Like a Fir Tree
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 104. May we remind you that some weeks ago we began a discussion of the typical significance of trees of the Lord's planting, as those trees are brought to our attention in the book of Psalms. We have already discussed a number of trees which represent particular aspects of the Christian life.

For example, you will recall that in Psalm 1, verse 3, the Christian was compared to a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season with the promise that its leaf will not fade.

Then we looked together at Psalm 52, verse 8, and discovered that the Christian was in the house of God like a green olive tree, and we discovered that there was a reference to the special area of fruit-bearing in relation to the children of God.

You will recall that in Psalm 92, we looked at the palm tree and discovered that it was a spiritual symbol of the victory that is available to every child of God.

In the same Psalm and in the same verse, the cedar tree was drawn to our attention. As we meditated upon it, we discovered that the cedar tree was representative of the compassion that every child of God ought to manifest to other people—the compassion and the understanding. The cedar tree, we recalled, was made a shrouded shade, and every child of God ought to desire that.

God's Concern for His Individuals

We have asked you to turn to Psalm 104 because in it we are going to find another tree brought to our attention: the fir tree. This particular Psalm represents an invitation to praise the Lord, as is indicated in verse 1, where we read:

Psalm 104:

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

If time permitted and we were to read the entire Psalm down to the verse which we intend to notice especially, we would discover that the reason the Psalmist is inviting us to praise the Lord is that God, in relation to His creative word, was concerned about His individuals. One of the illustrations of His concern was related to water. He created water not only for the purpose of sustaining His creation, but also for the purpose of sustaining His creatures.

Then we are told God did other things in this connection. Notice verse 14:

Psalm 104:

14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

God created all these things for the benefit of men. Then the Psalmist goes from the herbs to the trees. In verse 16, he said:

Psalm 104:

16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
17 Where the birds make their nests: [then he says] as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.

We ask you to notice particularly the statement in verse 17:

Psalm 104:

17 …as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.

We want to meditate with you on the spiritual significance of the fir tree because the fir tree is one of the trees of the Lord. The fir tree is one of God's provisions in a very special way.

Stork Sensitive to God

There is a significance that we must not pass over, a significance in the statement, “as for the stork.” Do you know anything about storks? Of course, you know something about them in our modern society. We are told that storks bring the babies. You may have a problem sometime if you tell your children that because when you begin to explain that, they may begin to wonder about some of the other things that you have told them. You had better tell them the truth from the beginning, commensurate with their level of understanding. At baby showers there is usually a stork in the middle of the table.

That is about all that we know about the stork, but the stork of Bible days was an unclean animal. It was unlovely, unattractive, so that the children of Israel were never permitted to eat it. But there is something else about the stork that God mentions in the book of Jeremiah. He said, “I wish my people had this same thing. The stork is alert to me. The stork is so in tune with Me that it knows when to change its climate for the protection of its young.” You know, there are a lot of God's children who do not know that. There are a lot of God's children who are sacrificing the spiritual welfare of their children because they are not close enough to God to know when to move out of a neighborhood they are in or change the job they have. But the stork knows that, and God said, “The stork is so interested in her young that she knows that she is obligated to find the safest place there is available for her young.”

Do you realize that God never lays upon you a responsibility without giving you the possibility of fulfilling it? Will you remember that? He never asks the impossible of you. It may be impossible as far as you yourself are concerned, but it is never impossible if you take Him into consideration. Do you know what He said about the fir tree? He said, “When I created the fir tree, stately, majestic tree that it is, soaring up into the sky sixty feet with broad branches that support any amount of weight, I had the stork in mind. I put in the heart of the stork an instinct that when her little ones were hatched, she would say, ‘I have got to find a safe place for them. Where is it?'.” God said, “The fir tree there,” and the stork zoomed up to the top of the fir tree and deposited her young among the branches.

God said, “I wish My people were like that. I wish My people were so sensitive to Me that when I called to their attention the need for a change, they would respond. I wish My people were so sensitive to Me that when I pointed out the fir tree, they would be able to get to the top of it.” I couldn't pass that up because it is a tremendous lesson.

