Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
So is my beloved among the young men.
In his shade I took great delight and sat down,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste.
(Song of Songs 2:3 NASB)
Picture this. You are hiking in the forest, and you have been at it for hours. Your stomach is feeling the hunger that comes from both the exertion and the fresh air. Your body is running low on fuel. It’s time for a little break and a snack.
Rather than digging a Nature Valley bar from your backpack, you come upon an apple tree, clearly well maintained, with low hanging fruit ripe for the picking. There is even a sign welcoming travelers to help themselves.
You grab an apple or two; give them a rub on the sleeve of your flannel shirt. You can feel the first bite all the way down to your boots. The apple juice spurts onto your cheeks and runs down your hand.
As you sit on the ground with your back resting on the trunk and stretch your legs you feel more relaxed and refreshed than you did lying in your bed this morning.
The apple tree is a picture of the refreshing that come through intimacy with the Lord Jesus. Religion does not refresh. When we are constantly trying to please an angry and vindictive God, as many religious groups position Him, it is anything but refreshing.
I have often heard folks speak of a God who engendered fear, and not with a healthy ‘fear of the Lord’ fear, but an assurance that because they messed up today, God is shocked and angry. Yep – it sure caught your Creator and Savior by surprise that you failed today.
This is no apple tree. Religion is not helpful.
No, biting into the apple brings joy and pleasure, fulfillment and reassurance. You find that Jesus knew you were headed to this very place, so He planted an apple tree (50 years ago) so it would be ready for you today. You find He has prepared this place for you, with nourishing refreshment.
It is also a place of protection from the Sun’s intense rays. In the shade of this tree, you are impervious to the persecution and affliction the sun represents. (see Matthew 13:5-6, 20-22 and “The Rocky Soil”) Don't get me wrong - persecution and affliction will still come, but when you know you are safe, and they can not damage what is real and important.
It is not simply a place of protection, and a source of refreshing, but it is a place of rest. It is one of the strange paradoxes of scripture that we enter into the rest of salvation in order to do the work God has ordained for us to fulfill, but that is the way it is – strange but true.
Have you found that when you are walking in the will of God, and you know it, though you certainly get tired, you don’t get fatigued? I know this is true. By the same token you can be running from thing to thing doing “good things,” even church things, and find yourself burnt out in short order.
We must find this tree – this apple tree – and rest under its branches.
One last thought on these lines.
He is one tree – The One Tree – in the forest – a unique tree – The Only Tree – of its kind. Just as He has observed that we are lilies among the thorns, He is a tree of refreshing in the dark forest of life.
One more last thought (sorry – I can’t help myself.) This makes me think that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden could not have been an apple tree – this is not the forbidden fruit.
No – in fact – Jesus is the Tree of Life!
I love the images in this song!
See you next week.