“And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.” Mark 8:23, 24
Could it be that before Christ restored the blind man’s physical sight, He gave him perfect spiritual sight? Is it possible that we can catch a glimpse of what men are really like spiritually by looking through a blind man’s eyes?
The temple Solomon built was composed of real materials, primarily stone covered with wood on the inside. The phrase “ye are the temple of God” seems as though it indicates that we are that material from which the temple of God is made. If we then are the material of which the temple of God is composed, then perhaps the real wood and stone used in the building represents us as the real spiritual material used in the spiritual temple. To begin to understand how this can be so, it is important to ask what we know about the materials used in the temple, and how they might look like us. We will begin searching this out by examining the wood.
In Psalms 52:7,8 we find an interesting statement being made by David.
“Lo this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.”
Let’s examine the statement “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God”. First notice that this verse shows that it is a valid picture to look at a man as a tree in the house of God. David is not literally a tree, but is stating that he is “like” a tree. This shows that the tree is intended to be a picture. Notice that the tree is described as being green, indicating that the tree has life.
The primary point about these verses is to look at why David pictured himself as a green olive tree in the house of God, which is certainly a desirable position in which to be. David’s position of being in the house of God shows closeness to God, a relationship with God. David clearly contrasts himself with someone who was not in the house of God. The man who was not in the house of God did not make God his strength. It is implied that David, in contrast, relied on the strength of God. The man who was not in the house of God trusted in the abundance of his riches. Although David had abundant riches, he trusted in God. The wicked man strengthened himself in his wickedness. In contrast, it is implied that David turned from sin and drew strength from God’s righteousness. David says “I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever”. What does the “mercy of God” mean? It was God’s mercy which David states, was the key thing in which he trusted. The word for mercy has to do with God’s faithfulness to His covenant. David trusted God to do what He said He would do. David had confidence and trusted in the Word of God and the promises which God had made. Within these verses then we have the wonderful news of how to become like a green, living tree in the house of God. We must turn away from trusting in sin and the things of this world, and instead we must trust in the strength of God’s righteousness and His promise to provide salvation. We can trust in God’s promise of salvation forever and ever as we enjoy eternal life with Him in His house.
Now let’s look at the picture of men as trees from a different perspective. Before the wood could become a part of the temple, it existed as trees.
Solomon began gathering wood for the construction of the temple by talking to Hiram, king of Tyre, and asking for his help in obtaining cedar trees out of Lebanon. Solomon said to Hiram,
“…command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon…” I Kings 5:6
The word “Lebanon” means “white mountain”1 A missionary who planned to go to Israel once spoke at our church. When I looked at his prayer card, it caught my eye because in the background was a tall, snow-capped mountain. The caption on the picture said that the missionaries in the picture were in Israel looking towards Lebanon. With this picture in mind, it becomes apparent why they called Lebanon “white mountain”.
When we think of a white, snow-capped mountain, we think of a very high place. We can envision tall cedar trees high on the mountain, growing there naturally, getting taller and taller as time goes on, year by year adding more rings of wood and increasing in diameter. The trees struggle to outgrow each other to reach more sunlight. They search to find an opening where there is no branch that they might grow there and catch more sun. The tallest ones frequently deprive the smaller trees of the sunlight they need to thrive. They must have very strong roots to grow so tall.
Imagine for a moment that these tall trees on the mountain are a picture of men in their natural state. Just as trees are in their natural state, so are men who are unsaved. They are lifted high with pride and growing more proud as time goes on. They selfishly struggle with each other, pushing each other out of the way in order to attain new heights, reaching for new possessions and accomplishments and power so that they can outdo their neighbors. Many are searching for an opening where they can go to fulfill their wants—that lottery ticket, that booming business, that boyfriend or girlfriend, that beer, that… thing that will make them happy. In the process, they frequently deprive their neighbors of that which they need. Their roots are firmly attached to this world. They live their own lives, depending on no one else.
At the base of the tree of every human heart in its natural state, there is a root of sin.
