When you think about trees, your mind probably goes to the natural world. But one author says there's much more than what your eye sees. Trees have a deep spiritual significance and help explain the nature of God.
"Other than God and people, the Bible mentions trees more than any other living thing," Dr. Matthew Sleeth reads from a book he's written on the topic.
Sleeth is passionate about trees, but it's more than an appreciation for their beauty or a love for the great outdoors.
The former atheist and emergency room physician says the trees in the Bible reflect the character of God.
"But I went to the Bible which is how I met the Lord – I read a Bible – and I went back to that Bible, read from Genesis to Revelation to see what God had to say," Sleeth explained to CBN News. "And ever since that time I've known that God has an incredible fondness for trees."
Pointing People to God
Sleeth believes God uses trees as a metaphor to help point people to Himself and His Son, Jesus Christ.
To explain what he believes is God's intentional use of trees in Scripture, he's written a book, entitled, Reforesting Faith, What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and His Love for Us.
"Trees are always giving, and Christ is always giving, always offering us life," Sleeth said. "And again God wouldn't choose a bad metaphor."
His wife, Nancy, agrees.
"I love the whole metaphor of trees," she told CBN News. "Trees give us life. We know that they're giving off oxygen all the time. The writers of the Bible didn't know that a couple thousand years ago, but we know that that's true."
"Well, God gives us life," she continued. "He is the author of life, and He is the sustainer of life. And so God picked the perfect metaphor for sharing what the abundant life is."
Dr. Sleeth opens Chapter 1 with a passage from Psalm 1, which talks about the person who delights in the law of the Lord. It reads, "They are like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper."
Sleeth says trees also reflect eternity.
"It's interesting that one of the things that throughout Scripture, God is trying to convince us of is the fact that this life is only part of the story – that we have this possibility of living for an eternity with God," he explained. "And when He picks a tree, He picks the longest-lived thing on the planet."
"The Apostle Paul asserted that if we have gone for a walk in the woods we are without excuse for knowing God," Sleeth wrote in his book.
An Evangelistic Tool
He and Nancy hope Reforesting Faith will be an evangelistic tool to lead the next generation to Jesus Christ – people within that generation who love creation but don't know the Creator.
"When Jesus dies on a cross, it's a different kind of door. It's a door with two pieces like that," he said, holding his fingers in the shape of a cross. "And when it's coated with the Lamb's Blood – Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world – that door opens."
"That's the door to Heaven that is available to us, and it's the only door to Heaven," Sleeth continued.
"So many people that I know have a nephew in Oregon or a friend who loves the creation but doesn't know the Creator," Nancy Sleeth shared. "And I've already seen this being used as a vehicle for sharing the Gospel with people that don't know Christ. So I'm very excited about that."
"There's a tree expert here in my area who's a Fulbright scholar, double PhD, head of a department about this – completely hostile to Christianity," explained Dr. Sleeth. "And I sat down and reviewed this with him, and I don't believe it's that – I think it's the Holy Spirit, but he's a Christian today."
"That's the response I want to see to reading this book," he emphasized.
Not About Tree Worship
And Sleeth makes it clear Reforesting Faith is not about elevating trees above creation.
"I'm advocating the worship of God and respect for what God respects, period," he said. "If somebody's worshipping a grove of trees, give me the chainsaw, I'll go take 'em down."
He and Nancy say God put in His Word a "trail of trees" – reflections of His glory and landmarks of the Gospel story – to ultimately help lead people to His saving love.