When I was gardening over the weekend I came across a small tree sapling, probably an Ash tree, as we have 6 of those in front of our house, so we often find ones which have self-seeded. It was not a good place for a large tree to start growing and so I had to dig it up. What was amazing was the root formation which was already so well established.
As you can see from this photograph the root spread looks like a tree itself. Therefore under the ground the tree was hard at work reaching down, spreading out, seeking all the nutrients that were required for this sapling to reach about 18 inches in height. The soil that the tree was in is very poor and struggles to retain any moisture, but still this young tree grew.
The following day a friend on Facebook posted this photo below of a very ancient tree (an Oak, I think). My guess would be that this tree is hundreds of years old and I can hardly imagine how far its root structure would stretch, Even though this tree has a gaping hole in its trunk, it is still throwing out fresh green leaves reaching up to the sun.
Both of these trees, the very young and the ancient, both reaching deep down with their roots and stretching high with their leaves each to gain their sustenance and enable them to be strong. Even digging up this young sapling was quite an effort as it clung to the soil.
As I mused on these things, the verse which then came to mind was ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’. This little, but well known verse is found in Nehemiah (8:10) and it comes after the building of the wall is completed, as the priest Ezra, reads the book of the law to the gathered people for at least 3 hours. This is a long ‘sermon’ and they are standing for this time. As he concludes, he then sends them away to go eat and drink, to share with others, saying do not grieve and then reminding them that the joy of the Lord is their strength. I felt that these trees have grasped this! The strength of the people was not the wall that they had just rebuilt, the strength was not the status of who they were as God’s people, the strength was not how much they had to eat or how well they cared for the poor, their strength was to be found in the joy of the Lord.
These trees put down deep, deep and far stretching roots, which sustain them through droughts, gales and the shifts of the earth, and then they reach up to to the heavens as new leaves unfurl drinking in the air and sunlight to allow nutrient to course through them. As we look at them, their spring foliage certainly brings us great joy.
It is easy for us to meander down the route that our strength and our joy in life is found in many peripheral things, temporarily forgetting the truth that we know. The truth that we know, but at times forget to acknowledge, is that our strength comes from reaching deep down and stretching high up to receive all that God wants to bless us and sustain us with. Here we will find the joy of the Lord, which is today, tomorrow and forever our strength for what ever gales, droughts and shifting times come our way.
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