“On either side of the river was the tree of life…” Rev. 22:2
I bought this painting by Kent Brewer at a Waxahachie plain air event. He painted it on site in Ellis county, TX. I wander down that road every time I look at it—puts this artist in a peaceful place of loneliness and anticipation – as does painting. Even in a crowd, art is always done alone. And while disaster might be looming (not everything works out), the anticipation makes for great adventure.
I like the tongue-in-cheek title of the painting, too: “Arc de Treeomph.” And recently this painting and its title have taken on more meaning.
I call the Bible a “A Tale of Two Trees.” It begins and ends with trees. As in Revelation, Genesis puts them on center stage (Gen. 2:9): The tree of life. And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Like a courthouse built smack in the middle of a Texas county, these two trees were easiest to access from anywhere in the Garden. And when God further pointed them out, Adam and Eve wouldn’t avoid them. (For a fuller discussion on Adam and Eve, go here.)
The fateful one, mistakenly called the tree of knowledge, was actually the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of its fruit, “you shall not eat,” God warned. Then, could it have been said that before he ate from the tree, man did not know good – and he did not know evil? He just knew God?
I believe that is the exact intention.
It’s all confirmed in the last chapter of Revelation when God “reveals” the truth of everything. That sun you saw? It was actually me—I am the light, he says. (Rev. 22: 5, John 8:12). And from this light (because there is no more sun or night), you may see the truth of all: the rivers, the terrain of the land, the trees… it was all of me and is there for your good. You will know me (Rev. 22:4, John 17:3) and you will be in the world, but it will not overcome you. And so you will reign over it forever.
In this blog, I will make much of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And what is its fruit? “Judgment, justice, the law, righteousness…” Of course the world is established on all of these. But the taking on of this judgment is the original sin of mankind, and from it sprang many works. Both good and evil.
Don’t eat from that tree, God said.
But of course they did.
So Adam and Eve, who only knew God in trust beforehand, had their eyes opened (Gen. 3:7). This was the first “revelation.” But in the guilt of this new-found knowledge, they hid in fear and shame (Gen. 3: 8-10).
“..for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Gen. 2:17
So the days of trust were over.
But there was another tree.
We most often understand biblical history to be the making up of lost ground. But if a lone God is the artist and this world is his painting, while disaster loomed, perhaps this adventure was only beginning.
So Kent’s painting takes me from the beginning of a journey to the end in my thoughts. And while his good humored “Arc de Treeomph” is of two trees shading a road, it also pictures the tree of life straddling a river in Revelation: A true arc of triumph.
The Gospel, the Bible, indeed, the history of the world is a tale of two trees.
It’s told in the epic story of a bride, a bridegroom and a wedding feast.
And it’s all summed up in a simple prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.
I dare say that in this, is explained the answer to all the questions of the universe.
I’m an artist – a painter and sketcher mostly. A few years back when I began my fine art website, I included a biblical verse on the home page. Romans 1:20. It speaks of how God’s invisible attributes are revealed in the things he has made. “What does that mean?” I thought. I really had no idea.
Beware of asking sincere questions.
This blog is one of explanation. Things I’ve observed and discovered and learned along the way—although to be honest, I really haven’t learned a thing. I’m just seeing things differently.
So to begin:
The only thing I believe is that God is:
If my wife wakes me in the morning and tells me the sun is shining, it might take belief to go out the door and see for myself. But once outside, it takes no belief for the sun to light my way and to feel the comfort of its warmth.
I got a check yesterday in the mail for a sold painting. Always a nice surprise. But this surprise was mixed. The total was less than what it should have been (galleries may sell at a discount).
So this was on my mind all evening: What does it mean? Should I produce more of the same subject in the hope of more and better sales? Or should I remove the rest of my paintings from that gallery lest they sell at a discount?
Then I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread. This happens occasionally. Some will see a doctor about it and maybe get a prescription. Preachers will counter, “Be happy, God loves you!” Or “Things could be worse.” (and certainly they could). But I’ve come to understand these feelings to be a result of something on my mind. In this case I had decided that the painting sale (painting is my heart and soul after all…) was not a good thing. Nothing to get happy about.
I had taken on the burden of my judgment concerning the painting. And doubt entered about my abilities and beliefs. “I’m no good.” Or, “God won’t take care of me—if he exists at all…”
Again, some would now assure me against such drastic conclusions and try to ease the doubt with kind words of encouragement.
But the heart of the issue was a judgment. Had the painting sold for what I asked or more, my spirits would have been buoyed this morning. But I had determined this to be bad. So a bit of counseling came to mind:
“If you do well…” God explained to Cain (Gen. 4:7).
This sunrise/sunset world is one of non-stop judgments. There are the passing judgments that determine what to do next. Like making a right or left turn at an intersection. Or choosing a gallery. Regardless of one’s “religion,” to act on them is a matter of faith. Then there are judgments that sink into the heart to decide how I feel or who I am. Revealed by crisis (like a feeling of dread), they are the burdens – and the crouching “sin” that would rule over me.
“Who told you that you were naked?” God asked Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:11).