Description of the Fir Tree

We never try to understand the spiritual aspects of these trees without noticing something about the tree itself, so we would remind you that this particular fir tree, sometimes called a pine tree, grows in the mountains of Lebanon and Herman; and as one botanist has described it, it is an emblem of majestic stature. It reaches sometimes to the height of sixty feet. Its broad boughs are evergreen. It produces a fruit similar to our pine cone in shape. This particular fruit (Notice what I am saying—fruit. You don't think about a pine cone being a fruit ordinarily.) is in size like a pine cone, but it is polished yellow-brown in color, and just before it breaks open after having grown to four to five inches eventually, it turns green and it scatters its meat, its nuts. The nut of the fir tree is in size and appearance something like the seed of a date. But herein lies our lesson. That fruit is a delicacy. It is termed a sweet meat , and it is served on all occasions of joy. Every joyous occasion they go out and get the sweet meat from the fir tree because it would be not a joyous occasion if it were not there.

Fir Tree Represents Joy

This last suggestion in relation to the description of this regular fir tree or pine tree suggests the lesson which we will find in its spiritual replica, because this sweet meat for a joyous occasion suggests that which the fir tree ought to represent for every believer. It is borne out in the first place that it is mentioned in the Bible. Turn to II Samuel, chapter 6, as I remind you that any type in the Word of God has its trend set in the first place that it is mentioned in the Word of God. We read from verse 1:

II Samuel 6:

1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.
2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.
3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.
4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark.
5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments [now notice] made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.

Instruments of Fir

This was a joyous occasion, and how was it observed? It was observed by playing instrumental music on instruments of fir wood. That is significant, for if you are familiar with your Bible, quite often a long list of instruments is presented in relation to any joyous occasion; but this is the only place it is mentioned that the instruments were made of fir wood, and that drives the nail down. It settles the thing. The fir tree, may I remind you, is going to be a symbol of joy; and just as the palm tree speaks of victory for the believer, I am going to suggest that the fir tree represents not only joy, but especially the joy that is ours because our communion with our Lord is unbroken.

You will recall that the ark of God was in a little village in the house of a very ordinary man while David and all the others were in the big city, too interested in their own pursuits to be worried about the ark of God. Suddenly one day they woke up and, in so many words, said, “What is wrong with us? The blessing of God isn't here. The joy of the Lord is gone.” Then somebody said, “King, do you suppose it is because the ark of God, the symbol of the presence of God, isn't here?” He said, “I don't know. Why do you say that?” Then he said, “In a little village in the north, there is a poor man who has nothing. One day when the enemy sent the ark of God back home because they were afraid of it, he took it into his house. He has made a special protective place for it, and he is happier than he has ever been. Everything he does has turned out right. Maybe that is the reason.” Then David said, “You know, it could be.” They went up into the village and brought the ark of God home. When it came into the city, they began to play on these instruments which were especially constructed out of fir wood, so the significance is there. The fir tree stands for the joy of the believer that is related to uninterrupted communion with the Lord.

Floor and Doors of Temple Made of Fir

That is still borne out further if you follow the fir tree and its use through the Word of God. For example, you would find in the temple that the planks on the floor and the slabs for the door were made out of fir wood. The temple is the place of communion with God.

Rafters of Fir

You would find, as well, in the Song of Solomon, that wonderful love story that emphasizes the communion that the believer ought to have for Christ and Christ has for the believer, that in the house the king constructed for his bride, he selected every piece of material very carefully. He said, “We are going to make the rafters out of fir wood.”

Ordinarily speaking, you say it was just because it was a wood worthy of construction. But remember, this story of the Song of Solomon is an allegory and everything in it is significant. I think he meant when he said, “I am going to make the rafters out of fir wood,” that this is going to be a house where we are one; this is going to be a house where joy will reign supreme; this is going to be a house where no disagreements that will break our fellowship will ever enter.

