Last year around spring time, my wife and I decided to “upgrade” the small flower garden in front of our house with a few new plants. We had big plans to beautify our home. It was all “good intentions” while ignoring the reality. Now, let me be very forthcoming with the truth about my family and plants: we don’t grow stuff very well. In fact, the nearly indestructible fern and aloe plants we’ve been given over the years have met their doom under our care (or lack thereof). The effort to ensure that our 3 children are fed, clothed, and generally happy can be daunting, so the plants around our home may go unnoticed from time to time (read as “all of the time”). So for us to undertake the task of purchasing the right “low maintenance” plants, preparing the soil for planting, and then actually planting and caring for these new living things was quite a project for us. But we ventured headlong into it, firmly thinking that we’ve matured in our ability to keep a simple plant alive, and “this time will be different”. Can it be considered delusion if we really don’t think we are being delusional? Or is that the definition of delusion? Whatever it is, we were mostly wrong.
It’s been almost one year since we tried to grow something beautiful, and as of a few days ago, our little garden is. . . A DISASTER! Everything either died or it was swallowed up by various ugly weeds. We have learned quite well that we can grow weeds. If you ever need some quality weeds that are obtrusive, quick growing and happy to kill everything else in sight, I’m your man. BUT. . .
Don’t you just love it when the bad news or sad reality is followed by the word “but”? Often times the undesirable news is diminished by something really good, and in our case of the “tragic garden”, we have seen something to give us hope. As part of our planting and growing dreams, we put in our little patch of dirt a few, beautiful day lilies. While many of our other plants floundered and were swallowed whole by the demon weeds, our day lilies held on for dear life until the cold finally did them in. But we’ve recently realized that our precious lilies are not yet gone. They have only been hiding in the safety of the soil until the warmth of spring comes and once again they will sprout and bloom and produce a lovely flower. In light of other horticultural disasters in our front yard, those proud day lilies have given me much encouragement. I welcome the longer days and warmer temperatures of the weeks to come that my efforts of 2014 will carry over in some way to 2015.
My hopeful outlook for those lilies has a very distinct connection to what I read this morning in Isaiah 55. This chapter includes a passage of scripture that many Christians are familiar with, and who find it to be greatly encouraging. The passage reads like this:
10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Isaiah’s prophecy is one of hope for Israel, which has lived in rebellion against God’s Word and commands, but whom God is redeeming because of his great love. Through the prophets of that day, God spoke the words of judgment and redemption; of punishment and of peace. He loves his people, and his holy love will NOT allow them to live in continual sin and sorrow. So he sends out his word of hope, and it will not return to him without effect. In other words, when God speaks, something always happens. And in this case, his word goes out like rain to water the dried up hope of his people (v.10), giving life to their dead souls and reviving the work of his kingdom (v.11). This brings about the spiritual nourishment and joy of God’s people (v.12). And here is the beautiful picture: Instead of thorns there will be cypress trees (indicating strength) and instead of briers there will be myrtle trees (indicating health and beauty). These acts of God to make his people strong and healthy is for the glory of his great name; an everlasting name that will never cease to be spoken of and one that will be praised for all of eternity (v.13).
This text has really hit home for me this week, both literally and figuratively. Those precious lilies in my otherwise cantankerous garden will overcome the weeds of winter and produce a beautiful plant, evidence of God’s grace. And like those lilies, God’s people are precious in his sight and he loves us too much to let us die without first producing fruit for the glory of his name. So, if there are briers in your life today, pray to the Lord and wait on his word to take effect. Winter will pass. Under the surface of all the spiritual frustration and failure is a plant of faith waiting to bloom in warmth of spring. Trust in him and he will bring to life what Jesus died to create in you.