Isaiah 61:3 To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
Monday was Labor Day. What do you do on Labor Day? Well, you labor, of course! We chose that day to clean and bleach the porches and the back deck, the deck furniture, and to do a little weeding. After my husband, Jeff, had sprayed the whole world down with bleach, I looked up and noticed the gutters over the back of the house. They were so grimy and dirty thanks to all the trees overlooking the back deck. I grabbed a ladder, and Jeff sprayed the gutters down with bleach. He began washing the debris away with a water hose. After he had already climbed up and down the ladder a few times with me handing him the hose each time, he said, “When I get up there, hand me the hose.” Well, I thought, “that’s what we’ve been doing.” Jeff disappeared, and I thought that he went to get a bucket for the roof debris. BUT the next thing I hear is Jeff calling my name. I ran around outside looking for him to no avail. I called out asking him where he was, and he said, “I’m up here on the roof.” I climbed the ladder quickly. I could not see him. So, I asked where, and he said words that made my heart sink, “I slipped and fell.” He quickly added, “But it’s okay. This oak tree caught me.” He told me that he had climbed out of my study window onto the roof. The roof was slippery from the green mildew from the constant tree coverage, and he lost his footing. He fell down, and he would have fallen off the roof onto the ground below….a thirty foot drop! Jeff said that he almost cut that tree down this year because of fear of the damage it would cause if we had a hurricane. BUT GOD!
Our God, so loving and full of mercy and grace, planted that oak tree right there beside our house in exactly the right spot so that decades later it would be a strong, solid oak tree that prevented my sweet husband from falling off the roof. Being in the medical field, I instantly thought of the what if’s…if he had fallen he would have definitely sustained broken bones, possibly a broken back or neck, it could have ended in paralysis. Labor Day could have ended in a very different way for the Hodge family. BUT GOD! God rescued Jeff with a solid oak tree, and we were able to grill brisket burgers with all the kids and the grandkids later that night. BUT GOD!
I was telling my sister about our adventure, and that I was going to share it in a devotional. We talked about the strength of that oak tree and the fact that God knew exactly where it needed to be and when it needed to be there for such a time as this! But then, my sister also pointed out the symbolism of an oak tree. Spiritually, a strong, towering oak tree symbolizes strength, wisdom, and healing. They prove time and again to embody beauty and power. Some refer to someone who possesses wisdom or knowledge as an oak. In the Bible, the term oak symbolizes righteousness, righteousness as a gift from God, and therefore, life-giving and enduring, and in their beauty and strength manifesting His glory. Wow!
Most of us don’t need a literal oak tree to catch us when we fall, but boy oh boy do we need oak trees in our life. We definitely need the ever present, all consuming presence and guidance of our Lord and Savior to rescue us on a daily basis. And He knows this all too well. Thankfully, God plants oak trees in our lives. He places people around us who are righteous, beautiful, and strong. Those people are our oaks. They rescue us, help keep us on the right path, and through their acts manifest the true glory of our Savior.
Ponder on this a bit today. Look around and think about all the oaks that God has planted in your life over the years. Say a prayer of gratitude for them. Perhaps even reach out and give those oaks a big old hug. And thank God! I have said at least a hundred prayers of gratitude in the last twenty four hours. I’m so very thankful for the literal oak next to my house, and all the figurative oaks that surround me daily!