Life as a Good Tree

“So they will be called oaks of righteousness…” Isaiah 61.3

I am struck by how often trees are used to teach us simple, profound truths.

Recently Andrew Murray blessed me with another tree-truth from “The Master’s Indwelling” by suggesting that every oak tree, from the young sapling to the ancient and mighty, is standing in the grave of an acorn. And it requires the acorn to die to being an acorn for the oak tree to have life. The acorn is buried and dies, and from its grave the new life form, the oak, emerges.

When Jesus announced the beginning of His ministry on earth He read from the scroll of Isaiah the passage we find in Isaiah 61. He confidently proclaimed that Isaiah’s prophetic words were about to be fulfilled in Him. God was preparing to raise up “oaks of righteousness.”

But there was a problem – the earth was (and is) full of bad trees. When Jesus said, “…make the tree good and its fruit good…for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12.33), He offers an obvious but implausible solution.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) In this excerpt from the book of John Jesus explained to those who would hear that the death-yields-life principle provides not only the source of a new life form but also serves as the multiplier effect for its abundance, the good fruit.  From the grave of the grain of wheat emerges a plant with many new grains, and new life is multiplied through that death.

How can you make a bad tree good? Better, how does God produce oaks of righteousness from bad trees? He plants a righteous Acorn and out of the grave of the righteous Acorn, Jesus, rise the oaks of righteousness! The nature of the acorn determines the nature of the new oak. The death and resurrection of righteous Christ becomes the new paradigm for the propagation of the new life form, the Oaks of Righteousness, the children of God, the Church.

Paul helps us better understand how God brings this about. “One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life…” (2 Corinthians 5.14- 15, MSG)

Let’s finish that verse, Isaiah 61.3: “So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.” While we are the beneficiaries of the grace and righteousness God imbues to us through Christ,this whole exercise is not ultimately about us.

Only Father can make a bad tree into a good tree. As Isaiah tells us these oaks of righteousness are “the planting of the Lord.” Having been planted in Christ we each stand in the grave of the Quintessential Acorn, Jesus Christ. We are glorious new creations who, in our unfolding glory, emanate the glory of the Father and His Son. We are blessed to become oaks of righteousness, but it is God’s glory that is multiplied and manifested in each and every one of His oaks as we bear much fruit.

For some crazy reason I still recall from my school days Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees.” Did you have to learn that one? If I may exercise a bit of poetic license, I’ll close with this:

Words are spun by hacks like me
But God alone transforms the Tree.

Beginning Again

Life is full of challenges.

I’m facing one now as I attempt to create this new website for Grace Link. I am assuming that my daughters can assist me with the creative element at the very least. For me creativity is deciding that a pink polo shirt would be okay to wear with khaki slacks to church! Oh I’ve been known to write poetry for special occasions like my daughters’ weddings. It was a way for me to avoid the other challenge of trying to officiate the services without turning into a blubbering, sentimental fool and for the family to avoid the embarrassment of having to bring in a reliever from the pastoral bullpen! Even then I could barely make it through reading the poems without slobbering all over myself.

The poems were decent I guess and it seemed somehow fitting that I try to express to my three girls my pride and how precious and unique each of them are. But it seems my creativity, such as it is, requires an impending crisis such as a wedding to get cranked up and running. Now I’m not suggesting that “creating” a website rises to the level of crisis as our weddings, but they worked out well mainly because the girls were so much a part of them. I pray they can bring  a similar level of creative expression and completion to this challenge too.