May I pause long enough to ask you a very personal question about your home relationship? Husband, may I ask you, wife, may I ask you, what kind of rafters do you have in your house? Look at them and, figuratively speaking, if they are not made of fir, get you some fir wood and make you some rafters, will you? Make your house a house that is roofed with joy and understanding. What a tragedy it is for wives and husbands to be so out of touch that there are disagreements that fill the house with bickering and nagging and an atmosphere that causes the children to wonder if mother and daddy love each other and causes the children to wonder what joy and happiness actually is.

Is Your House of Communion Made of Fir?

Let me lift that question a little bit higher and ask you, in relation to your communion with the Lord, your house of communion, that quiet place near to the heart of God, is it made out of fir rafters? Is joy the roof and support of your relationship to the Lord, or is there no joy in your life?

One dear, old gentleman said to me with pathos in his voice—he said it and it brought tears to my eyes—“Brother Joe, I don't know what is wrong with me, but I don't have any joy any more. I don't have any joy.” That dear man has some real problems, some real burdens, and I said, “Maybe it is because of the tests you are going through.” He said, “I know about my tests; I just don't have any real joy.” I said to him, “Maybe your fellowship has been broken.” He asked me what I meant by that, and I explained it to him. He said, “You know, I think that's it, and I didn't know what the trouble was. All I knew was my joy was gone.”

Even Trees will Rejoice

Turn to Isaiah, chapter 55, as I point out to you again, because we must nail this down. It must be firmly fixed in our minds that the fir tree is a symbol of joy and rejoicing. In Isaiah, chapter 55, Isaiah describes for us this old world after the Lord Jesus Christ comes back and makes some changes. Notice verse 12:

Isaiah 55:

12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

That means that some of these are meant to be illustrations. A tree doesn't have hands, does it? Much less does it clap them. But the idea is that even the trees will be rejoicing, that, figuratively speaking, they will clap their hands. Notice verse 13:

Isaiah 55:

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Fir Trees to Replace Thorns

Notice the statement, “Instead of the thorn…” You don't get much joy out of the thorn. You get pricked by the thorn. The thorn makes the blood come, and that is typical of the life we live today. This life is full of thorns. Paul had one that the Lord never would take away. God said, “One of these days I am going to fix things so that the thorns that make the hard and the sad days will be replaced by the fir tree which will make the joyous times.”

God to Plant Fir Tree

Turn to Isaiah, chapter 60, and notice verse 13, where God is talking about the same period of time, and He said:

Isaiah 60:

13 The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.

What is God saying? “When I come back and our communion is interrupted, I am gong to plant me some trees, and one of them is going to be the fir tree because our communion will never be interrupted and our joy will be sure.”

The Door is Always Open

Turn to the book of Hosea because I think the most significant illustration of the fir tree as a symbol of joy that comes from unbroken communion, uninterrupted fellowship, is brought to our attention here in the book of Hosea. If you are familiar with the book of Hosea, you know that it is a book of fourteen chapters. The first three chapters are related to the life of Hosea and Gomer, his wife. The last eleven chapters are related to the message that he delivered to Israel, otherwise called Ephraim, based upon his own life.

Are you familiar with the man, Hosea? Do you remember that Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet ? Hosea is called the sob-choked prophet . You know what I am talking about, don't you? There are some folk who weep, and tears run down their cheeks. There are other folk who sob, and usually the sob indicates a greater grief than the weeper. Has your heart ever been so broken, have you ever known so much of pain and suffering, either in relationship to yourself or to those whom you love, that all you can do is sob? You have heard dry, wracking sobs of individuals who can't weep tears; their sorrow is too great and all they can do is sob.

Jeremiah was a weeping prophet who preached to the two tribes known as the kingdom of Judah. Their relationship to the Lord was in such a sad state that he wept about it constantly. Hosea was the prophet who spoke to the ten tribes, known as Israel, or Ephraim. Their condition was so much worse that all he could do was sob about it.

