Teaching at the Tree is communicated in a practical, easy to understand way that is relevant to your everyday life. It’s not religious jargon, just the truth of God’s word presented in a loving and challenging way.
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Genesis 1:26-29; 2:15 (ESV)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
It’s commonly said that we are a product of our environment and there is certainly some truth to that, but today’s reading also points to the truth that we are a product made for our environment. No, this isn’t a plug to help you discover how to mitigate some environmental issue going on in the world. This devotional thought is aimed at encouraging each one of us to ponder more deeply why the setting where God has placed us matters. Like chalk is made to write on a chalk board, we are designed with purpose by God to “live and move and have our being” as it says in Acts 17:28. It is the exact location where He purposed you for. He decided that this time in history, through your dad and mom, who lived in whatever location they lived in, would be the ideal environment to place you in. He did this for Adam and Eve when He put them in the garden of Eden, and He has done it for every human who has ever lived. God knew He wanted to use you in that place.
Keep in mind that when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, it was a place without sin. Their environment, and the people therein, were not originally impacted by the devastation of sin. This was God’s ideal place for all of us. Some of you have lived in and experienced devastating environments. God never wanted you to experience an environment broken by sin. However, He also promised to help us rise out of the brokenness of sin and overcome as He has overcome. His plan is restoration, meaning He can rebuild you, no matter how harsh your environment was to you. He loves you that much, and still wants you to find a place where you can serve Him and enjoy Him. My friends, please don’t believe the lie that God somehow misplaced you. You, my friend, were made with a God-given purpose and identity. It will take faith and courage to believe God put you here and desires for you to “work it and keep it” alongside of Him and the body of Christ He has placed you in. Go…live and move and have your being!
I don’t know about you, but God’s creativity in nature leaves me without words. We’re in the midst of pumpkin season, and this year I was struck by the thought that if I were God on the day pumpkins were made, I would have created one fat orange pumpkin and been pretty proud of myself! After all, it was something out of nothing! But not God…He couldn’t help His creativity, and the day pumpkins and gourds were made He made 700 types that look nothing alike! It’s like He just couldn’t hold it in. I think scripture is clear our Father takes joy in creating, similar to you and I when we were small and made a playdough something-or-other. We wanted to share the joy that thing brought us with everyone who’d bother to look. Well, we are just that, the favorite of His creation. And like everything God does, He wants us to come alongside what He is doing, so He shared nature with us, to take care of and to enjoy. I sometimes think we may not realize how much God still takes care of us through nature.
You see, nothing can calm my insides quite like nature (mosquitos excluded). If I’m stressed, I walk on park trails, and the trees give me a sense of being closed in by something bigger than myself, a sense of being held. When I feel overwhelmed, I like to find a quiet spot outside and steal a minute to take in the sky. What a gift a fresh morning is to us, to remind us that each day really is a new beginning, no matter how the last one ended. There’s nothing like the sense I get from a sunny afternoon...almost like God is smiling, to remind me that no matter the chaos of my day, there is a Father who is constant in His joy, hope, and pleasure. And the peace in a vast starry night reminds me of my smallness…not a feeling of insignificance, but a reminder of how enormously in control our God is and that I am treasured even more than those beautiful stars.
And then there are the daily lessons He gives me through nature. We all have the privilege of taking care of His creation. For me, I get to work with flowers in a space on our small farm. The beauty we’re rewarded with as spring rolls to summer is a gift that boggles my mind. But I’m telling you, flower farming is way more work than we would have ever imagined starting out a few years back. The lessons I’ve learned through waiting and praying for seeds to sprout (like some people I love), battling seemingly endless weeds (those nagging struggles in life), and tearing down what’s still producing for a new year I can’t yet see (stepping out in faith), have been more than I can count. I have grown a great appreciation for how effortlessly God holds all natural things in balance, an act I couldn’t maintain without Him. And I’m aware now more than ever, that if we’re willing to look, if we’ll ask Him to keep our eyes open, He has a lesson for whatever life we live, in everything around us. Isn’t that just like God, to squeeze every last ounce of goodness and purpose out of His gifts to us, whether those gifts look like challenges or peaceful lessons from the creation He gave us. But I have learned that even when the lessons are tough…there is the hope that nature reminds me of, that God always produces something beautiful in the end.
Genesis 1:30-2:3 (ESV)
And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
God has just finished creating the universe, looked around, and was pleased with what He made. Just a few verses earlier in this chapter, God created man. He wanted man to rule over His creation as God’s “representatives.” Man was made to care for God’s creation. What a responsibility! He expected humans to use the earth wisely, and oversee it with the same care and responsibility God did when He created it. When He finished, He said it was all “very good.”
A week earlier, the world was this big, empty void, and by His voice, it was filled with wonder. At the end of each day of creation, God would deem His creation “good.” Once He finished, however, it was “very good.” Everything He created reflects His goodness. Even when sin came into the world, God’s creation was still “very good” because it was, and is, a constant reminder of the greatness of His power and imagination.
When creation was complete, God rested. He didn’t rest because He was tired. He is God. “Tired” isn’t possible for Him. Yet He modeled that once a week, we should rest. He was establishing a pattern for man to follow, a pattern where we take a day to reflect and to rest. A day we can say is “very good” because we look at all God has done in our lives, all the creation surrounding us, we thank Him for all that He has done, and rest.
Genesis 1:1-25 (ESV)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
God creates and what He makes is good…period. It doesn’t necessarily matter how we feel and think about some of the things He created. In God’s eyes, it is all good. That could be the end of it; however, the passage in Genesis is saying more. God goes further and creates a specific environment that is made perfect for His creation. Why? Because He cares about His creation and designs a world where we can not only survive but thrive. In the first four days, Genesis tells us that God speaks a world into order, a world made for abundant life. Oxygen and hydrogen are combined to make water, light is separated from darkness, land appears, “the earth sprouts vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit.” On the fifth day, the planet earth becomes a utopia for living animals. Plants are also created for a sustainable food source, through their seeds. Sea life swim in the great bodies of water and winged birds fly across the sky. From the smallest “creeping thing” to the largest beast of the land, the earth is teaming with life. Not only does God create life, He blesses them to multiply and live in every kind of terrain. After every day of the account of creation, God stops and sees that what He creates is good. God’s intricate work to make this earth assures us that everything has a plan and purpose. Our God is so good.
Isaiah 45:12 (NLT)
I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command.
This verse is plucked out of a chapter of verses spoken to remind God’s children that their future was in His control. Creation tells of God’s power and the Bible tells of His salvation. The two combined reveal His glory! In this verse, God is reminding them of His creative power and His vast provision, not only in creating the earth and galaxies…but in creating the intricacies of people! He didn’t create the world to be chaos, but to be inhabited and enjoyed. What more can be needed by people than the friendship and protection of Him who made the heavens and the earth, and who still controls the stars!
“I have made the earth” - God asserts that He had made all things, doubtless with a view to show that He was able to hear their cry and to grant an answer to their requests. His work was visible everywhere, in forming and sustaining all things, and in raising up for them a deliverer. They might, therefore, go before Him with confidence, and spread out all their needs.