Trees Tell the story of Israel & Nations!
Shalom Partner and Friend of Israel,
"I (God) will put the Cedar in the wilderness, The Acacia and the Myrtle and the Olive tree; I (God) will place the Juniper in the desert Together with the (Ashur) Box tree and the Cypress…” – Isaiah 41:19. Trees are the “lungs” of the earth and a gift to us from God… Trees contribute to the environment by providing oxygen. Some species of trees are known for their special qualities; The “mighty” oak is known for its durability and strength. The “whispering” pine provides a soft hush in the background as the wind blows through its needles. The weeping willow displays its cascading branches that gracefully sway in the breeze and are often overhanging a quiet pond or stream. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe.
As the biggest plants on the planet, they take in and store the carbon dioxide that we breath out and give release the oxygen we need – they are natural “air filters.” Trees are important to improving not only our air quality but also contribute to improving the climate on earth, stabilising the soil and give life to the world's wildlife. They also help us by conserving water, preserving soil and preventing erosion. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelters, wood for fire - etc. Trees are vital to life on earth! "When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?” – Deuteronomy 20:19.
Trees are the oldest living things on earth. There are trees alive today that were already ancient in the time of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. In fact, God gives trees a ring to mark every birthday! God is always trying to teach humans to think long-term! Trees can live as long as 10,000 years. Living just three score and ten years, we get blinded by short-term gain and lose sight of eternity. God wants us to see the forest - and the trees. In Israel planting a tree it is said that by doing so; “Is to believe in the future!
Trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and people. “Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God.”- Genesis 21:33. And every major character has a tree associated with it. Yeshua (Jesus) died on a tree because it was prophesied in the Old Testament. It was on the Sea of Galilee in a boat made of wood that the Disciples saw the miraculous work of our Lord (Luke 5:4-6; Mark 4:35-41). But what about the life of Yeshua (Jesus)…? The only physical description of Christ says that – “He looks like a small plant or tree” (Isaiah 53:2). Yeshua (Jesus) grew up in a carpenter’s home a fact attested to by the local residents of the town where he grew up (Matthew 13:55). It is almost certain that the wood craftsman skills of Joseph were learned by our Lord as the custom in those days among the working class was that a trade be passed down from father to son, and was often done through several generations. The scriptures make reference to this custom in Mark 6:3 where we see Yeshua (Jesus) visiting His hometown of Nazareth. While there, he is actually called a carpenter by the local residents.
The Lord spoke much about “seeds of faith” …and said that the kingdom of heaven was like a Mustard tree…
The Lord called Disciples from under trees, and sinners from their branches and His favourite place to pray was in an "olive grove." The only thing He ever harmed was a tree, and the only thing that could harm Him was a tree! Trees, like our Lord and Saviour "give" rather than "take!" They give, and they keep giving. They give life and beauty. They give shade and rest. They clean the air. They hold back erosion. They offer shelter, food, and protection. The worst possible thing to use a tree for is to kill someone. A crucifix is a picture of how low humanity can sink, and how far God will go to rescue us! "The Word of the LORD came to me saying, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" And I said, "I see a rod of an Almond tree." Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over My Word to perform it." – Jeremiah 1:11-12.
God wants us to replenish the earth…. What did God do when He established the world? He took a dry land and made it fertile. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground - trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden where the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Genesis 2:9. It is our jobs to keep the earth green and healthy since He trusted it to us as we are given only one earth.
Rabbi Joshua Ben Levy taught, “Why is Israel said to be like the olive tree? To tell you that even as the leaves of an olive tree fall neither during the summer nor during the rainy season, so Israel will never cease to be, not in this world nor in the hereafter.” The evergreen olive tree is relatively low – 2 to 6 meters high. Its trunk is twisted and gnarled, and its most prominent features are the thickness of its trunk and its silvery foliage. In Israel, it grows wild and is also cultivated. The most obvious difference between the wild trees and the cultivated varieties is the size of the fruit: the fruit of cultivated trees is usually relatively larger; the pulp is fleshier and the oil content is higher. Olive trees live longer than most other fruit trees – even for centuries. Some of the ancient trees now growing in the Galilee are thought to be approximately 1,000 years old.