In the first three chapters of the book of Hosea, you have the story of Hosea's outraged, but persevering love in relation to Gomer, his faithless wife. The wife of his bosom went out on the streets as a prostitute and carried on with any man who looked in her direction. Of course, it outraged his love. In the flesh, he wanted to put her away. He wanted to have nothing more to do with her, but God said, “No, Hosea, real love will persevere, so he took her back and took her back and he took her back. Hosea said, “God, why?” God said, “Hosea, I want you to be an example. I want to preach a sermon to the nation of Israel that will be far more direct than any words you could utter. I want to tell them that they have been just as faithless to Me as Gomer has to you. I want to tell them that they have outraged My love just as much as Gomer has outraged your love; but I want to tell them that just as you have persevered in your love, just as you have opened the door and said, ‘Come home,' no matter how many times she wandered away, I want them to know that the door is open. I want them to know that they can come home any time they are ready. I want them to know that My arms are outstretched, that the reach is broad. Any time they want to come home, they can come because My love never ceases.” This is what He said to Israel, but we would remind you today that that is what He says to all of His people, for the love of God is everlasting. Nothing ever changes it.

I never know the condition of the hearts of the people to whom I am speaking and I never presume that I know, so may I suggest to you that if I am speaking to someone who has outraged the love of God, you know that you haven't treated Him right, you know that you haven't done what you should have done, may I remind you that the door is wide open. May I remind you that God is saying, “Come back.” May I remind you that God is saying, “I am waiting for you.”

Turn, please, to the book of Hosea, chapter 14, because in the very last chapter all of this is summed up in words that I want you to notice. In verses 1-3, there is an appeal from the servant of God, Hosea, when he said:

Hosea 14:

1 O israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
3 Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.

Dialog Between Hosea and Israel

I love these verses. Quite often, particularly when I am in meetings which are designed for evangelization of the lost, I might say to them, “Come to Christ and say to Him this,” and I will suggest some words. From time to time somebody will come to me after the meeting and say, “What right do you have to tell somebody what to say when they come to Christ to be saved? Words don't save you.”

No, they don't. They don't save you, but it is scriptural to suggest to some people what to do because they do not all know, and Hosea said to Israel, “Israel, come back to God, and when you come back, bring with you some words.” Then he tells them what to say. He said, “Say to the Lord, ‘Take away our sins and receive us graciously'.”

You know, that is a good thing for anybody to say who comes to the Lord, and especially if your fellowship has been broken: “God, take away the sin. Receive me once again.” Then he added: “…so will we render the calves of our lips,” and that is, “Lord, we will praise you. We will live for you if you will just take us back.”

In verse 3, Isaiah said: “Now, pinpoint your trouble. Don't just generalize. Don't just say, ‘Lord, I'm such a bad fellow,' but pinpoint your trouble,” and they did. Asshur was a heathen god and they said, “God, we know that Asshur can't save us.” Then they said, “We will not ride upon horses, Lord,” and you have to be familiar with their history because one time God said to them, “If you don't straighten up, I am going to send an enemy in against you and you are going to be in trouble.” They said, “We don't care. You just send in anybody you want to. We will get on swift horses and we will outrun them. You can't do anything to us.”

They had learned different now, and Hosea said, “You tell God that you are not going to run any more.” Then Hosea said, “You tell God that never again are you going to make something with your hands and bow down and worship it and say, ‘This is the work of our hands; we will worship it'.” Hosea said, “You tell God, ‘You are the only One who can help'.”

In verses 4-7, God said: “Isaiah, if you tell them that, I want you to tell them something else. I want you to tell them that I will heal their backsliding. I want you to tell them that I will love them freely. I want you to tell them that I will be as a dew to Israel. All I want is for them to come back to Me.”

Dialog Between God and Man

In the last paragraph, beginning with verse 8, there is a dialogue between God and Ephraim, which is another name for Israel, and I would like for you to let it represent a dialogue between God and an individual because basically that is what it is, and perhaps that individual will be you.

The dialogue may not be apparent as it is in our text, but you will be able to see it when I point it out to you. Somebody asks, “A dialogue between man and God? What do you mean?” I mean just that. God will talk to you, and He will let you talk to Him. In verse 8, Ephraim said: “What have I to do any more with idols?” Literally, “I am not going to have anything more to do with idols,” because it was the idols that broke the fellowship.

