The Hidden Life of Trees

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben captivated me. Be warned though, I had to stop reading it in bed because I kept saying, ‘Wow!’ and waking up Graham. I love books that help me discover, and this book made me appreciate God’s creation so much. Although it is written from an evolutionary perspective, this book enables those who recognize God’s sovereignty over his creation to gain further insight into God’s incredible design of the trees and forests he calls into being.

Trees are important in the Scriptures. God creates the trees and calls them ‘good’ (Gen 1:11-12).  God’s care for fruiting trees is revelaed in his instructions to Israel that in their warfare, they may not cut down food trees in enemy territory (Deut 20:19). Carvings of trees adorned the Lord’s house (ie 1 Kings 6-7). King David exhorts the trees of the forest to sing for joy to the Lord (1 Chron 16:33; Ps 96:12).  In Israel’s exile, a sign of their restoration is the planting of trees, and that well-loved image of the trees clapping their hands in praise to the Lord (Isa 55:12-13).

Jesus compares people’s character to that of fruit-bearing trees (Matt 7:17-20), and compares the Kingdom of God to a seed that becomes a great tree that provides shelter as it grows (Matt 13:31-32).  Jesus’s authority over trees, which were often used as symbols for powers in biblical times, is demonstrated when he cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit although it was in full leaf (Matt 21:18-22). And he warns that those who claim to know God will bear good fruit, and that those who don’t show they don’t really know God and will be cut off from the life that only God can offer (Matt 3:10; Luke 3:9; John 15:2-16; cf. Col 1:10; Gal 5:22). Paul uses the image of an olive tree to explain to the church in Rome how Christians are ‘grafted into’ the family of God (Rom 11:17-24), and he commands Christians to be like trees that grow roots deep into God’s marvelous love (Eph 3:17; Col 2:7). Finally, trees are envisioned to have an important role in the new heavens and earth and the eternal life that God promises to those who put their faith Jesus (Rev 22:2-19). I love all the images of trees in the Scriptures, and I often think about them when I am bush-walking or hiking. So this book was a great read for me.

Wohlleben’s book deepend my love for trees even more. I enjoyed the scientific research in this book that suggests that trees are designed to thrive best in community, and this claim is backed by good evidence. As one quote from the book says, “A tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” I like that! It reminds me of those Scriptures that connect trees to love and bearing fruit.

I loved learning about the various supports that God has designed into forest ecosystems. Have you ever wondered how saplings and smaller trees can even survive in the light-deprived forest floor? This book gives insights into how this is possible.

I also love that this book seems to vindicate Tolkien’s vision of the Ents in more ways than one. Tolkien was on to something that science is only now discovering. It turns out that trees communicate in more ways than one. The images of the trees praising the Lord in the Scriptures came to mind as I read about the amazing ways that trees communicate. I will never look at trees the same way again.

If you like trees, or know someone who does, this book is well-worth your consideration as a great read or gift.

Available at Amazon Smile (choose Wycliffe Bible Translators as your charity of choice if you like) and on Amazon Kindle.

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