I've talked quite a lot lately, hypocritically, I might add, about the fact that we, as 'new creatures' in Christ, have been made 'healing leaves'. I get this phrase from the second verse of the last chapter in Revelation, but really, the 'idea', the impetus for it, starts back in Genesis 4, when Cain 'unwittingly' asked God, 'am I my brothers keeper?' This 'devil- may care' answer/question was given in response to God's own question 'What have you done............?' Cain, of course was pretty angry at both his brother and at God. We know of this account ( Genesis 4 ) as the first ( recorded ) instance of murder in the Bible, but I believe that God had the writer 'put it down' for another reason, as well; it shows us that, yes, we are our brother's keeper, we should care about our brethren, and we do have a duty to do what we can to make sure they are well!
The Scriptures give of us many examples ( most from the opposite side ) of why we should love our brother ( or sister, neighbor, stranger, etc. ) First of all, of course, is the ( opposite ) example of Cain's murder of Abel: he should have, rather than being angry at his brother for doing right, while he did wrong, repented of his wrong-doing. As we know, however, he didn't, and so ended up 'falling prey' to his own emotions, killing his brother, and being expelled from the Presence of God!
Jacob was the younger brother, yet he had been told ( by his mother? ) that God had promised him the 'double portion'; so, rather than being patient, and waiting on God's good timing, when his brother came to him famished one day, fresh ( or not so fresh ) from working in the fields, asking for a simple bowl of stew; Jacob, rather than just giving it to him, as a caring brother should, said 'sell me your birthright'. You can read the rest of the story in Genesis, chapters 24-27. I believe that, although God's purpose was fulfilled in Jacob's actions ( even though his actions were wrong, from our point of view; this does not excuse Jacob's wrong-doing, in the choices he made, and the way he went about making sure that he got the 'double portion'!
Jonathan, maybe one of the best Scriptural examples, should naturally have inherited his father's ( Saul's ) throne, and even though he knew this, he be-friended David, even taking him 'under his wing' for a time, because he loved David, and knew that God had rejected his father from being king before Him ( that included his 'line' ), and had anointed David as the next king of Israel, in his place. Jonathan had every 'right' to be angry, just as you would think Cain did, but even moreso. Although he may have been a bit angry at his father for 'screwing up' his chance at being king ( he was angrier with him for his hatred of David ); he never said anything to David about it ( except good ), and never, by his actions toward David, showed anything but love, friendship, and compassion!
Reading through the Bible; you can probably find other examples ( both good and bad ) of how we are to act ( or not act ) towards our brother: I John 3:14, for instance, says that this is how they knew that they had passed from 'death to life', because they loved the brethren. ( I say 'they', because they were concerned with the transition from the Old to the New Covenant ). Jesus, in John 15:12, told His disciples to 'love one another, as I have loved you'. He even tells us, in Matthew 5:44, to 'love your enemies', for, as Proverbs 10:12 says, 'love covers all sins' .
Revelation 22:2 reads, speaking in the context of 'the new heavens and new earth'/New Covenant, 'In the middle of it's street, and on either side of the river, [was ] the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each [ tree ] yielding it's fruit every month. The leaves of the tree [were] for the healing of the nations.
Without getting into a study of the surrounding context, which I will be doing, Lord willing, in the not-too-distant future; let me just say again, 'we are those leaves!'
I recently wrote a short note on some of the principles and implications of fulfilled eschatology, and this, concerning us anyway, is probably the most important ( and humbling ) of those implications!
The 'Tree of Life' as 'figured' in the garden of Eden ( Genesis 2:9 & 3:22 ), traditionally prefigured Christ. This is a well-accepted fact among most, if not all Christians. During Jesus' famous 'Vine & Branches' discourse ( to His disciples ) in John 15, He put it this way ( verse 5 ), '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.' Now granted; one could nitpick a little bit here, and even though the parallels are fairly easy to pick up on. Say something to the effect that Jesus said, in Revelation 22, that we [ are to ] bear fruit, and leaves don't bear fruit. Although I believe that would be 'grasping at straws', 'mere' nitpicking; they just might have a point there! The language that Jesus uses in chapter 22, verses 1 & 2 seem to indicate the 'presence' of more than one tree, for it ( 'the Tree of Life' ) was 'on either side of the river'! How could that be, unless the 'Tree' had multiplied itself ( is that what you call naturalization, Luther, or maybe that would be 'spiritualization'?! ), and the leaves/fruit of that/those 'tree/s' are for the healing of the nations!
How are we, faultful, weak-willed; finite, and fallible human beings supposed to 'change' the world, to heal' so many centuries, even milllenia of hate and discord, crime and punishment? Who are we to even think such a thing might be possible ( Psalm 8:4 )? Jesus reminds us, in John 15, 'for without Me, you can do nothing'! It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit ( both through us and in them ) that we can! You say yet, 'how can we 'heal' the nations? We just po' folk, livin' in the heartland ( of America )!'' I'm right there with you brother; I can barely afford to travel to the neighboring states, much less a whole other country! Let me explain something that might make it a bit easier/simpler: when John wrote the words that Jesus gave him ( the Revelation ); it was in the historical context of the first century, during, I believe, the 'great tribulation'. Although, in the 'grand' ( God's ) scheme of things, we know that the Gospel ( Matthew 28:19 ) was meant for every nation 'under heaven'; the 'Great Commission' ( of Matthew 28:19 ) was fulfilled in the first century, but I rather doubt that the Gospel had spread to America, Australia, even parts of Europe and Asia, by then, and most would probably agree with me here. The 'nations', especially in biblical historical context, were those neighboring regions ( we would call them 'states' ) and countries in the Mediterranean region. We can only strive to do our part as 'healing leaves' to those around us, to minister ( as time and finances allow ) to 'needs' that we see around us, and I realize that there are those that God has called ( and 'opened doors' for ) some to travel to distant ( more or less ) countries and minister as 'healing leaves' in that particular country, or areas; but how much does it cost, how much time or finances does it take to share the love of Christ by just going across the street, with a smile on your face, and shake someone's hand, help a little old lady across the street, or bandage up a child's freshly scraped knee?
By God's grace,
Charles Haddon Shank
By God's grace,
Charles Haddon Shank