What are your idols? What has come between you and the Lord? What has broken your fellowship with Him? You ask God to pinpoint it for you and He will. He will pinpoint it, and then when He does, You say, “God, I am not going to have any more to do with it. I am through.” God answers and says, “I have heard, and I have observed.” Oh, God knows. You see Ephraim said, “God, I am through with those idols that have come between you and me,” and God said, “I am listening. I'm looking.” Right in the heart of verse 8, notice this statement:

Hosea 14:

8 …I am like a green fir tree…

There is our symbol. Literally: “I shall be like a green fir tree. I shall rejoice. Joy has returned. No more is the bitterness and the sorrow; no more heartache here. From here on out, I will rejoice.”

God makes only one statement. He said: “From Me thy fruit is found,” and literally, what He said here is “I'm glad. I'm glad you are going to be like the green fir tree. I am glad that you are going to rejoice. I am glad that here on out you are going to stay in fellowship with Me, but remember this: Your strength is in Me. Don't get the idea just because you have come back, don't get the idea that just because you are rejoicing that you will have no more problems. Remember your fruit is from Me.”

A Reminder of David

I close, Beloved, with the reminder of David, the dear man of God, the man after God's own heart, who lost fellowship with the Lord. Broken, back-slidden, he lived two years out of fellowship with God. How long have you been out of fellowship? How long?

You may say, “I don't think that I have been out of fellowship more than a day or two.” Some of you may be able to say, “I am not out of fellowship.” Thank God for that, but there are some folk who get out of fellowship, and they won't face it. They continue out of fellowship, out of fellowship, out of fellowship. David did for two years.

Read Psalm 32 along with Psalm 51 sometime when you have time for that. Two years is a long time, and if you are really born again, if you have really been saved, it gets worse and worse and never gets better and better. Finally, David couldn't stand it any longer and he said, “Oh, God, restore to me the joy of my salvation. I am miserable. I am so unhappy. God give me the joy that once I had when first I knew the Lord.”

He is Ready to Restore You

God did. God did just as He will you. Beloved, are you a fir tree? Are you a joy and rejoicing to God? Are you or do you need to make a resolve that Ephraim made? “I shall be like a green fir tree.”

It is just another way that God has selected to remind you that if you are out of fellowship and your joy is gone, He is ready to restore you and He is ready to let the joy bells ring in your heart once again.

Take just a moment to do business with God. Look into your own heart for the moment. Ask God to give you keen insights. Answer the question this morning: “Am I happy? Do I have any joy?” Then ask yourself another question: “Could it be that I am out of fellowship? Could it be that I am not in relationship to God through Christ as I should be?” Then ask the Lord a question. “Lord, if I am out of fellowship with you, if the joy is gone, will you show me what particular thing it is that has broken the fellowship?”

Maybe you already know, and if you do, don't waste God's time asking Him to show you. If you know what has broken the fellowship, don't ask Him to show you. God is not going to put up with any foolishness. But it could be that you just don't know. Ask Him to show you.

Do you know what has broken your fellowship? Has He shown you? In the quiet of this moment when I trust that our hearts are open to God, will you tell God that you are not going to have any more to do with that like Ephraim said, “Lord, I am not going to have any more to do with idols. I am through with it.”? I don't know what it is. Maybe it is desire that has broken your fellowship. Maybe it is bitterness, maybe it is hatred, or maybe it is a failure to leave everything with the Lord. I don't know, but tell the Lord you are through with it by His grace. Just tell Him that. Maybe your fellowship is broken because you have been riding some fast horses, figuratively speaking. Maybe you have been running away from God. Tell Him that you are not going to run any more. Say, “Lord, I'm through running; I am tired of it. I am right here now, and whatever you want me to do, I will do.” Will you tell Him that? Then, will you say to Him, “Father, by thy grace I shall be like a green fir tree. I shall be a joy and a rejoicing to you. I no longer will live a miserable Christian life. By thy grace, I will follow where Thou dost lead.”


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