Tuesday, March 17, 2009

stumps and shoots

Stained glass art depicting Isaiah 11:1

If you're paying attention, you know that I have been somewhat obsessed with trees lately. Yesterday I posted a link to the album, Hope For a Tree Cut Down. That poignant phrase popped into my head when our (temporary/interim/associate/awesome) pastor referenced Isaiah 6 in a sermon recently. The chapter ends with Isaiah asking God how long he will preach this hard word he has been given, and God's answer is,

"Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged,

until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.

And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land."

Sounds hopelessly depressing. Seeing as how I am obsessed with trees, there are few images more depressing to me than a stump. But in fact, if you keep reading, a beautiful hope emerges from this bleak image. Here is Isaiah 11:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -

and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

Our God is in the business of making shoots grow from stumps, creating beauty from ashes, and bringing life out of death. He is doing this now; may our eyes be opened to see it.