October 12, 2018

When Your Hope Has Been Felled

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.


Our suburb is leafy.

And the council intends to keep it that way.

We had to flip the design of our house when we built it last year because a scrappy tree that would have had to go to make way for our driveway, was deemed irreplaceable.

There are thousands of tall trees in our suburb, many with plaques saying “tree of significance” at the foot.

And don’t dare cut down, or trim a tree without council permission, for this is how they will shame you in our town:

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 5.17.07 pm.png

Don’t worry, I’m coming round to their point of view, especially with the onset of summer.

But as I walked the dog this afternoon it wasn’t a tree, but a tree stump (tree felled legally by the council) that caught my interest.

It was the tree stump pictured at the top.  Or more to the point, the sapling regrowth coming out of it.  It’s not a tree of significance. Indeed it’s a tree of insignificance.  It’s been cut down.  It’s by the side of the road.  It’s surrounded by impressive trees on either side.

But there it is.  With a tiny sapling.  It looked all but dead in recent weeks, but spring’s surge has resulted in a sprout of life.

I’m reading Lamentations at the moment.  Just off the back of Jeremiah.  And it’s sobering.

The opening words of Lamentations sound like the introduction to a zombie movie:

How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.

The tree of Israel has been felled.  Exiled in Babylon for her sins.  The hope of Israel has been felled.  Her kings, her priests, her temple, her people, all gone.

Where is God’s promise that a son of David would rule on the throne of Israel for ever?  It has been torn down.  All that is left are tears and regret.

All that is left to see is a dead stump in the ground.

And yet.  And yet.

Even in the midst of that despair and hopelessness, the prophet Isaiah has seen something better.  Something more.  Something reignited.  And not only reignited. But re-invigorated.  Fruitless Israel, sent into captivity for her fruitlessness, will once again bear fruit!

And Jesus – cut down, felled, nailed to a tree himself.  The sign above his head may well have read: This tree has been felled as an act of Cosmic Vandalism”.

And now he is dead in the ground.

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel!” lamented his unsuspecting followers to the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24).

They had longed for this Jesus to be the one who would bring life, healing, hope, regrowth, and ultimately, fruitful lives for the glory of their LORD, once again.  Their hope was felled by the jealous Jews and ratbag Romans.

Yet as Jesus breaks the bread and gave thanks for it, before disappearing, they realise that this indeed was the shoot from the stump after all!

Seemingly dead and buried, but surging to life again with healing in his wings.

If you’re struggling to see hope today. if you feel like hope has been felled.  If you are struggling to see how God can bring even a hint of regrowth from your desperate situation, then know this:  The One Isaiah points to; the One who the disciples looked upon; the one the Scriptures points us back towards; is the One who brings hope when it seems like all hope has been cut down.

He can bring you hope now by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And one day he will bring your hope to fulfilment in that place where, the book of Revelation tells us, the Tree of Life resides, bearing fruit all year round for the healing of the nations.

And for your healing too.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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