Today I’d like to provide for you some direction in pointing you to the very best booth material money CAN’T buy.
This festival of the seventh month was called the Festival of Booths, to celebrate the final harvest of the people of Israel’s growing season. It was a seven day celebration that included the building of temporary shelters in which the folks dwelt. It was one of seven yearly celebrations meant to be a joyous time of thanksgiving to God for His blessings and faithfulness. It had not been observed for over 1000 years, but the people in Nehemiah’s day, in response to the reading of God’s Word and their desire to honor Him in all they did, determined to resume the celebration with all of their hearts.
So, they went out to get the materials listed in Nehemiah 8:15 to make these temporary shelters.
“Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.”
This temple, this body in which we dwell, is temporary. Our bodies were not made to live forever. One day we will die. This flesh and blood is temporary, but our soul will live forever.
But while we are here dwelling on this earth, it would be wise to make sure this “booth” we are in is constructed with the proper materials for us to have the most successful, fruitful, blessed life possible. Wouldn’t you agree? How many would like to live a life that that?
Today I want to give you four materials for you to construct as a temporary dwelling in which you can live until Jesus comes back to get you. This material can be found in our text today. It’s four wood products, all of which have symbolic meaning in our walk with Christ.
I’m not a cabinet or furniture maker, but I do know that they prefer certain types of wood depending on what they will be creating. Pine, Oak, Cedar, Hickory, Walnut, all have their best applications in certain pieces. The same goes with these dwellings we are going to construct today.
So with that in mind, we are going to pull from our forest stockyard the branches of the Olive Tree, Pine Tree, Myrtle Tree, and Palm Tree and see what Carpenter Jesus would have us do with them.
First, let’s look at the Olive Tree.
The Olive Tree in the Bible is most always used as a symbol of abundance & blessing.
How many would like to live a life of abundance and blessing? All of us!
3 John 1:2, “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”
We all love this verse, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be blessed. But do you see the correlation here? John ties our physical prosperity with our spiritual prosperity.
He’s saying, “I wish that at whatever level you focus on and pursue your creature comforts and your wealth and your physical strength and appearance and your careers and titles and such, that you would take that same effort and passion and make sure your soul is doing at least equally well.”
To add to our construction materials the Olive Tree is to say, “I want to cover myself with God’s abundance. I want to surround myself with God’s blessing. I want to undergird myself with His prosperity, that my soul would prosper as I walk in obedience to His Word and pursue relationship with Him.”
As I seek Him first and His righteousness, then these other things will be added unto me!
Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14 and the words spoken to the children of Israel just before they were to enter their Promised Land. This is a promise we can claim for us!
Regardless of how it has been in the past for you, if going forward we include the Olive Tree, the tree of abundance and blessing that’s directly connected with walking in obedience to His Word, as part of the materials of our temporary shelter, we can be assured of God’s prosperity in every area of lives as our souls prosper in Him!
The second material we see in our text today is the Pine Tree.
One of the main components of pine is it’s pleasant, aromatic fragrance. We just came out of a season where many of us had live pine trees in our homes, emitting the wonderful fragrance that so symbolizes the Christmas season.
2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
The Pine Tree in this way is a symbol of our fragrant witness of Christ.
We can tell when we are passing by a pine tree. It’s fragrance is undeniable. We just inhale and enjoy the refreshing scent and are invigorated.
So let me ask you this. When others get around you, do you put off the sweet fragrance of the witness of Christ? Do people smell His love, His compassion, His tenderness, His goodness, His forgiveness, and all the rest of His characteristics coming out of you?
Are they refreshed or repulsed?
And we all know some repulsive smells we produce. We won’t even go there!
The Pine Tree represents in our lives the sweet fragrance of our witness of Christ. Jesus commanded us to go tell everyone everywhere about this good news the angels proclaimed at His birth of great joy which shall be to all people!
The Pine Tree is our fragrant witness of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. May it always be a sweet, life-giving, refreshing fragrance to a lost and dying world.
So we have the Olive Tree, which represents God’s blessings and abundance, and we have the Pine Tree, which represents the sweet fragrance of our witness of Jesus emanating out from us to others.
Next we have the Myrtle Tree.
The Myrtle Tree has large, low lying, expansive branches that provide shade from the heat of the day.
