A TIME FOR PLANTING TREES
January 31, 2018 would be a great day to go plant a tree.
It is Tu Bishvat – The New Year of Trees!
New Year of The Trees???
Sounds a bit silly and strange, doesn’t it?
So – what is it all about?
Here is yet another day of observance on the Jewish calendar – a very vague one that, unless you are Jewish, you have probably never heard of or participated in.
Don’t worry – you won’t go to hell if you don’t actually keep this day; but it is just a good date to remember and find out about, quite an interesting day, actually.
UNDERSTANDING HOW THE JEWISH CALENDAR WORKS
To understand this day you need to know something about how the Jewish calendar works. There are actually four times each year that are considered a new year.
In other words, everything doesn’t start over at the same time on one given day; some things start over on a certain date and other things start over on another date during the year.
Makes sense to me!
It took seven days to complete the creation of the world; so why wouldn’t some things be older faster than others?
I guess you could say it sort of works like our birthdays in that we celebrate them on different days, not like our regular holidays where everything always falls on the same date at the same time.
MORE SET TIMES
To be more specific; there are four times set in the Jewish year for beginning new things and/or starting old things over.
In the month of Nisan – begins the new year for kings and festivals.
In the month of Elul begins the new year for tithes.
In the month of Tishri – begins the new year for the calculations of the calendar (this parallels the secular New Year’s day celebrated in America closer than any of the other dates given).
Then, in the month of Shevat, there is Tu Bishvat; the time for calculating the beginning of the agricultural cycle and beginning a new year of the biblical tithes.
EVERYTHING IN ITS OWN TIME
It is typical for Americans to think of “all time” when we think of the new year changing. In our minds it all happens on one day; all time changes at once.
That is not the pattern in the Jewish world. Everything has its own time to change during the seasons of the year.
In Jewish thought it is more typical to think of “activities in time.” Each activity would have a different new beginning each year because each activity is created for its own season.
This year, 2018, Tu Bishvat occurs on January 31st. It follows the usual sunset to sunset pattern of Jewish days, so the day would start at sunset on January 30th and last through sunset on January 31st on the American/secular calendar.
So, if your heart likes to follow the Hebraic things and the Jewish customs; this ending time of January is a time to think of the well-being of your trees! Why not make this a better version of “earth day?”
Agriculture is strongly dependent on trees, and the nation of Israel has used this day a lot like Arbor Day is used in the United States to support the eco-system and to raise money for research, studies and science which is used to replenish the earth and support good healthy life, especially in Israel. Much of this fund-raising and symbolic support is displayed by people planting trees on Tu Bishvat.
A GOOD TIME TO DO SOMETHING SUPPORTIVE
So if you really appreciate trees and forest and those who work so hard to keep them; why not send a little support their way on this day? Pick a national park and do something to support their causes, or donate a tree to a public landscape in someone wonderful’s honor.
Tu Bishvat is specifically and originally more about the biblical laws that govern the care of our trees.
Have you ever noticed how special God made trees?
Can you imagine a world without them?
They give us shade and food and shelter.
They make our world more beautiful and interesting.
There are many scriptures in our bibles that relate to the care of our trees. God was careful to give specific instructions for them. Trees are definitely NOT to be worshiped; but they are to be appreciated because they were designed and given to us by the Creator that we do worship.
God put mankind on the earth to care for it and to look after it. Taking care of the trees is a huge part of this purpose.
WE ARE TO BE CARETAKERS OF THE EARTH
We read in Leviticus 19:23: “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten.”
Here God was instructing the Israelites how to take care of their trees.
So – aaaaahhhhh – how would that relate to those of us who are living outside of Israel and in the modern world of today?
It is true that many of us are not NATIVE Israelites by blood, and we are not living in the promised-land, but it is also obvious that God used the Israelites and the story of “the promised land” as a clear example of the best way that ANY person could live.
TREES ARE PART OF THE ABUNDANT LIFE GOD CREATED
The whole story of the Nation of Israel is God patiently teaching all of mankind the best way to have an abundant life. If you do nothing but grasp this principle, even if you don’t come to understand the “why” behind all these crazy laws and statutes given by God, you will do well!
You don’t actually have to understand the logic behind the laws – if you follow them anyway; your physical quality of life will improve. If you DO decide to UNDERSTAND why God gave them, your spiritual and intellectual quality of life will improve.
