Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shadow of the Tree (part 2)

Here's what Charles Spurgeon had to say about the shadow of the tree:
The way to learn a truth thoroughly is to learn it by experience, and the way to learn more is to use what you know. Jesus casts a shadow; let us sit under it. Jesus yields fruit; let us taste the sweetness of it. (p. 29)

If Jesus is like an apple tree among the trees of the wood, do not keep away from Him, but sit under His shadow and taste His fruit. He is a Savior; do not believe this fact and yet remain unsaved. As far as Christ is known to you, make use of Him in that measure. . . .we are at liberty to make every possible use of Christ. Both the shadow and the fruit may be enjoyed. . . . Christ Jesus our Lord exists for the benefit of His people. . . . He is as free to us as the air we breathe. What are fountains for, but that the thirsty may drink? What is the harbor for, but that storm-tossed ships may find refuge? What is Christ for, but that poor guilty ones like ourselves may come to Him and look and live, and afterward may have all our needs supplied out of His fullness? (p. 30).

I mentioned before that I love it when pieces of the puzzle come together. Here's a PUZZLE PIECE: Jesus is eternal life. (And I love the consistency that runs throughout the Bible.) Where is the very first time we hear about eternal life in the bible? One of the two trees in the midst of the Garden of Eden was the Tree of Life. Trees are named for their fruit. If we remain in the Shadow of the Tree that is Jesus Christ, one of the fruits that we have access to is eternal life.

The last time the Tree of Life is mentioned in the Bible is in the last chapter of Revelation. Revelation 22:1 talks about “the river of the water of life … flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb”. The next verse, 22:2, says that “On each side of the river stood the tree of life.” I’m not sure what that means, the tree being on both sides of the river. Maybe it’s just that big, so that there is room for every one of us under its shadow. Revelation 22:19 contains the last warning in the Bible. “And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

ANOTHER PUZZLE PIECE: the cross is often referred to as “the tree.” So we come to the shadow of the tree to find shelter. Spurgeon again:
Did Jesus suffer in my place? Then I will not suffer punishment. Did He bear my sin? Then I will not bear it. Did God accept His Son as my Substitute? Then He will never strike me down. Was Jesus acceptable to God as my Sacrifice? Then what contents the Lord should certainly content me. Consequently, I will go no farther, but I will sit down “under his shadow” and enjoy a delightful rest. (p. 32)
When you have your quiet time, where is the place you go? A friend of mine has a physical place that she goes to meet the Lord. In his book Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald talks about a “special, intimate place where we commune with the Father in a way that no one else can appreciate or understand.” This “place of the spirit” he calls “the garden of our private world.” For David (the shepherd who became king) this place was a pasture where God was the shepherd. It had green pastures and calm waters and was a place where the soul was restored.

For me, the idea of a garden clicked into place. I picture it as a real place. I know all the details about it: the tall wooden fence around it; the latch on the gate; the path from the gate to the swing hanging from the big tree. And I picture God waiting for me at the gate. I always wondered if it was okay to physically picture God. Then I read this in a devotional book called In God’s Presence: daily devotions with J. I. Packer: “All sorts of things can go on in my active imagination which have nothing to do with my body, for instance. And if I can have a personal life without a body, so can God. …If we don’t think of God as fully personal, we think of him as inferior to ourselves. The truth is that He is more personal than we are.” (entry for September 6)

Deep down in my heart, I could never picture more than God's hand, the hand that Michelangelo painted giving life to Adam. Even now, what I see is God’s hand reaching out to me at the gate and holding my hand as we walk down the path to the swing.

So what does all this mean? What do I do with this information? Find a place that, for you, is under the Shadow of His Tree. Think of the most restful, quiet, solitary place you can imagine. Furnish that place as the garden of your private world. Make it uniquely yours. You don’t have to share it with anybody if you don’t want to. Go there often so that you know the way. Know how to get there in a hurry. When you are there, talk to God as only you can. Don’t try to pray like someone else. You aren’t someone else.

Psalm 139:1-4. 1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
God knows who you are, better than you do. Be who you are and let God be who He is. Listen to Him. Take what He has to offer you. Learn to be comfortable in His Presence. Unless you are comfortable in His Presence, you can’t take comfort in His Presence.

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