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Lets Go Apple Picking

Wisdom in tasting of the tree of life

Proverbs 13:12

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 3:18

18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.

Proverbs 11:30

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.

Proverbs 15:4

4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.


Have you ever gone apple picking? Perhaps you have apple trees in an orchard at your home, or you have taken a trip into the mountain foothills to partake of a “u-pick” family farm.  The crisp, early fall air, the rolling hills and mountain ridges, arching boughs laden with sweet red or green fruit–it can be a pleasurable experience.

My family and I enjoy apple picking whenever the opportunity comes along. As summer draws to an end, and the season rolls around, a roadtrip to an orchard farm promises a weekend or a day of wholesome fun. The best ones offer crisp, cool cider or hot, fresh apple donuts.

Some farms cater to young people, and provide hayrides along tree-lined paths. You are issued a plastic bag or a bushel basket and sent into the hinterland in search of “granny smiths,” “galas,” “McIntosh,” and “honey crisps.” You spend a cheerful hour or two picking and choosing, while dodging bees and thinking of a future that promises hot apple pies.

In Proverbs chapter 13, Solomon speaks of such a blessing and future promise. Ancient Israel may not have known the joy that a six-year-old has when he discovers a warm apple donut after a day of climbing apple trees, but they knew the happiness that a tree covered with ripe fruit provides-and the longing for one special tree in particular:

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.–Proverbs 13:12

The Tree of Life is a memory of the Garden of Eden. God plants an abundance of plants and trees to give blessing and benefit to Adam and Eve, and all of their descendants: 

And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.–Genesis 2:9

What was the Tree of Life? Unlike the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, our first parents could eat freely of the Tree of Life and thus experience immortality, spiritual fulfillment, and communion with God. R.C. Sproul refers to it as the “first sacrament,” echoing another commentator. With this tree, Adam and Eve had a constant reminder, symbol and source of God’s presence and covenantal promise to them. 

Into the garden comes Satan, and under his black wings, death flows forth. Milton’s “Paradise Lost” describes him as a black bird–a cormorant–who alights on the branches of the Tree of Life where he plots your spiritual demise: 

Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life
Thereby regained, but sat devising death
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used
For prospect, what well used had been the pledge                        
Of immortality.–Paradise Lost, Book IV

You know how this ended, of course. Adam and Eve were deceived and chose poorly, partaking of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and were forever barred from the sunny orchards of paradise:

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.–Genesis 3:22-24 

Milton again captures the scene of holy fury as the Father, His covenant broken, sends His angels to drive Adam and Eve out at the point of flaming sword: 

High in front advanced,
The brandished sword of God before them blazed,
Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat,
And vapour as the Libyan air adust,
Began to parch that temperate clime; whereat
In either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappeared.–Paradise Lost, Book XII

The Tree of Life, that source of eternal blessing, joy and fulfillment–that indelible connection to God–was lost forever.

In scripture, the Tree of Life is only mentioned further in Revelation–and in the book of Proverbs. You have already encountered it in other verses:

18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.–Proverbs 3:18


30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.– Proverbs 11:30

You will encounter it again, further on:

4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.–Proverbs 15:4

Solomon draws on this ancient imagery as he speaks in chapter 13 of “hope deferred.” What does this mean? Hope deferred “makes the heart sick,” he says. In other words, as you make your way along the path of your life, you are conscious that you are incomplete. You may have fulfillment for a time in the things of this life, but you struggle with something deeper. 

You can have money, a home, a family, and future prospects–but like a child with a warm apple donut, all of these things can disappear in a short moment. In this temporal world, they are destined to do so. 

What do you long for? Significance. Security. Love and affection. You long for fulfillment in this life and search for it in your job, your hobbies, and even in other people. You long for your wife or husband to show you the attention you deserve. You want the kids to call more. You dream of a perfect vacation. You save money or fuss over a stock portfolio.

 Where do you find your ultimate fulfillment? You find it in the memory of the Garden, longing, as Tim Keller says, for a taste of the Tree of Life:

Through wisdom, the book of Proverbs says, you can actually get a taste of it. If you go back to Genesis, the Tree of Life was in the middle of the garden of Eden, Paradise. What does the Tree of Life mean? What does it represent? It represents, not just eternal life being endless; it represents fullness of life, absolute satiation of the deepest desires.–Tim Keller

It is your memory of paradise lost that keeps you searching and hungering in this life for that taste of eternity. A taste of that fruit brings fulfillment of this ultimate desire, Solomon is saying. 

But how do you partake of this wonderful fruit? I do not know about you, but even if I could find this tree, an angel with a flaming sword would make quick work of me. The Garden of Eden is forever inaccessible…or is it?

Even though Adam and Eve broke the covenant and, with the introduction of sin, forever destroyed the relationship with God, all hope was not lost. God promised the One who would come and destroy the serpent, and restore to himself those whom He loved. This seed of the new Tree of Life was the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), in the person of Jesus, His own Son.

Christ speaks of this often, and of your being united in Him. From the establishment of a new sacrament of His body and blood:

53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.–John 6:53-56

To being a branch of the holy, life-giving vine:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.–John 15:5

Are you ingrafted into Christ? Does his life blood flow through you, as you seek to live for Him in this world? Without Him, you will wither, and become a dry branch. Jesus is your present and future hope in this life, and your search for ultimate fulfillment. God promises final, eternal fulfillment in Revelation:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’–Revelation 2:7 


14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.–Revelation 22:14

Do you see how you can eat and be fulfilled? You do not have to wait until the Final Day, but can “do His commandments,” and live for Him now to know and realize His promises to you! As commentator Bruce Waltke explains:

The one who eats of its fruit is revitalized with eternal life and encouraged to live, plan, and hope for the future. They may have their hopes deferred temporarily, but they never lose hope, for they know I AM keeps His promises.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”

You seek and search for the things that will fulfill you, but will always come up empty. Loss, death, sorrow will come. There is the future hope that God has promised–but you can experience and know the fulfillment of that hope NOW! Jesus, the new Adam, has become your new Tree of Life with His perfect work on the cross. As Tim Keller describes:

Jesus took the tree of death so that we would have the tree of life. The cross was a tree of death to him; therefore, it was a tree of life for all of us. To the degree you let that melt your heart, to the degree you see what he did for you, to the degree you rejoice in that, to the degree you orient your heart toward that and it just melts you at the thought of that love, to that degree you will experience what Tolkien calls, “… Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”–Tim Keller

Do you have this joy? If you continue to seek your joy and fulfillment only in others or in things, then you will only come up empty, lost, and heartsick. As Jesus “climbed the tree of death” to become the new Tree of Life, partake of His fruit–and share Him with others. Only then will you know the taste of true spiritual satisfaction.


The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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