In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits…
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. In ancient times the leaves of certain trees were used for medicinal purposes (see the old herbalists, etc.). And increasingly it is being discovered how God has placed healing power in the varied forms of plant life. The proportion of the physician's pharmacopoeia occupied by leaves and such like plant products is no slight one. The old story of Marsh, and the healing of the bitter waters there by the tree cast into them, has its antitype in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and its repetition in the healing properties which the leaves and other parts of many trees possess. Now, concerning the tree of life told of in our text, and its leaves, and the nations that are healed by them, many questions may be asked which it is not easy to answer. But, nevertheless, it is neither improper nor unprofitable to follow oat the suggestions which the words of our text supply. Taking, then, the tree of life as telling of Christ, whether seen in his gospel, or in his Church, or in the lives of individual believers, the leaves of the tree mean much. Take them as representing -
I. SCATTERED MEMBERS OF CHRIST'S CHURCH. Missionaries, Christian emigrants, soldiers, merchants, sailors. All these are like the leaves which are scattered hither and thither as they are torn off by the wind. What do not heathen lands owe to such scattered ones as these leaves tell or? Any of us may, by the wind of God's providence, be carried far away into heathen lands. If so, God grant that we may be as one of these leaves of the tree of life.
II. THE HUMBLEST AND MOST ORDINARY MEMBERS OF CHRIST'S CHURCH. As the leaves are individually but insignificant parts of the tree, they seem to represent those members of Christ who are like them. And yet what force and efficacy are attributed to them! In every leaf the whole tree - so botanists say - is discernible; its image can be clearly traced. And this is why each leaf can do so much. God often chooses things that are foolish and least and despised (cf. 1 Corinthians 1., etc.) for the accomplishment of his ends.
III. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. We speak of the leaves of a book. Whether that common phrase refer to the leaves of a tree or no, it is certain that the leaves of the Bible may be called leaves of the tree of life. For where those leaves have gone, what have they not done? The indebtedness of the world to the Bible has long been a favourite theme of Christian advocates. They have been for the healing of the nations, and are so still. And they who circulate religious tracts and leaflets, as they term them, do so in the belief that the truth of Christ which is in them will have, as it often has had, healing power.
IV. CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. The leaves are the portion of the tree which is visible, prominent, and seen by all. They may, therefore, stand as the symbol of all that outward life of the Christian which appears before men. All the characteristics of the leaves suggest similar ones in conduct. The leaves are the conspicuous parts of the tree; by their elevation, their colour, their number, their sound, their movements, their beauty, their shadow, and much else. So that everybody notices the leaves. For the most part it is all they can see, and always the most marked feature of the tree. Now, such is the outward life, the conduct, the ten thousand common actions, the innumerable everyday doings and sayings, multitudinous as leaves and as visible, of Christian men. And such leaves have healing power. It was so at the first. Rome was converted from paganism to Christ by the silent but mighty force of the pure, beautiful, blameless, and spiritually elevated lives of the Christians. The heathen gazed with wonder, and an ever increasing number of them came to desire such life for themselves. And there is no healing force anywhere like such leaves. But though, in the blessed future condition of the Church, the lives of all her members wilt be of so salutary a sort, it is very far otherwise now. Too many Christians are upas trees rather than trees of life, and their leaves are deadly rather than healing. Who does not know this? And such sad fact should lead to the question - What is the influence of my life? are its leaves healing leaves or the reverse? And no more fervent prayer should we pray than that we, each one, may become ourselves trees of life.
V. THE SECONDARY RESULTS OF CHRISTIANITY. Leaves are not the purpose of a tree. To have nothing but leaves is condemnation, not praise. Fruit is the end of a tree. "I have ordained you," said our Lord, "that ye should go and bring forth much fruit" (cf. John 15:2, "Every branch that beareth not fruit," etc.). Leaves, therefore, are but the accidents, the subordinate purpose, the secondary results, of the wee. And our Lord came that we might bring forth fruit unto God. Still, along with this, the tree has borne precious leaves. See the influence of Christianity upon art, law, society, commerce - indeed, on all departments of life. What does not art - music, painting, sculpture, architecture - owe to the faith of Christ? This was not the main purpose of Christ. That was to create holy souls; to redeem men from all iniquity. But in the accomplishment of this, in bringing forth this most precious fruit, the tree has yielded leaves also, such as these, and yet others. Shall we, then, listen to speculations and arguments, the aim and too frequent effect of which is to destroy the faith of Christ in men's minds? Shall we knowingly cut down a tree the very leaves of which have healing power? - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
WEB: in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.