When sin, decay and death entered the world, God set out on a relentless pursuit to restore humanity and all of creation repeatedly using trees as instruments and signs of His deliverance. God instructs Noah to build a large boat out of Gopher trees that will carry his family through the coming flood. After 40 days and nights afloat in the ark, a dove returns with the leafy branch of an olive tree, signaling a new start and the peace and anointing of God’s Spirit.
God calls Abraham to a foreign land and at the Oak of Moreh promises him numerous descendants that will become a nation of blessing for all nations. Decades later, God confirms his original promise at the Oaks of Mamre where Abraham and Sarah, without a son and beyond age bearing years, graciously host God when He shows up incognito as three mysterious strangers. Much later, Isaac, the son of promise, is rescued from sacrifice when a ram is caught in a thicket. Isaac has a son, Jacob, who has a vision in a walnut grove of a wooden ladder connecting heaven and earth. Centuries later, Jesus would tell Nathan he saw him under the oak tree, and call him to be his disciple, hinting that He Himself is the ladder of Jacob.
Like a parent kneeling at eye level with their kid, God reveals Himself to Moses not from a large majestic tree but from a small burning desert tree or bush, and calls Him to lead Israel out of Egyptian slavery. Moses’ wooden walking stick is made to be a sign of God’s power, authority, and provision. With the extension or touch of Moses’ wooden staff, the Red Sea is parted, the Israelites fend off the Amalekites, and water gushes from a rock to quench the Israelites thirst.
The pattern continues.
A log makes the bitter waters of Marah drinkable. Despite Israel's rebellion, God calls Gideon from under a tree to deliver Israel from her enemies. Deborah serves as Israel's judge holding court among the Palm trees. David throws Goliath off his game with sticks and God calls him to battle with a sound of marching among the treetops.
Trees mark the trail of deliverance that God blazes as He repeatedly reveals Himself, marks His promises, and delivers His people using flawed and broken leaders along the way. Noah, Abraham, Moses, and all the others had their flaws and failures, but they were attentive and responsive to God and continually returned to Him. Noah heard and obeyed God despite the ridicule of everybody he knew besides his family. Moses turned aside to investigate the burning bush. Abraham believed God and set out for the unknown land God promised to show him. David watched and listened for God's signal of the sound of marching in the treetops.
Friends, don’t let our flaws, failures and brokenness eclipse God's grace nor serve as an excuse to dismiss God's call to join him in His work of redemption. Let’s heed the call of God's trees in scripture to be attentive and responsive to the Lord's empowering grace and call to join him on the trail of true and lasting life on which He calls us to follow Him.
Despite God’s repeated rescue and warnings, Israel continues in its cycle of rebellion until God gives them over to captivity. And yet when it seems like nothing is left but an old stump, God promises an even greater deliverance yet to come; a greater deliverance foreshadowed in every tree marked event so far, a deliverance not only for Israel but the whole world…
photo cred to Dan Otis via Unsplash