Today (March 5, 2014,) I felt sad as I saw a wonderful “live oak tree,” that I had enjoyed seeing for over 28 years, being cut down. It was a majestic, peaceful looking old tree, on Fort Dale Road in Greenville, Alabama. I intentionally looked at it almost every day through those years. Most of the time, when the term live oak is used, it is used to identify a group of oak trees that do not shed their leaves in winter like most oak trees in our area; the live oaks are evergreen. “When the term live oak is used in a specific rather than general sense, it most commonly refers to the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana), the first species so named, and an icon of the Old South.” “The southern live oak is the official state tree of Georgia.” The live oak is short in height and has low-hanging branches. Seeing the grand, old live old being removed today caused me to remember a sermon I preached a while back.
JUST AN OLD OAK TREE?
Trees are everywhere; they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Scientists have identified approximately 10,000 species of trees. Only 1,000 species grow in the world. There are more hardwood species than softwood. The Coast Redwood in Redwood National Park, California is the tallest tree in the United States. It is 379.1 feet tall. The Giant Sequoia, General Sherman, in California is the largest tree on earth from the standpoint of total volume when you consider both its height and its diameter. It has a volume of 52,508 cu ft. A large part of my life has been lived under the shade of two great water oak trees. As I grew up there was a beautiful water oak in our yard that all the little children played under. There we would shell peas and butter beans, make ice cream in a hand crank freezer and just enjoy the wonderful shade of the oak tree. One summer, a few years ago, while we were at Backwoods Christian Camp a storm came and the wind blew that giant tree over. The tree was about 60 feet tall and around 40 inches or more in diameter. Living in Greenville, Alabama for over 25 years we have lived under the shade of a second impressive water oak. It has provided an abundance of acorns that have feed many squirrels and some deer. The word "tree" is found in 177 verses in our King James Bible. The plural "trees" is found another 140 verses in the King James Bible. "Oak" is found in 15 verses in our King James Bible. Trees were used to teach many valuable Bible lessons. Who would not remember the cedars of Lebanon (Zechariah 11:1), those who had turned from God's way being pictured as "trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots" (Jude 1:12), the fig tree Jesus cursed (Mark 11:12-14) or the branches from the palm tree that were placed on the road before Jesus as He entered Jerusalem just before His death. (John 12:13) Just an old oak tree? No! Trees are everywhere in our world and in our Bible too. The lessons associated with trees are many.
Just an old oak tree? No! It was a place to bury the dead. In Genesis 35:8 we read a simple but very heart touching statement, "But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth." Little is known about this woman. She is mentioned, but unnamed in Genesis 24:59. "And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant, and his men." How she came to live with Jacob's family we do not know. It is of interest that we know nothing of Rebekah's death. However, we know about the death of her nurse. The last we hear of Rebekah was in Genesis 27 when she advised Jacob to deceive his old, blind father so that he could receive the blessing. Here last recorded words were when she told Jacob "flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; And tarry with him a "few days," until thy brother's fury turn away." The place of her burial is given, but more is told about the death of her nurse than about her own death. "There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah." (Genesis 49:31) Allonbachuth" The tree under which Deborah was buried, reflects the ancient practice of interring the dead under trees. Allonbachuth means the oak of weeping. I have stood with many families through the years beneath the oak of weeping. We do not know where death may meet us; perhaps in a hospital room on along the roadside. Therefore let us be always ready. Just an old oak tree? No! It was a place to bury the dead.
Just an old oak tree? No! This oak tree was the sad end for a rebellious son. The words of 2 Samuel 18:10 provide background information for the ending of one of the saddest events described in the Bible. "And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak." Absalom caused much trouble for David's family by killing his half-brother Ammon who had defiled his sister, Tamar. This led to Absalom fleeing to Syria where he stayed for three years. Joab, David's military captain, devised a clever scheme to get David to permit Absalom to return to Jerusalem in peace. In 2 Samuel 14 we see that a woman was sent to David with a story similar to what had happened in David's family. The end result was that she asked that David allow his banished son to return. David agreed to allow Absalom to return but David did not see him for two more years. Absalom was a handsome and well like man. He had long hair that he cut only one a year. Absalom wanted David's throne and he tried to steal it by getting the people to rebel against the king. He was able to turn David's most trusted friends and advisers against him. David had to flee from Jerusalem in order to spare the city from as much war and destruction as possible. He left Jerusalem a broken hearted man. David told his generals to deal gently with his son. (2 Samuel 18:5) In the battle Absalom passed under an oak tree and his head got caught in the branches. Joab "took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak." This led to one of the saddest laments in the Bible. "And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33) Just an old oak tree? No! This was the sad end for a rebellious son.
Just an old oak tree? No! A man was sitting under that tree when the Devil found a way to destroy him. God sent a man out of Judah to Bethel to cry out against Jeroboam's false altar and false worship. When Jeroboam's hand was dried up and then healed the king said unto the man of God, "Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward. And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place." (1 Kings 13:7-8) God had told the man of God "Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest." He is headed home just as God said but he is sitting under and oak tree. There was an old prophet in Bethel who, "Went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am." (1 Kings 13:14) Satan used this old prophet to cause the death of the man of God. He said to the man of God, "I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him." He went back with him and was later killed by a lion. When the old prophet heard about a dead man by the road he said, "It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the LORD." Here you sit under an oak tree when you should be on your way home. Get up and go home. While the man of God was sitting under the oak tree the devil had time to do his work. Let us learn to never be disobedient to God. Just an old oak tree? No! A man was sitting under that tree when the Devil found a way to destroy him.
Jesus died on a tree to save us from our sins. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24) To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus as the Christ (Mark 16:16), repent of all sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and be baptized for remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) After baptism remain faithful to God. (Revelation 2:10) Those who are faithful will be truly blessed. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
---- Charles Box
Trees should help everyone, not just short people, see Jesus.