Hope for the Season
בְּרוֹשׁ רַעֲנָן Noble, stately, green tree (fir or pine)
Hosea 14: 1 RETURN Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Assyria cannot save us; (Government, kings, leaders), we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for
in YOU the fatherless find compassion.”
“I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. … vs.8 Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
God then tells them, “ I Am LIKE a flourishing fir, PINE tree. Your fruitfulness comes from Me.”
See John 15 for the New Testament equivalent of this verse.
The people are being called to return to God and from looking for hope in idols, man’s plans or government. God is interested in politics? Yes.
HE WANTS TO BE THEIR SOURCE OF PEACE. He wants to be OUR source of peace.
He wants to be their “change” and “make them great again”. They are redirected to look at GOD and His attributes to give them hope – in all seasons and situations. The Unchanging God uses a simile to describe himself. A simile is a comparison of two different things with the purpose of elevating the subject in excellence or respect. What a rare thing for God to self-describe, symbolize theology and use a simile for us to redirect our hearts, hope and gaze. For those crying out, “we want to know you” this is where God tells us what He is like.
So what is so special about a tree in the forest that’s green? Why does God pick this object to describe Himself? The Fir/ Pine Tree are from the largest family of trees and found throughout history. They are found worldwide. They are characterized generally by a trinity (3) of needle clusters. The new shoots are called “candles” which help display the fertility and health of the tree. They are the oldest living tree and in some cultures considered Eternal or immortal because of their long life. They are tall, stable and live longer than all other trees. Their rings display years and growth. When water is scarce, the roots go deeper rather than die. (Pastors, that will preach!) They are green in every season and self-water their leaves to stay fresh, even in winter. They are unlike all other species- unequaled. Their oil produces a pleasing fragrance that attracts animals and humans alike. They have both male and female cones on the same tree that contain winged seeds. The seeds disperse by wind and song-birds. (I can’t help think about prayer and praise here – joy to the world echoes during this Christmas season). Pines grow well and remain steadfast even in acidic soils. The protective gum helps them resist fires. They were a favored wood in the Temple. These trees are used to shelter and shade other trees. The resin, seeds, nuts, oil and bark have medicinal, nutritional and healing properties. Their wood is used to produce paper for printing Words. Their branches are known for their strength and they collectively point to Heaven. When we look at the pine tree, we get a glimpse of an amazing God and what He’s like. He is a God that wants to be known and can be known – when we search for Him, seek His wisdom and rest in His presence.
There are numerous stories throughout history about the pine tree –some from missionaries, pastors, church fathers. Songs have been written such as “oh Christmas tree” to celebrate the pine tree but how many of these point to an everlasting and loving God? Did we pass on the melody but not the meaning of the verses? People like to decorate the tree but few connect it with God expressing Himself. Various groups reject or promote trees for decorating depending on their religious affiliation. Some point out the scripture in Jeremiah about false worship of trees to ban the use of any Christmas tree, but in this tiny little scripture in Hosea, we hear God himself telling us what He is like =
unchanging, loving, eternal, persevering, steadfast, a shelter, protective, a healer and giver of strength.
When we look at holiness, legalism or even grace –it generally is about us, but when we look at God – we become students of who and how He is. He is unlike all others (unrivaled, wholly different) and His son Jesus, points us to Heaven. Ends up God is less legalistic than many Christians! He is also full of abundant grace although some would lead you to believe that they were the epitome of such things. He is the best and only perfect example. Abiding in God, dwelling daily, getting our supply from Him means each one is connected and valued. In Him we find good news – real news that’s lasted a very long time for those willing to know and seek Him.
In a time when symbols are being debated and redefined this timeless symbol, by God’s own choosing remains. In every season – He stays strong. He doesn’t fade, wilt or perish but remains full of life and EVERGREEN. We don’t stand, kneel or bow to trees but we are awed by their majesty. We are reminded that God is wholly unlike any other, ever flourishing and relevant for EVERY season. In this Christmas season we choose many traditions and rituals but the pine tree – it just keeps growing. All along its been in our houses – supporting all the ornaments. But did we see the symbol and powerful meaning or just what covered it up? Do our children understand where these traditions began or just long for more and more presents? We see life in it when all other trees have lost their leaves and color. Whether extravagantly adorned or bare it is unchanging and full of life.
FLOURISH FLOURISH FLOURISH
Defined as ” to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, ” Ps.1 states:
Blessed is the man)who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the lawof the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Many are searching for leaders that will “fix” everything, some looking to Hollywood, to the church and some to government. John 12:43 tells us, “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Ouch. When we look to humans for solutions we trade in the magnificence that can only be found in God. The work that we are all called to in this hour is to flourish and grow by being first connected to Jesus (John 15) and by pointing heavenward to God, creator of all. Popular, numerically large, winners of trophies are not listed in scripture as signs of success. Our hopes, wells and fruitfulness must come from God. Seeking human applause is contrary to the gospel message of purity and grace. We come to Christ, laying all those things down. When we add to the gospel, we crowd the real message OUT. How much of our Christianity is based on bells and whistles? How much is dependent on others accolades or opinion? We need more than ever to RETURN to this holy God and seek His face, the unchanging One. Buildings and programs will come and go, but God’s love remains FOREVER.
Whenever I smell pine I am reminded of the One who remains green and flourishing. Regardless of the circumstance God is always fresh. (John 10:10). I want to be like that – not an accessorized, bling laden, flashy tree but one who stays rooted, grounded and points to the creator of the Heavens and earth. I want to magnify HIM and display Him in every season.
May you and your church (what ever name is on the door) be strengthened this season, fragrant and displaying GOD’s greatness. May God’s symbol and basic message never be overshadowed by the noise of those who are looking for external validation or flashy spiritual bling. May God’s freshness infuse life into every area of your life and in the congregation where you thrive (serving and receiving).
Show us your glory Lord, what are you like and how can we be like YOU?
This early simile pointed directly to the One who would be the LIFE of the world. May you be refreshed as you revisit old symbols — be refreshed with their true meaning this holiday.
Hope for your Holiday and Merry Christmas! Renae