If that sounds crazy and absurd to you – just test it out; we can talk afterward.
THE FRUIT OF THE TREES IS FORBIDDEN FOR THREE YEARS
Hmmmmm……..why do those words have such a familiar ring to them? We might want to go deeper with this subject on another day.
There is proven science behind every commandment that God gave to the Israelites, but you have to seek out those facts and answers for yourself in order to find them. They won’t jump off the page and into your brain. This law governing the care of the trees says that you should not eat of the fruit of any tree you plant for at least three years.
We humans never just trust God. We have that built-in human reaction that comes with the question; Why?
God doesn’t always say why He commands things, ever notice that?
He is such a Father.
Did you earthly father ever give you facts and instructions without explaining himself? What did he expect you to do if he did?
Why should your heavenly Father expect less?
We are supposed to trust our Father and His wisdom – we are supposed to BELIEVE that He always has our best interest in mind when He tells us something.
Just like when you tell your children they shouldn’t eat too much candy, they may not immediately understand. They may think you are denying them a pleasure they should have – but without saying it out loud, you are protecting their health. This is a similar situation.
God didn’t come out and explain the science to the Israelites when he gave this commandment about waiting to eat the fruit from the trees.
THE SCIENCE THAT GOD INVENTED BUT DIDN’T BOTHER TO EXPLAIN
God simply instructed mankind what to do based on the laws He put into nature at the creation of the world.
One of those laws is that fruit is sometimes harmful to the body within the first three years of growth because the tree has moisture that is affected by the absorption of the land. Not enough time has passed for it to be warmed up by the energy of the sun and warmed up by the energy of the air.
Therefore, the whole fruit of the first three years from a tree is earthy and watery and the moisture will overpower it and not always be good for the one who eats it.
God makes this rule pretty easy for us. If you notice the seasons of fruit-bearing trees you discover that many trees do not even produce fruit at all until the fourth year of their growth, and so we are forced to wait out three years.
I guess God knows how impatient we get. Perhaps if Adam and Eve had been more patient and listened to God’s rules in the Garden of Eden, we might have tasted earlier from the Tree of Life?
Only God knows – but that is the point – He does! We need to listen when He tells us something, even if we do not immediately understand why.
So He teaches us this in the harvesting of our trees and in a million other ways of life. God is always teaching new things to His people who are willing to listen and obey.
HOW THE TREES BRING FORTH FIRST-FRUIT OFFERINGS
Now, if you really want a blessing, take what you profit from the fourth year of fruit (the first actual year of healthy fruit) and give it back to God in some way, shape or fashion. He will bless your offering and your tree will become more fruitful. If you don’t believe me – just try it for yourself and talk to me later. This isn’t “name-it-and-claim-it-religion; it is something that God built into the laws of nature right from Creation.
Some of the lessons we have to learn in the harvesting of our trees are actually brought out in the teachings of the commandment of first-fruits. Sometimes when we study these agricultural passages and the temple offerings we tend to block them out or skim over them or skip them completely from the text. We want to move on to the deeper, more spiritual things.
We should actually learn to slow down and look at the simple things of every season first before moving on; for that is how God likes to teach us. Try it and see for yourself.
At first glance these Old Testament sacrifices and offerings may seem too exotic. The laws often seem foreign to our non-Jewish culture and way of thinking today.
Now we seem to have fewer and fewer farmers with a true connection to the land.
Everything is shipped in and grown on a huge big-business world-wide scale.
We, the common people, often have no knowledge of how things actually get to our grocery stores. But; thankfully, there is a concerned and growing group emerging in our culture that has come to recognize these facts. They want to make definite and healthier changes. Some of these “think-for-yourself” people are growing their own crops and preparing their own food again, like in the days of old. They have the right idea and they are off to a good start.
AN IRONIC MISSING PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
The missing element that many of these courageous young people have not yet discovered is the way of Torah.
They have no knowledge of the fact that one-sixth of the Mishnah deals with the matters of agriculture alone.
They usually DO believe in God, but they have forgotten to consult the God who created food about how it should be obtained from the earth that He created.
Who would know better than God?
I do get excited when from time to time I discover a young person with this mindset of learning how to follow the scriptures to grow their crops. This is true progress in its fullest form and you can see the results that have been made here if you visit Israel and look at how their crops are growing.
