It’s a big tree living in a land of giants. In fact, the General Sherman, which has been growing in California’s Sequoia National Park for approximately the last 2,000 years, is the world’s largest.
It’s not the world’s tallest (a 380-foot California redwood — a cousin to the sequoias — holds that distinction), but towering 275 feet high is no small feat
The General earns the No. 1 ranking because of its girth and volume. With a 36-foot diameter, it measures over 102 feet around its massive trunk. That’s the equivalent of 18 people stretching fingertip to fingertip surrounding the tree.
General Sherman’s biggest branch exceeds the diameter of most trees east of the Mississippi.
Scientists estimate this famous sequoia tips the scales at around 2.7 million pounds (is that with leaves or without?) and adds several tons of additional weight annually. Its yearly production of new wood would make a 60-foot tree of normal size.
Even sequoias’ root systems are impressive, often extending 100 feet to as far as 200 feet from the trunk, and absorbing water and nutrients from four acres of land. It takes a lot of roots to support that much size.
Sequoias are hardy trees, able to withstand heat, drought, insects and fire. Their bark averages 6 to 10 inches thick for the lower half, and is filled with tannins, making it both fire and insect resistant. Excepting only the most intense forest fires, flames usually only char and blacken the outer layer of bark and never reach the inner growth layers.
These same tannins make sequoias virtually rot-proof. Some fallen trunks lay resting nearly intact on the forest floor 150 years later!
General Sherman, we salute you! May you keep growing like your nearby (barely smaller) great-great-great-great granddaddy — the President — who’s roughly 3,240 years old.
The Bible talks about trees. Genesis 2:8-9 introduces us to two special trees in God’s botanical Garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
We know how this story goes. Enticed by the serpent, Eve ate the forbidden fruit hanging from the tree of knowledge, gave some to Adam, and sin and death entered the world. Choosing the wrong tree changed their world (and ours) immediately and forever. They forfeited access to the tree of life. Paradise lost.
But God had a plan involving another tree. Jeremiah 23:5-6 reveals, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for [King] David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
David had been dead for over three centuries when this prophecy was given, but God promised to raise up a new Branch from the lineage of David. Metaphorically and symbolically, David’s royal legacy was like an old, lifeless stump, a decaying memory of the nation of Israel’s golden years.
But God, the Creator of life, said He would cause new growth to spring forth from this stump: a righteous Branch and new tree would grow!
Isaiah prophesied (11:1) that, “There shall come forth a shoot [new sprout] from the stump of Jesse [King David’s father], and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” A tree of salvation was coming: the Messiah and Christ!
The Hebrew word for “branch,” “sprout,” or “shoot” is “nzr.” There was a small, insignificant town in Israel with “nzr” in its name, a place called Nazareth. Roughly translated, Nazareth means “Branch Town” or “Town of the Little Shoot/Sprout.”
What was Jesus’ hometown? Nazareth. What adjective was often used to describe Him? Nazarene. Jesus was and is God’s “Righteous Branch” or tree!
This long-prophesied tree of God — Jesus Christ — lived, loved and ministered for three-and-one-half years until He was nailed to another kind of tree: the tree of Calvary, a cross. At Calvary, what was meant to be a tree of death for one man, instead became a tree of life for all people. When we place our faith in Christ, we gain forgiveness of our sins and eternal life.
Guess where the tree of life is now. Heaven! Guess what we regain access to when we come to God through His righteous Branch, Jesus Christ? The tree of life!
In Revelation 2:7, Jesus said, “I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”
That’s the tree-mendously good news of the gospel!