“…There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:10b-18
One must only look at a screaming, pouting two-year old in the grocery store to know that mankind, when left to his own natural desires, is quick to choose the way of sin and selfish rebellion. In fact, you might see all of the behaviors and attitudes described by these verses exhibited in the actions of that two-year old. When that two year old grows up, those behaviors may not be as blatant, but they are still there, and the same sinful attitudes are still driving what he does. It is not only the blatant two year old, but notice that this passage says “there is none righteous, no not one”. There is not a single one of us who in God’s eyes is good, no matter how you might try. As you picture men as trees, realize that at the very base of the tree of man’s being is a twisted root of sin and death. The very first man and woman sunk their roots into sin and death, and every man and woman, except Jesus, since that time has followed suit. Sin is a self-destructive blight on the human race.
Pay attention to the news for a few days and you will soon begin to realize that humanity is stuck on some kind of a deranged self-destruct mode:
- Since history began to be recorded, the nations of mankind have destroyed and killed each other in wars. Some would even today perform violence and wars as part of their religion. Others would even promote war as a way to selfishly gain riches and power for themselves profiting from the destruction of other people’s lives.
- The industries and activities mankind is involved in damage the environment and carelessly and wastefully deplete the natural resources of this beautiful globe. The health of mankind and the availability of needed natural food and energy resources are endangered, suppressed or corrupted, in order to satisfy mankind’s cravings for money, power, and pleasure.
- A large portion of mankind is hopelessly addicted to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, and junk food, each in its own way slowly working toward the death of those caught in their grasp.
- Almost every member of mankind that owns a television mindlessly wastes his life away sitting mesmerized in front of it, glued fast by his own lusts.
- Mankind’s mothers often kill their own babies by abortion.
On and on and on it goes. Perhaps the self destructiveness of sin is why it is so repulsive to God as He watches the people whom He loved more than anything, the people whom He created to look like Himself, destroy themselves by selfishly sucking on that rotten root until they die of its vile poison. It must break the heart of God.
Think about what sin is, and you will soon see how suicidal it really is to the human race as a whole. Beginning with the very first man and woman, sin manifested itself in a terrible way. Although God told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they ate it anyway. Suppose that I warned you not to drink insecticide or you would die. Suppose that you ignored me and drank it anyway. What could be a more self-destructive behavior? Sin was passed on to every descendant of Adam and Eve. Our roots all tie back to that original taproot of self destruction in Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve’s son, Cain, showed that sin is passed on to descendants when he exhibited the same self-destructive type of behavior by killing his brother Abel. The sin of murder is the self-destruction of the human race by killing each other off. The terrible blight of sin has been passed down from tree to tree among mankind’s offspring. We all suffer death from the terrible root of sin.
Perhaps you think that you have lived a good and moral life and that you don’t deserve to die. In Jesus’ day the religious Pharisees thought that they were good. They worked hard at being good. They did their best to live morally. They dedicated themselves to paying attention to every last minute detail, but Jesus’ harshest condemnation fell on them. God has proclaimed, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) Adam and Eve committed only one sin to be defiled in God’s sight. We are born in sin. We can not be good enough in God’s eyes by our own efforts no matter how hard we may try. Even if one might think they have always lived perfectly, God who sees all hearts and knows the truth says that ALL have sinned.
All sins lead down the same road. For instance, perhaps you think that lying is not always so bad. However, consider that little sins somehow have a way of turning into bigger sins. What started as a little lie even in jest will eventually work its way into a bigger lie and somehow affect someone else. Maybe a child will see you joking about lying and will begin to think it is acceptable to lie. Your little lie may push someone else toward an even worse sin. That person’s sin may push someone else toward an even worse sin, and on and on until it works its way toward the end of nudging the human race a little closer to destruction. This old root is a twisted, tangled mass; the whole thing is rotten. The sins of man tangle and interact and feed on one another. You can never tell how your sin will affect someone else, no matter how insignificant that sin might seem.
Let’s look at the sin of gluttony. It is another sin that doesn’t seem so bad. It’s just eating more than you need, but think with me about what this sin does. If you routinely eat too much you will become overweight and run a high risk of dying prematurely of heart disease, diabetes, or any number of other diseases. When one dies prematurely he will lose precious days of opportunity to turn to the Savior. The sin of gluttony is self-destruction by eating too much.
I could go through a similar scenario for every sin imaginable; but every little strand of the root, no matter how small, even though it does not bring about immediate physical death, branches back to eventual destruction in the main stem of the root. It is easiest for us to see in the physical realm, but sin has the same effect in the spiritual realm. The spiritual consequence of sin is far worse than the physical result because the spiritual outcome is eternal death. The penalty of sin is to suffer in separation from God forever. One cannot find an example of a sin, no matter how small it may seem, that does not in some way lead to death and self-destruction of the person and of the human race. There is none.
