Is our God a ‘Selective Conservationist’?
February 27 Bible Reading: Deuteronomy Chapters 19-21
In the midst of expounding the principles governing warfare and the military rules for the Israelites, Moses expounds an intriguing piece of ecological planning from God in Deut 20:19-20: "When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man's food. Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, to build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it is subdued.
In other words, God did not want the Israelites to cut down any trees that bore fruit. So, fruit-bearing trees were to be carefully spared. We see that trees are mentioned in many places in the Bible. Trees provide food (Deut 24:20-21), serve as memorials (Gen 21:33), supply building materials (1 Chronicles 14:1), offer shade (Zech 3:10; John 1:48), and even stand as landmarks (Gen 12:6). There are definite rules about planting and cultivation (Lev 19:23-25). However, in a protracted siege, wood would be required for various purposes, both for military works and for fuel and so the trees that did not bear fruit were to be cut down without mercy.
So, to answer the question - Is our God a ‘Selective Conservationist’? - We can definitely say ‘YES’. How does this relate to our lives? In Psalms 1:3, it is God’s desire that we should “…be like trees planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season". Jeremiah 17:7-8 tells us the following: "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit”. We have been planted for bearing fruit. There are dire consequences for not bearing fruit as we are supposed to do. “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:10)
Let us be fruit-bearing in our lives for we will be known by the fruits we produce. In the words of Jesus: “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt 7:16-19) Let us bear much fruit (John 15:8), fruit that remain (John 15:16) and let the fruit of the Spirit be evident in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23).