In this context, the Myrtle Tree is a symbol of God keeping us through the Holy Spirit.
We are living in times of danger and uncertainty. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but God has promised this in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
These words were spoken to Joshua as he was taking the leadership reigns from Moses. God was assuring him of His constant watch care. He would go before him. He would never leave him.
Jesus said the same thing when He was speaking to His disciples just before the Crucifixion. John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.”
The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, our Keeper, our Protector, our Guide, our Helper, our Teacher, among so many other things. Do you see how imperative it is to have this building material as part of our temporary shelter until Jesus returns for us?
Jesus gave us His Spirit to keep us until He returns. Without the Holy Spirit we are vulnerable to all kinds of attacks from the evil spiritual elements. The large, low-lying, expansive branches of the Holy Spirit provide shelter and shade from the withering heat of the noon day attacks.
He is our refreshing. He is our cool in the midsummer noon day sun.
Psalm 91:1-7 says it best, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”
The Olive Tree of God’s abundance and blessing, the Pine Tree of our fragrant witness of Christ to others, and the Myrtle Tree of God’s keeping us through His Holy Spirit…
Which bring us to our fourth and final tree, the Palm Tree.
We all know what a Palm Tree looks like, very distinct in its appearance. One large towering post, maybe 40-50 feet high, with a beautiful spray of large palms emanating from the top and drooping down. What a display!
The Palm Tree has many symbolisms in the Bible, but in this context it represents our long term commitment to serve God.
Listen to Psalm 92:12-15, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”
Palm trunks were used as posts for the temporary dwellings during these festival, which symbolizes our need for a long term, standing firm in the Faith.
In our walk with Christ, along the way there will be opportunities to stray, temptations to veer from the path, times that we’ll just want to park at a roadside rest stop and just never get back in the car.
The Palm Tree material will keep us from that. As we construct our lives with the determination to serve Christ no matter what, and to not shrink back, give in, or give up, we will be, as the Psalm says, “a flourishing tree still bearing fruit in our old age”. But make sure you read it again carefully. It says we must be “planted in the House of the Lord”. Only then will we flourish. Only then will we continue to be fruitful.
I see so many people throughout the years of my ministry come and go from church. When things are going well, they fade away. When there’s an urgency, they run back to church.
How sad that we treat God like some sort of emotionless sugar daddy, not considering His feelings and only running to Him when we need something.
As I studied about the Palm Tree, I discovered something very interesting. It was of great abundance in Biblical days, and it was a tree that actually helped the people in that part of the world to survive. But today, the Palm Tree in the Middle East has become more neglected and scarce. The Palm Trees are disappearing where they used to be abundant.
I find that correlation not coincidental. How many times do Christians start off strong, being completely sold out to Christ, serving Him wholeheartedly, Him being their very life and breath, only for that passion and commitment to fade as the circumstances and temptations of daily life lure them away and other things take His place.
The relationship becomes neglected, passionless, and cold. And the fruit withers. And the tree dies.
The Palm Tree symbolizes our desire to serve God long term. We stand firm in our commitment to serving Him, and we are fruitful throughout our lives as we are planted and continue to dwell in the house of the Lord.
Let’s add this material along with the Olive Tree of God’s abundance and blessing, the Pine Tree of our witness of Christ to others, and the Myrtle Tree of God’s keeping us through His Holy Spirit.
God’s blessings, our witness of Christ, the Holy Spirit’s keeping, and our long term commitment.
Blessings, witness, keeping, commitment.
I hope that as we recalibrate our lives back to God’s Word in 2015 that you’ll look at the building materials with which you’ve chosen to build your life, replacing the materials that won’t help you with the materials that WILL.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
With Jesus as our solid foundation, let’s take the material of the Olive Tree, which represents God’s blessings and abundance that’s directly tied to our obedience to His Word, the material of the Pine Tree, which represents our fragrant witness of Jesus to others, the material of the Myrtle Tree, which represent the Holy Spirit’s keeping of us until Jesus returns, and the material of the Palm Tree, which represents our commitment to serve God long term, consistently, throughout our lives, dwelling in His House, and remain fruitful all of our days on this earth for His glory!
In this temporary shelter of our time on earth, we would be wise to include these materials as we recalibrate our lives back to God’s Word as the people did in the days of Nehemiah.