“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a
What sins can you see present in your own life? How could they lead to death?
If you are not in God’s temple, do you realize what having this root of sin is doing to you? It will eventually kill you physically and spiritually. It will destroy your body and doom your soul to an eternity of everlasting death and suffering in hell. Do you hate that old root? Can you see what it has done to you? Can you see the plight of the trees of mankind? Our root being sin and death and decay cannot support the massive weight of pride for long and we all eventually tumble down to the grave. God hates sin. He can only stand to watch it eat away at the root of mankind for so long. His judgment is coming for those who do not know Him as their Savior.
“Behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.” Isaiah 10:33, 34
“But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.” Proverbs 2:22
“Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of Hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 5:24
God is not expressing anger toward literal trees in the verses above, for real trees are obviously not capable of taking action to do something that enrages God. The trees are intended to be a picture of men who are full of pride and who have transgressed against God. We have all transgressed God’s perfect law, we all deserve to be cut down and cast into the fire. Do you realize that if you have rejected Jesus Christ as your Savior, that you have rejected His Word, and this judgment is for you?
Is there hope? Must we all suffer the forest fire of hell for eternity? Is there a way to halt the timer on this mad self-destruct mode?
Yes, friend there is hope. God has provided a way of escape. It is important to God that people be spared from this judgment. These verses are written as a warning. God is trying to emphasize to people that they should turn to Him as their only hope for salvation so that they will not have to suffer this way. God emphasizes the importance of this warning by its placement in the Word of God. He warns us about the forest fire of His judgment in the last chapter of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:1), as well as in the first sermon of the New Testament (Matthew 3:10).
Let’s continue thinking about the trees used in the temple. God said that a house should be built to His name. Trees from the forests of Lebanon were to be cut down to build this house for God. The verses we just read from Isaiah 10 pronounced judgment on the trees of the forests of Lebanon, but the trees used in the house of God would be spared this judgment because they would no longer be in the forests of Lebanon.
The trees could not be used in the house of God unless they were cut down. No carpenter would use a tree that has been dug up with a mass of roots still attached. A separation from their roots had to take place. When a person is chosen by God to become a part of God’s spiritual house, his pride must be humbled much like the trees used in the temple had to tumble to the ground after they were cut down. To be a part of God’s house, a person must realize that he can never attain to God’s standard, and that his roots of sin are keeping him from God. When a person becomes a part of God’s house, he is severed from those awful roots of sin. As a tree when it is cut down is dead, so a man severed from those roots is dead to the sin he once knew. He is cut free from that sin to be used in the building of God’s house. Are you willing to humble yourself before God and leave your roots of sin behind? We must be separated from the very root, that seemingly most vital part of us. We cannot just prune a few leaves or a branch. The root is part of what we are. When we are separated from sin; it is not just something superficial. We must turn from the very root of who we are. Sin and selfish pride will be found at the root. We, who are immersed in sin and so fully entangled in it, can only leave that old root behind as we die to self.
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Romans 6:6-8
Being separated from our roots, we become separated from the world although still in the world. Just as the trees were separated from their roots holding them to the world, when we are saved, we are separated from our roots of sin which cling to this old sinful world. Those roots of sin can no longer hold us. We are set free. We no longer depend on the world for our support and life. A tree severed from its roots can no longer draw up nourishment through them. We become dependent on God, and the life we have is given to us by Him. Jesus is the Bread of Life. The things of the world become empty and un-nourishing in comparison to the wonderful life-giving food that is supplied to those who trust in God.
When we are separated from our roots of sin, we become something very special. It is not that being a chopped-down tree is anything special, but that we are destined to be used for a very special purpose. We are not just another tree in the forest; we are set apart to be a part of a very special spiritual building. We are a part of the temple, the very house of God!
Trees do not cut themselves down. Just as it would be ridiculous to think that any tree could ever wield the axe against itself, so it is absurd to think that any man could ever free himself from the root of sin. God is the One who has accomplished the work of salvation making it possible for us to be a part of the temple. As we continue, I hope you will begin to realize just how awesome God’s work of love really was.
God has an axe that can cut the tree down no matter how tall it stands with pride.
