Lessons From The Sycamore Tree

BTH_35Lessons From The Sycamore Tree

A children’s song has made the sycamore tree a most famous tree of the Bible. The “wee little man” who climbed its limbs to see Jesus has forever placed the relative to the fig tree a common picture of Bible lore. The sycamore tree of scripture is not to be confused with the maple tree familiar to North America. It produced an inferior fruit to the fig tree and was often planted by the wayside for shade to weary travelers. Fausset writes, “The tree is always green, and bears fruit often throughout the year, so that it is of much value to the poor. The wood, though porous, is durable, and suffers neither from moisture nor heat; Egyptian mummy coffins of it are sound after entombment for thousands of years” (Fausset’s Bible Dictionary). There was an abundance of sycamore trees in the lowlands of Israel (1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chronicles 1:15; 9:27; Isaiah 9:10).

Sycamore trees were of such importance that King David assigned Baal-Hanan the Gederite to oversee them in the lowlands (2 Chronicles 27:28). David would not build the House of the Lord but he began organizing all that was needed to complete the task under the guidance of his son, Solomon. 2 Chronicles 23-29 contains the extensive work laid out for the Levites, priests, musicians, gatekeepers, treasuries, military divisions, leaders of tribes, and thousands of other people in preparation of the Temple plans.

Baal-Hanan was in charge of the sycamore trees – not the most glamorous job title but it was an integral part of the building of the Temple. He was not one of the thirty-eight thousand men who served as Levites in the holy place of God’s house. His place was not to be one of the skilled musicians who would “prophesy with harps, stringed instruments and cymbals” (2 Chronicles 25:1) nor to be a “captain of thousands and hundreds” (2 Chronicles 27:1) but his place was important. Tending the sycamore trees was his task and while not glitzy and exciting as others positions he was important. He had a place in the plan of God. The apostle Paul would show the Corinthians that everyone has a place in the work of the Lord. “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22). The Lord needs a lot of “Baal-Hanan” in the church today who are willing to live in the lowlands and tend sycamore trees. Everyone is important! Everyone is needed – even, yes, the weaker members.

Psalm 78 is a vivid picture of the history of Israel. Asaph glorifies Jehovah God for His infinite mercy and kindness towards a rebellious people and also declares the power of the Lord against nations who turn away from the Creator. The psalmist reminds Israel of the fury of God “When He worked His signs in Egypt, and His wonders in the field of Zoan … He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost … He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, by sending angels of destruction among them. He made a path for His anger; He did not spare their soul from death, but gave their life over to the plague, and destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt, the first of their strength in the tents of Ham” (Psalms 78:43-51). The sycamore tree stands as a testimony to the will of God over the futile plans of men. He brought low the powerful nation of Egypt in destroying the economy of its fruit. Egypt had never seen a plague of flies, frogs, caterpillars, locust, hail and frost as dealt by the mighty hand of God. The lesson is found in the eternal plans of God overshadowing the pride of men who trust in themselves.

James challenges the plans of man when he declares, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16). The will of God is found in the sycamore tree as a reminder that God is still in control and no matter what nations may do the Lord God will still have His way in the affairs of men.

The prophet Amos was a hard man. Growing up in Tekoa (twelve miles south of Jerusalem) was a difficult and hard life. Keeping watch over sheep and tending the sycamore tree made him a man of humble origins. His answer to King Amaziah who charged him to stop prophesying was that he was not of the lineage of prophets nor was he trained as a prophet. “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheep breeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel’” (Amos 7:14-15). Amos was a simple man doing the great work of the Lord. He had no credentials to make him stand out. There were no letters of education and prestige attached to his name. He came from no pedigree of orators who could boast of their training. He was a preacher of the gospel of the Lord. That is all he was.

When Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4 the council “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The Lord needs a lot of men and women from Tekoa. What makes a difference is not the level of education or training but whether a person has walked with Jesus. Like a shepherd who smells like his sheep, the disciple of Jesus must know the aroma of Christ in their lives. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

The people must have thought Zacchaeus had lost his mind. A grown man (in rich clothing) climbing a tree. How undignified. What man of stature would act like so much a child as to despoil his clothing and reputation by such conduct? “Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully” (Luke 19:2-6). Zacchaeus changed a lot of things that day. He would later tell Jesus that he would “give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold. And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost’” (Luke 19:8-10).

The Savior is looking for people to climb a sycamore tree. Shedding the garments of this world man must seek the Lord with their hearts and desire to live godly lives before Him. Zacchaeus cast aside the pressure of his peers to see Jesus and gladly accepted the will of God into his life. Humility. A man of small stature but giant faith. Would others be willing to climb a tree to see Jesus? “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). When we bring ourselves low the Lord brings us up. Zacchaeus was vertically challenged only in the flesh. His vertical was all the way to the throne of God. Thank you Zacchaeus for climbing that sycamore tree.

This entry was posted in Character Study, Christian, Church, Morality, New Testament, Old Testament, Social Issues, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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