There are three large sycamore trees in front of my house. I wish they weren't there, because every spring I spend ages pulling up the seedlings that their winged drones have cunningly planted in my front garden, and every autumn I have to sweep up masses of leaves which bury the flowerbeds when the wind is in the wrong direction. Yet when I look at these trees from my bedroom window they speak to me of the sheer wonder of God's creation.
I believe what the Bible tells us - that God both designed and created this world supernaturally. The world as we know it did not just happen by some incredibly fortuitious random activity of non-sentient molecules, but it is the result of God's planning and forethought and loving provision for the human race. So what do trees tells us about this?
A tree provides wood, which in past centuries was the only fuel for warmth and cooking and provided essential material for many other things. Wood could be turned into spears, bows and arrows for hunting; boats for fishing and exploration; and yokes, ploughshares, scythe handles, cartwheels, barrels and countless other items including even windmills. Today wood provides material for buildings: rafters and tiling battens, floor joists and staircases; wood-based panel products for walls, doors and flooring; and arches and columns made from glulam and other composite timber materials for sports centres, concert halls and other public buildings. It is used for footbridges, railings and fences; and it is still used for the handles of hammers, axes, spades and forks, etc. It provides the material for many musical instruments like the 'cello I sometimes play. Wood is the vital raw material for paper and cardboard and increasing types of cellulose- and lignin-based products. It is hard enough to resist normal indentation forces, yet soft enough to be sawn by the steel which God has also provided. Its amazing strength and environmental credentials as the only renewable building material are being increasingly utilized: more and more wind turbines are being made from timber rather than steel. A modern timber I-joist is stronger than one of the same weight made of steel, and cross-laminated timber is being used as the load-bearing structure for higher and higher buildings. In Chicago plans have been developed for a timber building, the River Beech Tower, 80 storeys high!
Trees provide a home for birds, insects and some animals, and a shelter from the sun and rain. They provide fruit, nuts and the healthiest kinds of cooking oil for human beings. Trees keep the atmosphere breathable by producing oxygen in place of carbon dioxide, and they promote rainfall by cooling the ground beneath them. Finally (I reluctantly have to admit it) three of them also provide a rather pleasant view from my bedroom window.
It is truly amazing that a tree can supply so many different human needs. But what is almost too amazing to believe is that a tree - with its complex cellular structure, its sunlight-powered leaves and its amazing reproductive mechanism that enables it to create multitudes (too many multitudes!) of identical trees century after century - this amazing wonder of God's creation is made out of nothing more remarkable than earth! Could you or anyone else take a spadeful of earth and turn it into a living tree?
As I ponder the marvel of God's omnipotence in providing for so many of our needs out of nothing more than some tiny seeds and some ordinary earth, I can only echo the words of Psalm 92, verse 5: "I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works!"
Genesis 1.11-13; Psalm 33.6; Hebrews 11.3; Colossians 1.15,15; Proverbs 8.22-31; Job 38.1-40.2; Isaiah 41.19,20