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
It can seem a fearful thing to let God do His work, and to allow Him to separate us from our root of sin, that root we depend on. As you will soon see, God has a better root, a root of life for you. As you read this book, and as you look at the type of work Jesus, the spiritual craftsman does, think about whether you can trust Him. If God has chosen you as a tree to be used in His house, He will find a way to bring you to the realization that you can trust in Him to do His work of salvation. He works in many ways in our lives to bring us to the place that He wants us to be.
Cutting the tree down is the beginning event which must occur before any shaping of the wood may take place. Those who have trusted Christ and are ministering to others are “laborers together with God”. We share with Him this very basic work, wielding the Word, gathering men, the logs of wood from which are built God’s house.
Solomon said to Hiram, “…and my servants shall be with thy servants…” (I Kings 5:6).
Solomon’s servants were Jews and Hiram’s servants were Gentiles from a neighboring kingdom, but we see that both are working together to cut timber for the building. God is no respecter of persons. He wants both Jews and Gentiles involved in His work. How often do we hinder the work of God because we are unwilling to work with certain groups of His servants? Jesus died to cleanse all men of sin. He loved us even though we were unclean to Him. How can I be so bold as to find someone unacceptable to work with even though the Lord in all His holiness has accepted us both as His fellow laborers?
Let’s take a closer look at the servants that Hiram supplied for the work. We find Solomon speaking to Hiram and saying:
“…and unto thee will I give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.” I Kings 5:6
What was special about the Sidonians that made them so much better at hewing timber that Solomon was willing to pay whatever amount Hiram wanted? Who were these exceptionally skilled Sidonian people? When I looked up the word “Sidonians”, I discovered that the word means “fishing place”2 How odd that people who were known for their fishing would be the best at lumberjacking. Here were fishermen going out to get trees. Were they fishing for trees? In Matthew 4:18-19 at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He calls Peter and Andrew, “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Here were fishermen going out to catch men. How odd to fish for men. Could it be that we are intended to see in the picture of the temple, that the Sidonians were not fishermen chopping down trees, they were fishing for men? There seems to be an interesting parallel.
It is reassuring to know that although we may seem as ill-fitted to do a job as fishermen seem to be for cutting down trees, (or I as a tool engineer am to write a book about the temple), God knows who is best for the job, and it is up to us to follow Him no matter how strange His path may seem. There are many instances in the Bible of people who would seem to be unsuitable in our opinion to do a job that seems impossible. God chose a shepherd boy named David to go to battle against the strongest, biggest, baddest, boldest warrior that the enemy army of giants could find. God chose Rahab, the prostitute, to rescue the spies who came to Jericho. She became one of the people in the genealogy of Christ. Joseph, rejected by his own brothers and sold into slavery, was chosen by God to become a ruler in Egypt, and to rescue his brothers from the famine so that Israel might be preserved as a nation. Jesus chose some fishermen to be His disciples. In every case, God has an infinitely better understanding of who is needed to do a job and how to prepare the selected person for that task.
Why does God choose people who don’t seem to have the strength, the education, the social standing, the resources or the freedom needed to accomplish the task? God wants it to be obvious that it is His work, and not the hand of man that shapes lives to glorify Him. God wants the glory, and we must be careful not to rob Him of it by forcing our own desires and plans. God will make us fishers of men or whatever He wants us to be. Remember that it is He who is the Master Carpenter and can make anything He pleases. It is not our job to try to become something we are not. We must only follow Him. He will accomplish the making of us.
“…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
Having said that, now the question is, if He called you, did you follow Him? Sometimes it is not easy to follow Jesus. He goes into some pretty rough territory and difficult situations. Sometimes the fish aren’t biting. Sometimes you have to take time to learn to wield the axe before you will be able to accomplish much. Maybe this means that we follow Jesus for many years while He does carpentry work before He begins His ministry. Maybe He wants us to cleanse the temple with Him. Maybe He wants us to confront some Pharisees. Maybe he wants us to minister to a Samaritan or wash some feet. Wherever Jesus goes, you don’t have to follow Him long before you begin to realize the incredible love He has for those around Him, and a deep concern for their souls.
“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:36
Do you love those around you in this way? Are you concerned for them as Jesus was? Have you followed Him while He looked over the multitudes?
Wherever He leads us, He wants us to deny our selfish desires and give our life over to Him, that we might do His will. Jesus said,
“…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:23, 24
Are we willing to give our life to God? Jesus gave His life for us. Will you give up your own agenda and take up the cross?
