“and Yahweh will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in dry places, and make strong your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters don’t fail.” Isa. 58.11
Interesting that a God-called fast and prayer (self-denial and suffering) produces the richest, enduring fruit. Care for people and not merely for gain being lived-out is the context of worship and true spirituality in this chapter and the sort of fast Isaiah is calling for.
A. W. Tozer wrote “Miracles follow the plow”.
This morning I’m thinking of our amazing garden as well as a certain Scandinavian cheese! Yep 🙂
Lots of touring travels have taken us to Norway. One visit included a week of Wendi and I teaching at a YWAM base there out in what proved to be a strikingly beautiful countryside.
The weather was warm, sunny, right mix of cloud and as we had free time each day we took long walks. That time of year the grain, veggies and fruit were bursting out everywhere you looked.
What we didn’t see? The seasonal changes and year-long hard, patient work of all the farmers in that region by which God “gave the increase”.
Not everyone loves the dark, rich, almost peanut-butter flavor of the brown cheese made of goat’s milk, sometimes a mix of goat and cow’s milk… but I love the stuff! You can get it in other parts of the world, even here in the U.S., but it’s easily found in Norway.
We have a long friendship with someone who knows, has raised, cared for and loved goats. She makes amazing things including goat-milk soap. The care and effort she has put into what she produces goes unseen but every so often I think of it as I thankfully use her fabulous soap.
Back to the garden.
This morning another friend spoke of his love for gardening (which he really likes and is good at). He smiled and said “But you know about that” as we agreed that I truly love the food and flowers a well-watered garden produces.
I then added “I love gardens, not always the work”!
Flowers, cheese (hey, I’m originally from Wisconsin), it’s all good. But sometimes the labor is intensive, the weather doesn’t “cooperate”, the goats make life miserable and maybe your crops or cheese won’t sell!
Why put all your effort into X, Y or Z if there’s nothing of value?
God calls each of us to pay attention to the blessings, gifts, servanthood and life that reflect more of Jesus and less of our own petty kingdom. HOW we go about this seems clearly a concern of His, perhaps even more than what we produce.
A self-centered, addicted farmer or gardener (yes, there are some) may well produce all sorts of good stuff but inwardly be a train-wreck, relationally bankrupt and wondering what life is for, about and whether living it out is even worth the pain.
IF and as God is truly our God, and the genuine love of God for people is what moves us to work, our lives and work will produce (spiritually speaking) “gold, silver or precious stones”. If the reverse is true, in the end it’s “wood, hay or stubble” according to Paul in the New Testament.
God, in the end, judges and will indeed judge every one of us according to our work (see Revelation chapter 20.11-15 for details).
If you ever believe the pain of the plow is showing up in your life (it does and will if you serve the true God) know also that His plan is best, His work is eternal and everything else is something less and something that will come to an end. He has no beginning nor ending. We, on this earth of course, have both.
He never does anything without His very nature (“God is love”) at heart and in view of reaching into your or my life. I say that by faith as well as (sometimes painful) experience.
One of several problems in all this is that Matthew 25 tells us He will one day separate the sheep from the goats. Sheep follow Him. Goats? Nada.
Allow me to flip the analogy just once more- God put the first couple in a garden and called them to tend it also placing boundaries on what they should do and not do.
Jesus suffered in a garden and after crucifixion was (short-term:) buried in a garden. He rose in that garden.
God will eventually bring us to an eternal garden if we are part of His family in love, faith and obedience.
THAT will begin an eternity of beauty, rejoicing and love like we can only imagine, only catch a faint glimpse of in this fallen world no matter the intensity of brilliant beauty and amazing flavors we now experience!
At least one Bible puts the heading “Eden Restored” above the following words in Revelation 22:
1 He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them. They will reign forever and ever.
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn