Isaiah 61 paints of a picture of the people of God moving from despair and trouble to becoming “Oaks of Righteousness, a Planting of the LORD for the Display of his Splendor.”
Have you been observing the oak trees lately? The leaves are so gorgeous, turning all kinds of colors: red, orange, gold and yellow. They take my breath away in how stately they stand. It thrills me that our Heavenly Father sees his created ones as splendorous oak trees.
However, think about it. An oak tree starts with an acorn seed. An acorn seed is far from glorious; it is just a seed that is hard to open. But, out of the acorn seed planted deep into the ground, a beautiful, tall stately tree emerges. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time to grow the tree but once the tree is grown, it is a majestic beauty for all to see.
Has God ever given you a promise? Have you had a sense that he is speaking directly to you about your identity as his beloved child? Have you ever experienced a breakthrough in your relationships, only to have things seem worse than before?
This is a natural part of our faith development.
God gives us promises in seed form. He told Abraham he would be the Father of Many Nations, but it still took an additional 25 more years for Abraham to have his first child. He showed Jacob that the angels were descending and ascending, and promised him that the land he was laying on would be his and that all the offspring of the earth would be blessed through him. He spent the next 14 years working for a harsh and dishonest man.
Jesus wasn’t much different in his experience. His baptism was glorious; he heard the word of his Father speak his blessing and the heavens opened and the dove came upon his head.
However, the very next thing that happened was an angel led Jesus into the desert to be tested for 40 days “over his identity.”
I love getting promises. I’ve received some key promises through the years that I continue to hold onto and press in for the Lord to answer. I remind him daily of one promise that he gave me about our extended family about 3 years ago. I tell him that I won’t stop reminding him until I see it completely fulfilled.
I had an identity breakthrough last week. I had one plan for how to spend my prayer morning but the Lord had another. The Heavenly Father came and showed me in greater ways than I have ever experienced what it means for me to be his beloved daughter. It was a glorious day, one that I won’t quickly forget.
But, I’ve felt rather like Jesus in the desert ever since.
I feel disconnected, discouraged, frustrated. My faith to believe that God will fulfill his promises seems low. Yesterday I even began to question if I wanted to continue in ministry; a thought I have never entertained before.
This morning, however, I realized what was happening.
I received God’s promises in seed form.
It takes time for the seeds to become a tree. In fact, Jesus told his followers that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:24).
It seems to me that the process of seeing our identity grown or God’s promises fulfilled is much like the acorn becoming an oak tree. The seed has to be planted deep into the ground, fall apart, and then start to take root as a tiny plant, which eventually pushes its way through the ground. There’s death involved in that process.
John continues to quote Jesus, “The one who loves their life will lose it, while the one who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” It seems death has to be involved for the life to come forth!
I can hear you saying, “This doesn’t make sense. If God promises me something, or if I have an identity breakthrough, he wants it to stick, not go underground.”
That’s right. He does. I think the death needs to be in how we perceive the promise will come to pass, or the shifts we need to make as we take greater stands in how to walk out the life of a beloved daughter of the king.
It is in the struggle that we decide whether God’s promises or breakthroughs are worth fighting for.
Do we want to see our loved one’s healed, or our marriage restored, or our ministry take off? Are we able to stand in the promise when everyone around us seems skeptical?
When we can stand confidently in the midst of the unfulfilled promise or the doubts and fears that arise, this is when the seed is breaking loose from its shell and beginning to push through the darkness of the soil to break into the light.
When I was called to seminary, I had a lot of skeptics surrounding me. I had one distant relative that loved to ask me, “Who is going to hire you?” as his lipped curled up. At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do or who would hire me but I was able to tell my relative, “I don’t know, but I do know that I am obeying God’s call for me to go this direction.
I am so glad that this is a seed that I let die in the place of needing to know the big picture because of the great joy that I have had on this journey.
Where are your seeds? Are they just sitting on the ground? Or are they pushed deep into the darkness of the earth so that they can die only to become resurrected into a life of harvest. Remember Jesus and his willingness to go into the dark ground so that he could resurrect life for you.
Don’t let your seeds disappear. Ask God to do what he needs to do to push them into the soil so that you can become a Splendorous Oak Tree of Righteousness!