After the trees were cut down, they had to be transported to Israel to be prepared for use in the temple building. Hiram said,
“…I will convey them by sea in floats unto the place that thou shalt appoint me, and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them…” I Kings 5:9
Now if our theory is correct that the newly-felled trees represent people rescued from sin, it is not much of a stretch to think that floating the logs across the sea represents baptism. (By the way, notice that water was not sprinkled or poured on the logs, they were put down into the water.) Until the logs were floated across the sea, they could have been used for any purpose, but once they were floated across, their purpose was set. They were then to be used for God’s glory in the temple building. When we are baptized, our purpose is also set, to obediently follow Christ and to have a part in glorifying Him.
“…How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:2-4
As I mentioned in the last chapter, there was a time in my life when I had an issue of pride and disobedience that God had to deal with before I could write this book. Well, the problem was that I was not baptized. For eight long years, God dragged this unwilling log along until He got me to the place where I could be floated across the sea. For many years people thought I was saved when I was six. When I really did get saved at the age of twenty-six, I did not think about getting baptized for about a year afterwards until pastor preached on baptism. At the time I was engaged to my wife and did not get baptized because I was worried about what her parents would think. I began finding it hard to pray. I found myself returning to the old thoughts. From time to time God convicted me. But I was always afraid of what people would think. What would the teens and their parents think if their youth leader got baptized? What would the people of the church think if a board member was baptized? What would people think of my waiting so long to get baptized?
In the mean time, it wasn’t long after I was saved that God began showing me the picture of the temple. As I began collecting thoughts on the temple I realized that it was something special, something important that ties a lot of what the Bible says together and presents a powerful picture of who we are, what God is making us to be, and Who God is. I began to realize that God wanted me to share this picture with others. I felt as if I had to make this known to as many people as possible. As I continued collecting more and more thoughts, I realized that I had enough material for a book. I began to feel God calling me to write a book. I actually began writing the book, but didn’t get very far. You see, I felt like such a hypocrite. How could I write about the logs being floated across when I was not willing to be obedient in baptism myself? I could never write this book, at least not in the power of the Spirit, if I refused to be baptized. The book sat for about a year and a half.
At my place of employment, things were going slowly and becoming frustrating. I had a lot of time to think. I began to wonder if I was wandering spiritually in the wilderness like the children of Israel who also failed to be obedient.
My wife became pregnant and I began to wonder how I could possibly expect obedience from our child when I, myself was unwilling to be obedient to my Father.
Then one morning while I sat in church, pastor preached from the book of Daniel. The Lord got hold of my heart and shook it when pastor said that Satan targets those who promote the doctrine of Christology. Immediately I thought of my book. I knew that once I had written it, it would be stuffed full of teachings on Christ. I literally trembled in the pew, frightened to think that Satan was after me.
We began having a series of lessons in Sunday school where we saw how that when God gave a powerful victory to someone, the person had asked God for the victory that the world may know Who God is. I began praying every day that God would give me the boldness to be baptized that I might write this book in the power of the Spirit with a clear conscience that the world may know Who God is as revealed in the temple.
God continued turning up the heat in more and more ways. Shortly after my wife had our baby, she got an infection. She was miserable for several days. I felt horrible watching her suffer, knowing that God brought this into my life to get me to be obedient to Him. I felt as if this was God using a little stick to discipline me. I didn’t want to see what the big one looked like. Finally after a few more weeks, I yielded to God and wrote my pastor a letter explaining all this as well as how I had come to be saved. I went forward in church during the invitation and was baptized a couple weeks later. Praise God for giving the victory!
Friend, if you have trusted Christ for your salvation, but have not been obedient to the Lord in baptism, do not let what people think stop you from being obedient to God.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25
God’s people rejoice when they see someone getting right with God. You will never be used for God’s glory in the temple until you are floated across the sea. Baptism is an expression of your willingness to be obedient to God, and your willingness to unashamedly be associated with Him and His people. You will never serve God with a clear conscience until this basic step of baptism has been performed as God commanded.
The author believes that it is valid to look at the materials used in the walls as being symbolic since the walls had carvings on them. Although many places in scripture, men are likened to trees, we are not, however, told by scripture the specific meaning of the wood used in the temple walls. Please bear with me, as we go along further, I think you will begin to see how it all fits together.