Lessons From The Cedar Tree
“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel… like cedars beside the waters” Numbers 24:5-6
As you walk through the forest in wintertime, you may see an abundance of deciduous trees, or trees that lose their lives in the winter. Your path may also be brightened by the sight of beautiful evergreens, which, despite the cold of winter, hang on to their leaves steadily. Among those evergreens, you may find a particularly special one. This evergreen, exceptional for several reasons, is the cedar. In the book Patriarchs and Prophets it is said that “The divine hand has exalted the cedar as king over the forest” (450). King of the forest? You may say, “what about the mighty Oak, the Douglas Fir, the Giant Sequoia or the Redwood?” All of these trees certainly are useful, special and have many lessons for us that are worth learning, however, the cedar presents a beautiful message that it is not necessary the tallest, the hardest, the widest that is of most value. Let’s consider some of the traits that cedars possess so that we can learn what heaven values most.
While there are many different types of cedar, they all share the wonderful trait mentioned above which we will examine for some time. They don’t lose their leaves in winter. One of the reasons God established trees was to remove carbon dioxide, human and animal ‘exhaust’, from the air and replace it with oxygen, one of our bodies man fuels. We can go for months without food, days without water, but only a few minutes without air. This should be a lesson to us to get all the fresh air we can possibly can. But in order to even have access to that fresh air, we need the trees and other plant life. But most plant life works diligently through the summer and in colder climates takes the winter off from that kind of work. Yet our need for air doesn’t stop, so if the cedar could speak he would say, “why should I stop either?”
AN EXAMPLE FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING
Because of our sinful nature, we as human beings have a tendency to live intrinsically selfish lives. We struggle to do good for others from pure and holy motives, as we have a heart that “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” Jeremiah 17:9.
To do good is hard, but it is even harder to do good consistently. After serving others faithfully for a while, self begins to say, “why don’t you take a break and do some things for yourself for a time. Then, these things for others can be done a little more”. It is at those times that, if we give into the voice and don’t turn to God for help to take away self, we lose our precious leaves. The character that was once beautiful to behold is a shell of what it was before. Its true color is gone. Its active service to share living truth and love to a suffocating world is no more.
If we would be the kind of Christians that receive the constant smile of God as does His cedar tree, we should never stop doing good for others with a heart of Christ-like love. We should “bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12:14) with a full canopy of living green. In winter, the hard times and trials in our lives, we should still be flourishing, not giving any sign that the cold of this world is chilling us to our core and causing us to drop our praise. The cedar is a constant example what the Christian should be!
BEING LIKE SWEET PERFUME
Another excellent trait of the cedar, especially the Eastern Red Cedar, is its aromatic and therapeutic fragrance. At Red River Outpost, occasionally we have to cut down a cedar. Because of its value we seek to avoid doing so if we possibly can, but sometimes we must. When we do cut one down, one of my favorite things to do is to stick my nose right next to an area I just sawed and take a few deep breaths of the pleasant aroma migrating out of the open cut.
No man-made perfume or cologne could match the lovely smell of this God-given gift. And more than that, studies have been done to show its excellence for aiding in health of body and mind! What a great gift! And what a great lesson for the Christian as well.
After the flood, Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice, after which “the Lord smelled a soothing aroma” and gave the promise that never again would He flood the earth as He had done (Genesis 8:20-21). That sacrifice contained a representation of Christ’s sacrifice for us, which is both pleasing and pleasant to the nose of our heavenly Father. Likewise in Ephesians 5:2, the Bible tells us to, “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma”.
Unselfish love and sacrifice for the sake of others is indeed a pleasant thing. And what a beautiful lesson that the cedar not only gives this aroma on a daily basis, but gives even more aroma when it is wounded by others. Truly if we pattern our lives after this trait, we will make our Father in heaven very happy with our sweet perfume.
STANDING THE TEST OF TIME
The characteristic that we will consider is the rot-resistance and pest resistance of the cedar wood. A favorite material for fence posts, shingles, and other weather-exposed materials, cedar truly shows its value. When an oak, poplar, pine or other piece of wood is put in the ground, it will rot out speedily. Pine, often used for posts as well, must be chemically treated in order to withstand moisture and pests. Not so with the cedar. It will last for years with no human intervention. Even the aroma, spoken of above, contributes to this picture by keeping away bugs that normally feast on decaying wood.
Isn’t this what Jesus wants our influence to be? One that can stand in the midst of decaying and rotting influences and remain uncompromised? One that tends to repel sin by its very presence? In our immune systems, one that will resist disease and fight it off, rather than succumbing to it? Then we would be obeying God’s command through Paul where he encourages, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” 1 Corinthians 15:58. Let us be the kind of Christians that will stand in Christ for many years to come.
The next time you are venturing through the woods, stop and consider this wonderful tree. Beyond the traits mentioned today, there are many more valuable lessons to be gained from this marvelous creation. Its ability to grow in difficult locations, its springing up before all the other trees in a freshly logged forest, and much more are themes to contemplate. Time is so precious and we have so little of it. With your time, consider getting out to study the great things of nature rather than living so much indoors and in artificial entertainments. Consider the messages that the cedar and many other objects in nature are posting and even live-streaming from their studio in the woods and fields. By doing one will better learn what it means to, “fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea an springs of water” Revelation 14:7.
Written by Robert Phillips
Scripture taken from the New King James Version® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by Permission All rights reserved.