By Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger
Rivers and trees. The Bible begins and ends with rivers and trees. Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22. Rivers and trees bookend the Bible. Why is this striking fact not more well known among followers of Jesus? And what might this text teach us about creation justice?
In this mind-bending vision of God’s good future (Revelation 21:1 to 22:7) John the Seer speaks about the river of the water of life, cascading from the throne of God and the Lamb, right smack-dab through the middle of a heaven-on-earth city. Rekindling the vision of Ezekiel 47, John reminds us that wherever this sacred river flows, every living creature flourishes. On each side of the river is the tree of life, with twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month, sustenance all year long. No more hunger or famine. No more worry about if or when you will get the next meal.
"...wherever this sacred river flows, every living creature flourishes."
The leaves of this magnificent tree are for the healing of the nations--the soothing, restorative reconciliation of all ethnic groups and peoples. And this healing includes all creation. Respect for rights and care for needs—human and nonhuman alike. In short, the leaves of this tree foster God’s good future of shalom: justice, love, the flourishing of all things.
Can we even begin to imagine what this would be like? No more trees felled to make battering rams to lay violent siege to medieval cities. No more trees cut to make sailing masts for colonial slave ships. No more trees pulped to make paper propaganda to fuel the fires of ethnic cleansing and human hate.
In sharp contrast, this tree brings healing and wholeness to all. Medicinal uses of biochemical compounds extracted from leaves or bark. Beautiful wood used to make melodious guitars and sturdy garden hoes. Generous forest canopies that provide us shade and offer homes to warblers and bromeliads and tree frogs. Sinuous streams and life-filled lakes that provide habitats for crabs and trout and loons. The leaves of this tree are for the healing of the nations and the good of all creation.
An essential aspect of our faith is hope. And an integral feature of hope is imagining a good future. May this rarely read but powerful text infuse our imaginations with an earthy and earthly vision of all things as God intends them to be. Shalom. The reign of God. Creation justice.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.