragile immovability of faith, growth, and relationship.
I will forever remember one of the great acts of clerical malfeasance when the pastor (at the time) decided that the first and then tallest tree needed to be removed to make room for new landscaping on the church property. I remember it like an untimely death as it has become something of a parable in my memory concerning the incredulity of the church of our time.
Something about a commemorative tree says something beyond the comprehension of so-called permanent memorials made of concrete and steel. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a tree must be worth millions.
Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba,
So often in Scripture we see our forebears making altars or stacking stones as markers of the Lord’s mighty acts of salvation and grace. It strikes me that these are meant to point backwards, causing reflective remembrance on God’s mighty acts. A tree, on the other hand, means to point us forward into the generative possibilities of the future. A tree, planted in the way Abraham planted this tamarisk tree, is more than symbolic. It is a sign. A sign is a symbol that does more than stand for a deeper meaning. It participates in the meaning.
and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.
In other words, the tree not only symbolizes the prayer, in a far deeper and mysterious way, the tree is the prayer. The roots grow deep. The trunk grows upward and imperceptibly outward. The branches and leaves grow outward with abundant flourishing bearing both flower and fruit and finally seed.
Abraham lived in a land promised him by God and yet as a stranger. The ancient sign of a tree bridges the distance between the already and not yet dimensions of faith and future, between earth and sky, history and eternity, loss and reward, even death and resurrection.
Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. You teach us through trees, from Eden to the fig tree to the Cross itself. May I learn from your life the ways of your Spirit, who would make me like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. Lead me into the only true prosperity, which is your Kingdom—on Earth as it is in Heaven. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.
- We all have “tree” stories. Consider sharing yours with your band or in our Facebook Group or with your family around the table today.
- What biblical tree stories were brought to mind as you read today’s text and entry? What can be learned about the mystery of prayer in and through them?
- I want you to pray about planting a tree in the coming season of your own life. The Lord is awakening new things in your life and faith and bringing them together around you. It needs to be signed and sealed and marked in a tangible fashion. Perhaps we will do it in some measure together at the close of this series on prayer. Let’s start praying about it now.
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.