The contrast between the green canopy of the olive tree and the sturdiness of its trunk with the signs of old age in the crevices of its hollow trunk forms the foundation of “a legend” told by the ancestors of the Jewish people, as follows… “When King Solomon died, the trees of the garden also mourned – the fig, the vine, the pomegranate. As a sign of grief, they shed their green leaves. Only the olive tree did not shed its leaves and stood with the glory of its green canopy. The other trees asked the olive: “You, king of the trees, is it not most unbefitting for you not to mourn the death of our King?” The olive tree replied, “You have shed your leaves so that all might see your sorrow, but my sorrow is hidden in my heart and it is greater than yours, for behold, my heart is dry and the sap of my trunk has withered!”
The Bible compares Israel to three trees; The Vine: symbolizes Israel’s Spiritual privileges (Psalm 80:7; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Isaiah 10:1-2). The Fig Tree: symbolizes Israel’s National privileges (Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah. 24:5; Matthew 24:32, 33). The Olive Tree: symbolizes Israel’s Religious privileges (Hosea 14:5–6; Isaiah 17:4-6; Isaiah 24:5-15; Psalm 52:8; Psalm 128; Romans 11:7–24). In the Old Testament, Jews alone were part of the covenantal olive tree. In Romans 11, Paul tells us that the Gentiles are now the “wild olive branches”- “grafted into the Olive tree,” right beside the Jews. And, in the Old Testament, “branches” (individual people) could be “cut off” from the olive tree as judgment for unfaithfulness to God (Jeremiah 11:16). Likewise, Gentile “branches” can be "cut off" as judgment for unfaithfulness to God (Romans 11:22). So we see that those who claim that the “Wild Olive Branches” that are grafted in represent the Church and that the Church has taken the place of Israel, are in error and “replacement theology” …for the “Wild Olive Branches” do not remain on the “Good Olive Tree,” but will be broken off that the original branches may be grafted back again.
Three things very important to remember and the order in which they MUST to take place prophetically… (1) “Blindness” in part has happened to Israel until the “Fullness of the Gentiles come in.” By the “fullness of Gentiles” - is NOT meant the “Times of the Gentiles,” but those Gentiles who shall be saved through the Gospel. And when the last Gentile shall be saved then the “full number” of saved Gentiles will be complete. (2) That the “Wild Olive Branches” (Church) that are grafted in do not take the place of the branches (Israel) that were broken off, and if they don’t “continue in God's goodness” like Israel can be broken off again. (3) That God has not “Cast Away” His people Israel and that He will revive the broken off branches of Israel and graft them back again into the “One New Man” – Israel and the Church.
We are surely the Generation that saw the “fig tree” (Israel) putting forth it's leaves and its branch is tender. Everyone today knows that Israel is back in their land… Yeshua (Jesus) said when you see the fig tree come back to life, as all the trees do out of the dead of winter, it begins to sprout and become green and burst forth, it seemed to be dead but it returns to life; “…that when you see this happen you know that summer is near so to when you see the budding of the fig tree know this that My Coming is near even at the very door and the generation that sees the budding of the fig tree shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled” - Matthew 24:32-36).
Why did Yeshua (Jesus) associate a “fig tree” with Israel and the End Time signs? Quite simply – the fig tree is one of the last trees to bud in the spring. And, so when its leaves are budding, we know that summer is just around the corner! Was the Lord comparing it just the natural seasons? No! Here He was simply saying; “…when the fig tree (Israel) buds (back in her land) you know that summer is near – likewise, when you see all these things happening, know that the end (last days) is near!” He used the concept of a Parable, implying that underneath He was teaching a deep truth. Was our Lord referring to Israel in the Last Days? Yes! When did the fig tree (Israel) bud? 14th May, 1948!
"At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail."- Job 14:7. Since Israel’s rebirth in 1948 Israel has the significance of being the only country that entered the 21st century with more trees than it had at the beginning of the 20th century. We are indeed living Ezekiel's prophesy (Ezekiel 34:26-27) as we see Israel back in the land and the trees yielding their fruit! While not biblical, even Mark Twain referenced this in his book Innocence Abroad; “Israel, is a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds, a silent mournful expanse… A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere!" That was then! Today, thanks to the planting of millions of trees, Mark Twain would be shocked and Ezekiel would be beaming in joy.
