As the world around us continues to decay while it seeks solutions for life apart from the heart and will of God, do not be overcome by doubt and dread as you see this taking place. If you belong to the Lord, you will be like a tree planted by a stream in the garden of God’s presence. While death and decay take place all around you, your life will become a living testimony that you serve the God of miracles and supernatural provision.
This summer in southern Oregon, we had a long stretch of unusually hot and dry weather. Toward the end of that heat spell, the leaves on our trees looked like they were burned. Many leaves turned brown along the edges and began to fall. As I investigated what was taking place, I was introduced to a term I had never heard before called leaf scorching. Leaf scorching happens when water evaporates from the surface of a leaf. This takes place when abnormally dry conditions exist, and the roots of the trees are unable to furnish enough water to compensate for the extreme loss of moisture. Leaf tissue dies as a result, changes color, and the leaves prematurely fall to the ground.
The prophets of Scripture speak of the conditions that cause leaves to whiter. Isaiah spoke of a rebellious nation who forgot their God and walked away from His will. “You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water” (Isaiah 1:30).
While Isaiah addressed a specific historical context, it is as if he was addressing this moment in our history when he wrote, “Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets, the envoys of peace weep bitterly. The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads. The treaty is broken, its witnesses are despised, no one is respected. The land dries up and wastes away, Lebanon is ashamed and withers; Sharon is like the Arabah, and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves” (Isaiah 33:7-9).
Jeremiah wrote to a wayward people in his day, “‘I will take away their harvest, declares the Lord. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them” (Jeremiah 8:13).
Jeremiah spoke hope to those who follow the Lord, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8)
John on the Isle of Patmos, while writing Revelation, spoke similar words to those of Jeremiah. “The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). John was describing the culmination of time when we will live by a river of life that never runs dry. This is our future, but it is also the present reality for those who declare Jesus as their Lord.
When a culture becomes increasingly dry and begins to manifest death and decay because of its rebellion to the will and word of God, the Church will stand in the life-giving presence of God nourished and watered in times of cultural drought. This will be our witness to the world that the Lord is our provider and protector.