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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Redwood and the Mustard

A symbol of Nebuchadnezzar, according to his own dream:

“The tree grew large and became strong,
And its height reached to the sky,
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it”
(Daniel 4:11-12)

A symbol of the kingdom of heaven, according to Jesus:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,
which a man took and sowed in his field;
and this is smaller than all other seeds;
but when it is full grown,
it is larger than the garden plants,
and becomes a tree,
so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches”
(Matthew 13:31-32)

           
Two trees: both are great and both shelter the birds of the air.  One symbolizes the world.  The other symbolizes the kingdom.  One is prophesied to be cut down:
“Chop down the tree and cut off its branches;
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;
Let the beasts flee from under it;
And the birds from its branches;
Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground,
But with a band of iron and bronze around it
In the new grass of the field”
(Daniel 4:14-15)

The other lives for all Eternity and provides Eternity for all who come to it, for this one represents the Tree of Life.  And who are they who come to the Tree of Life?  The humble, for the Master tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).  This is why the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. 

Likewise, the name of the Lord, YHWH, begins with the smallest of all letters, the Yod.  To us English speakers, the Yod looks like a little apostrophe, barely visible and suspended in the air, close to the heavens.  Not only does our Great Lord begin His name with the smallest of all letters, but so do a great many of our prophets: Jesus, John the Baptist, Joseph, Isaiah, Jacob, who keeps it in his new name, Israel, and many others.  No foot of the Yod touches the ground, indicating that these great prophets have transcended the world.  This transcendence does not mean, however, that they set themselves forth as greater than other beings.  No, they take upon themselves the humility of the smallest letter.

Those of the world, however, seek to present themselves as great, strong, and tall enough to tower over all others.  They are represented by the Redwood tree.  The Redwood tree, like that described of Nebuchadnezzar, is the grandest of all trees.  It can grow to be as tall as 375 feet.  Visitors come from all over the world to gaze in awe at the majesty of the Redwood.

Although it is the tallest and most majestic tree in the world, it rests upon a surprisingly fragile foundation. According to the experts at Trees of Mystery, the roots of a redwood go down only 2-3 feet. Their root system is so shallow and so fragile that signs are frequently posted throughout the park warning that too much activity around the roots of a redwood puts it into special danger.

Looking at these amazing giants, no one would expect that they – much more than traditional, smaller trees – have such a limited capacity for wear at their root system.  Unlike the strong, dense rings inside a traditional tree, the fallen redwood spreads out with bark that can be torn out by hand. It’s almost like the tree is made of all bark. You can stick your hand into the guts of a fallen redwood and pull out the innards.




Paradoxically, their fragile roots contribute to their remarkable size.  A tree with dense roots requires much water, sunlight, nurturing, and time to grow.  A tree with fragile roots can grow quickly.  The redwood, therefore, is majestic on the outside, but fragile on the inside. The mustard seed, on the other hand, appears fragile on the outside, but, on the inside, it is majestic. 

Our nation may be like the Redwood, and we may be chopped down, but for the mercy of a remaining stump.  May we who love Christ, however, call upon Him to nurture the depths of our roots to be strong and majestic on the inside, regardless of how small we may appear to those who have not eyes to see.  Amen.

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