Deuteronomy 16:21


You shall not plant for yourself an idolatrous Asherah tree—any grove of (ritual) trees—near the altar of ADONAI your God, which you shall make for yourself.


The Bible begins with a cursed tree and a blessed tree, both in the Garden of Eden. Humanity carried out a pagan tradition of planting cursed Asherah trees in groves of idolatrous worship. That worship was characterized by vile practices of male and female prostitution in their temples as part of religious fertility rites. The stylus obelisk is a representation of it in stone. Nebuchadnezzar erected a golden image of himself that was sixty cubits tall and six cubits wide, similar in pride to an obelisk, and through it he demanded emperor worship from his subjects. (Daniel 3:1) The Romans carried the tradition forward in their temples throughout the empire, demanding emperor worship from their citizens from the time of Augustus Caesar forward until the empire was destroyed by invading hordes from the east. In Deuteronomy 16:21 the Bible forbids planting such evil trees near the sacred altar of God. In Isaiah 66:17, the curse of God remains on the pagan practice all the way through to the end of the biblical ages of redemption. In that text the expression “one tree in the midst of the gardens” is a haunting recollection of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that was in the midst of the Garden of Eden and by which mankind fell. May the anathema of God be upon the pagan adoration of that tree!


But there is also a blessed tree. This tree stands immediately before the vail behind which rests the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in the Temple: this tree is the Menorah, which can be understood mystically as a replica in gold of the Burning Bush which Moses witnessed on Mount Sinai in the Arabian Desert when God called to him from the Divine Flames that inhabited the bush. (Exodus 3)


Deuteronomy 21:22-23 tells a strange tale of execution on a tree, saying, “And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is to be put to death, and you hang him on a tree:  His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that your land be not defiled, which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance.” This is the fore-type of the crucifixion of our Lord, whose body was taken down from the tree before sundown on the day when he was lifted up on the cross. Galatians 3:13-14 tells us “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”


Isaac carried the wood of his own sacrifice in the Akeida. (Genesis 22)


In Revelation 5:6, in the scene of the Heavenly Temple, we see that “in the midst of the Throne (of God) and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” This is the Living Menorah in Heaven—the Lamb that was slain on the day that Jesus was crucified. This is the ultimate expression of the Bush that Moses saw.


The cross was the instrument by which Yeshua took upon himself the curse for our sins, so that now he is able to bear away from us the divine wrath that was due to the children of Adam. We see the wood of his sacrifice (like the wood borne by Isaac on the day he was offered when God provided instead the Ram that was caught by his horns in a bush, the Ram crowned with thorns) as the sweet Tree of Life from which flows into us eternal grace and mercy through our Savior, our resurrected Lord. The grace of the blessed tree.


So then, with John in the final benediction of the Bible in the book of Revelation, we cry out, “Hey charis tou Kuriou Iesou Christou meta pantohn: The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

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