Monday, January 31, 2011


I write this in the depth of winter when the leaves have fallen off the huge oak tree outside my picture window. I see just a few hardy leaves still dangling and dancing on the branches. Even those are being snatched off by strong winds that are harbingers of the coming freezing rain which is forecast to turn into a snowstorm.

Why do the trees in this climate lose their leaves at this season? With omnipotent foreknowledge, our Creator God designed trees to lose their leaves in winter so that when heavy snow and ice cling to the branches, they won’t break with the weight. Trees stand naked and to all appearances seem to be lifeless. In God’s marvelous cycle of the seasons, they are fully alive and awaiting their spring resurrection.

               God employs similes and metaphors to point us to truth about Himself and about us.
People of faith in Scripture are symbolized as sheep, buildings, fishermen, grain, children—
and trees. "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and
whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" ( Psalm 1:3).

God’s choice of a tree to illustrate a growing Christian is not specific to any chronological age, although the context of certain verses like Psalm 92: 13-16 describes God’s expectations for the aging believer in God. “The just man shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow. They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bear fruit even to old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be, declaring how just is the Lord, my Rock, in whom there is no wrong.” Vigorous and sturdy and flourishing are not ways one usually describes a person advancing in age, but that is God’s expectation for our spiritual lives. An insightful note from the NAB Catholic version on the above verse is, “Planted: the pious are so steadfast in attendance in the temple that they can figuratively be said to be rooted there.”

Other tree verses are found in Jeremiah 17:7, 8, “For he [the blessed one who believes in, relies on, hopes in and has confidence in the Lord] shall be like a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not see and fear when heat comes, but his leaf shall be green; he shall not be anxious and careful in the year of drought, nor shall he cease from yielding fruit.” (From the Amplified version) The application is clear. The Christian must stay close to the Water of Life. And if there is no surface river, he can stretch his roots still deeper to an underground river, an “aquifer” of water far beneath the ground. It can’t be seen but is the invisible source for wells and springs. In drought time and in the heat of adverse circumstances, our lives and our witness, watered well, will still flourish and bear fruit and grow green leaves.

What is the significance of “their leaf shall not wither”? Leaves of a tree or plant have multiple functions. They receive and absorb nutrients from the sun and the atmosphere to nourish the whole process of fruit bearing. Leaves serve as a gentle protection and a covering for the developing fruit. They hide the fruit from predators. Leaves provide shade from the heat and shelter for people. Leaves help to identify the variety of tree even before fruit develops. People can’t see whether a root is healthy, but they can monitor our leaves and draw an accurate conclusion by observing whether our leaves, our actions and our words, are green and supple. If our leaves are dried up or withered, something is obviously wrong either with our root system or the environment. The application to our spiritual lives is obvious. Advancing age is not an excuse for allowing our spiritual lives to wither or become dry in contrast to the normal decline and withering of the human body.

               It's impossible for a tall tree to have high branches without having strong, deep roots.
It would become top-heavy and topple over in a storm. The same is true of Christians. It's
impossible to grow in the Lord without entwining our roots around His Word and deepening
our relationship with Jesus in order to be “steadfast and unmovable” as Scripture commands
               May our roots grow deep in your Word, Lord, and may our branches reach ever higher to
praise You. When winds of adversity come, help us to remain strong. It will be said of us, "They
will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor"

(Isaiah 61:3).


No comments: