This morning’s reading was Isaiah 50-59. It was full of well-known scriptures that Christians quote repeatedly. Perhaps none more so than Isaiah 53, which is a wonderful prophecy of Jesus.
In particular, I focused on Isaiah 53:2-3, which says, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Recently, I’ve been meditating on the trees in the garden of Eden, particularly the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (there’s actually four types of trees in the garden).
I believe the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents Satan and his way, rebellion, and independence from God. We know that he deceived Eve to eat from it in an act of rebellion, causing her death. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we see a picture of Satan in the garden. His beauty is described at length, and we are told it was great. In these chapters, Satan speaks of doing his will and going up, taking the place of God. And, in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a great tree that reaches to the heavens and can be seen from the whole earth. The tree was his kingdom and he was proud of it.
As I’ve thought about these scriptures and others, it makes me think that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a grand tree, a beautiful tree, a magnificent looking tree, a large tree, a towering tree, likely rising above any other tree in the garden. It was a tree that would attract your attention, your gaze, and probably cause you to behold it in wonder. This is why Eve looked at it and saw that it was good for food and pleasant to the sight and would make her wise like God. Of course, this large, beautiful, magnificent tree that represents independence from God and living by our own knowledge of good and evil is a tree of death. It cannot sustain us. There’s no life in it at all.
But, I believe right next to this magnificent looking tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden was the tree of life. We know from scripture that Jesus was the tree of life. But, look at what it says in Isaiah 53 above about Jesus, this tree of life. The tree of life is described as young plant – it was small. It’s described as a root out of dry ground. Can a plant grow well in dry ground? How high would such a plant grow? This gives me the picture that the tree of life was a small, scrawny, scraggly looking tree.
In John 15, Jesus said he was the true vine. Where does a vine grow? On the ground. Indeed, Isaiah 53 says that Jesus, the tree of life, had no form or majesty that we would look at him. Jesus, the tree of life, had no beauty that we would desire him. Jesus, the tree of life, was despised and rejected. Then,
consider Philippians 2, which says that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, he made himself of no reputation and became a slave. The tree of life speaks of the lack of self will, going down, full submission to God.
This tree of life, that was completely free for Adam and Eve to eat free, that would sustain them with the very life of God, was right next to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. Think of the stark contrast between these trees that is pictured in the paragraphs above. The great, huge tree of the knowledge of good and evil towering over the small, scrawny tree of life lying close to the ground.
Now, translate that to our lives today. There are two ways we can go, two options before us, two choices we can make in every moment of every day. One looks great. It seems grand. It looks like everything we could ever want. Look at the fulfillment it could provide. Life will be perfect if I can just have this. Certainly, everyone would make this choice, go this way. The other looks like nothing. It seems insignificant. It can’t possibly bring me anything good. No way could it ever fulfill me. Life will be terrible if I’m stuck with this, if I’m forced to choose this. Why would anyone take this way?
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
In a sense, the entire Bible is about choosing between these two trees. It’s not easy choosing the one that looks like nothing and is despised by everyone else around you. But, that’s where life is.