Hopefully, the new more aware emerging group of young people in America will pass the information they discover on and maybe the world won’t rule it out and block the ears from those willing to hear and follow truth.
It is a vitally important factor which seems to be overlooked that we consult the God who made the earth about the care and tending of the earth!
AGRICULTURAL CONCEPTS FOUND IN THE MISHNAH
The Mishnah has so much to say about “seeds” and “the corners of your fields.”
There is lots of information about care and tending to crops.
A generation with a heart to feed the poor and help the hungry and needy of the earth should be considering these scriptures. These are the very scriptures that enabled Ruth to meet Boaz and they in turn became part of the ancestry of our Messiah!
LAWS CONCERNING FIRST FRUITS OFFERINGS
It is encouraging to know that many fresh new minds are beginning to get excited about discovering that there are laws regarding how our offerings to God play into our food consumption and distribution.
One of these laws is the scripture that states the fruit of a tree is prohibited from consumption by people until after the third year. In the fourth year the fruit should be offered to God as a “first fruit” offering.
When you feed the hungry; it is as if you are making a first-fruit offering to God.
On the fifth year of a fruit crop you may partake of the fruit yourself and feed your own family with it.
The line of progression seems to be God-Others-You.
What if the whole world actually took this to heart?
Can you imagine how we all would be living?
GOD’S LAWS AND INSTRUCTION BRING ABUNDANCE AND PLENTY TO ALL
If you have followed God’s rules for the first four years of the tree, your fifth year will be abundant and plentiful. Go ahead and try this – prove it for yourself.
If you study the science of this you will begin to understand God’s intent.
The first three years are needed for the tree and its fruit to mature.
Until the time of maturity they would not be good enough for an offering to God.
It is not magic; it is natural law.
Natural law was designed by God.
We must give God our best.
Giving to others is the same as giving to God. He has said “if you have done it for one of the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me.
Share the first of your harvest with others and God will share his abundance with you and bless you.
PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL HARVESTS WORK THE SAME
This principle is the same in the harvest of souls.
If a soul isn’t led to maturity in God by patiently being obedient and believing what The Father has taught; they are of no good use to the Kingdom of God.
Immature souls must be nourished and cared for; just like trees.
The harvest of a precious soul often involves a period of time that we must patiently wait out.
Similar to the first three years of growing physical fruit, the spiritual fruit probably will not reach full potential for Kingdom service until someone has been following God and His ways for at least three years.
Until that time there is a trimming of the branches. There is a little cultivating and fertilizing of the roots. All of this nurturing will eventually bring about the proper growth of maturity and health, both in fruit and in people.
Go ahead – Just try it and see.
People are actually a lot like trees.
ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A TREE
God is constantly pointing out in the Holy Scriptures that man is made from the earth. We are nothing but dust!
It is also obvious that man gets his nourishment from the earth.
The earth and all things in it belong to God – not to man. God is ALWAYS in control of this earth where we live.
We, alone, cannot produce a tree or the fruit from it.
It takes God to make a tree grow and produce mature fruit.
It takes God living in a person through The Holy Spirit to bring them into maturity in Christ. You can’t open the top of their head and pour the scriptures down into their brain and expect results.
It takes God doing His work first.
You may have noticed that God doesn’t rush anything.
GOD ISN’T IN A HURRY
Just as there is more to growing fruit than we first expect, there is also more to our earthly lives than the simple acts of productivity.
Nurturing a tree and allowing its first three years of fruit to return to the earth is admitting that we are only the caretakers and not the creators of our own environment. We are allowing GOD time to let the fruit mature and not depending on our own abilities.
So, as caretakers of God’s earth, we gratefully acknowledge the change of the season on this interesting day of Tu Bishvat, which comes to us in America during the coldest days of winter.
The winter cold is yet another reminder that underneath the cold winter snows of our silent grounds in this season, there are roots of God at work.
These deeply buried roots will be bringing new life one day.
After it has been hidden and protected for a while, the tree and its fruit will eventually come forth in the spring when the time is right.
GO PLANT A TREE
God is the great timekeeper. Trust God to help it grow.
His timing is always accurate and precise.
He is the bringer of abundant life and He brings it when the time is right.
Learn the lessons of the trees.
Learn to live within the moment God has given you today.
Go plant a tree!
The season is right.