“King David compared himself to an olive tree… “But I am like a thriving olive tree in God’s house; I trust in the faithfulness of God for ever and ever.”- Psalm 52:10. The emblem of the IDF combines three motifs: the Magen David, a sword, and an olive branch. The sword and the olive branch are also on the badge given to graduates of the IDF Officers Course!
Did you know that in Israel, trees are an important part of life and in Israel there is even a “New Year for trees” (Tu B’Shevat) or birthday for trees?
This year, “Tu B'Shevat” will fall on evening of 09th-10th February, 2020. On the Biblical Calendar, the 15th day of the Hebrew month Shevat (corresponding with January or February). Shevat means to blossom in Hebrew. There's a story of a child who sees an old man planting a tree and the child sees this. The child understands that the old man will not live long enough to benefit from the tree's fruit, much less its shade and asks why the old man is planting the tree, to which the old man responds, “My father planted for me and so I plant for my children.” When planted trees represent “the miracle of life.” Schools close and children take trips to plant trees in the land. It's not just an outing; it's a chance to literally connect with the Biblical roots of the land and to plant new roots. Other than planting trees, the day is marked by celebrations involving eating and yes, the fruit from trees! Did you know that in Israel (just like the lion is the “king of the animals” in Africa) the Olive tree is considered to be the “king of the trees?”
We are also reminded that the Bible tells us about the significance of fruit trees in particular, even at times of war; "When you lay siege to a city for a long time, in making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy the trees there by chopping them down with an axe, for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For the tree of the field is not a man in which to lay siege." - Deuteronomy 20:19. Much of Israel’s fruit such as; Olives, dates, grapes, etc. also come from them! Trees are precious and must not be taken for granted and that is why Israel continues to plant trees! “For the pastures of the wilderness are green with grass, the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength,” - Joel 2:22.
Pray4Zion’s new exciting project - “plant a Tree in Israel” is the perfect way to honour your loved ones while making Israel greener and improving the economy; Since October 2019 we were able to personally plant 3 batches of 30 Forest Trees and 3 Olive Trees on behalf of partners in the foothills of Jerusalem and each donor has received their personalized Certificate from the Forestry with the name of the person/ occasion / in honour of etc. Pray4Zion will continue to plant trees! If you would like to plant a tree for a loved one; in honour of Israel; in celebration of someone or event; the birth of a baby or in loving memory of a loved one etc. The costs vary for a Forest tree R400.00 (ZAR) upwards depending upon the tree and where it will be most needed. Olive Trees more expensive R6,000.00 (ZAR) per tree but are cared for by the Forestry for life. Alf & Julie are in Israel and will personally arrange it from there. For more information please contact: Alf Saunders or Mike Lander
Why do we want to plant a tree in Israel? As believers we too are “grafted into” the “Olive Tree” – Israel! By planting trees in Israel, we are continually sowing into the “cradle of Christianity” and helping the Jewish nation grow or as the Word of God says; “the desert bloom!” As Israel is also mostly desert, trees need to be planted and are vitally important to keep the land from becoming “arid” – too dry or barren to support vegetation. All forests trees are hand-planted and require continual care and all kind of trees are needed all year round. In Isaiah 61:1–3; Planting a tree is significant as its roots signify the strength of God and how we are strong like the “roots.” The Scripture talks about being; “oaks of righteousness” and God is speaking to us about being “righteous in Him” and to be “built up as a mighty “oak.” A tree is a symbol of strength, faith, rebirth, and righteousness and all of these attributes are found in the Bible.
Israel is under attack and bombarded with missiles daily and so much damage is done to forests, farm lands and other areas.
Fire Kites are sent across the border from Gaza over into Israel with sole purpose to destroy the Eco system and Israel economy, kill birds and livestock, destroy forestry and the farm lands of Southern Israel. Hamas terrorists don’t want peace but every "piece" of Israel so they will continue until every Jew is killed or brought under Islamic submission. But, as believers we know that those who dare touch God’s land and people will see cursed but those who bless Israel WILL be blessed; Remember the special promises of God to those who help God’s special people and land – Israel; "I will bless them that bless you (Israel) and curse those who curse you (Israel)." - Genesis 12:3.
So how can you help or be a part of this exciting project? (1) Plant a tree in honour of the Nation of Israel; It is here where our Lord and Saviour Yeshua (Jesus) was born and died on the Cross for our salvation. It is here where the Bible was written, the Prophets, the Disciples, Patriarchs, Matriarchs all lived. (2) Plant a tree in honour of Fallen IDF Soldiers; In Israel trees are planted in memory of fallen IDF soldiers killed in battle. There have been over 23,741 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of war and terrorism since the founding of the State in 1948. We are so grateful and thank all partners who have planted a tree for this cause.
With heavy hearts and too many tears, the Jewish people mourn those who have fallen and remember those who gave their lives defending this holy land of Israel. Every day we pray for the peace of Jerusalem as God commands us all to do (Psalm 122:6) …and pray that no more precious lives will have to be lost. Many that have paid the ultimate price with their lives are young soldiers.
3) Plant a tree for a new born baby in the family; In fact, there is an Ancient Jewish custom to plant a tree every time a child is born and then pray over it; “thanking God for the miracle of creation both for the young tree and the new born baby!” Both being unique and original unlike anything that was before or will be …since each began with a single seed that conceals a complex potential that unfolds miraculously with each passing day! The roots of this tree will gain hold and spread deep, drawing nourishment from the fertile earth …and so too the child draws nourishment from its own roots: family, heritage and tradition. For the baby boy typically will plant a “cedar tree” and for a baby girl to plant a “cypress” tree. The hope is that the girls will be “hopeful and fragrant like the cypress tree” and the boys will “grow into strong men like a cedar tree.” Later in their lives, branches from the cypress and cedar of a bride and groom are used to make the “Chuppah” for their wedding ceremony.
(4) Plant a tree “in celebration of” or “in memory of a loved one; What a lovely gesture to plant a tree in their honour and this is why Pray4Zion is part of this exciting project in Israel especially for our partners who would like to plant an Olive tree or a Forest tree/s “as a memorial in “The Grove of Light” in the beautiful foothills of Jerusalem to honour “a loved one” and at the same time keep Israel a vibrant country. God said that He would comfort all who mourn and give us gladness instead of mourning!
(5) Plant a tree to honour a Ministry; a Business; a Job; a Celebration or an Achievement, etc… “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31. Whatever we do whether viewed important by society or very menial or insignificant, whether one is the president of a large company or a small one or someone who cleans the offices at night - all is to be done to the glory of God! Regardless what we do, it deserves our best …for in the long run, it reflects on the honour and glory of our God …and will ultimately be rewarded by Him (1 Corinthians 15:58). God bless you always!
Tu B’Shevat - Happy New Year Trees!
God’s Word is true! He IS watching to see how the nations are treating His people. God will have mercy on Israel through Gentile believers acting as mediators towards them... This is one of the most amazing revelations ever given to the church – an opportunity to do something that carries the highest priority in the heart of God. Yet, sadly, so few have seen the potential and the rewards of serving God in this manner - as agents of mercy to Israel and the Jewish people! Israel was and still is despised today and a despised nation continually turning away from God BUT nothing ever altered the purpose of God for that nation. The despised element is always a noticeable element in the purpose of God. When the Saviour of the world came, He came of that despised nation; like Israel… He Himself was; “despised and rejected by men,” …and there is that despised element; “…things that are despised God has chosen,” 1 Corinthians 1:28. Now, more than at any time is the time to support Israel and the Jewish people - the Lord’s Brethren! We are witnessing the nations and people turning their backs on Israel. Thank you once again for your prayers and generous support!
We hope that you enjoy and become more informed by our work. We serve an awesome God and we are humbled by this opportunity to bring you this information. With Shalom to you and your family always,
Alf & Julie Saunders
01st February, 2020
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