I loved spending summers on my grandparents’ farm. Grandpa was a dairy farmer, so his day began way before sunrise. I recall hearing him head out the back door and down the path by the smoke house where he would milk the cows and later bring in fresh milk for breakfast. After that eggs were to be gathered and bacon was brought in from the smokehouse. I can still hear sound of bacon sizzling and smell the homemade biscuits cooking on the old wood stove. When the morning chores were done, Grandma would have the table set and call us all to a feast that rivals any All-You-Can-Eat breakfast buffet. (I must admit I never did get used to drinking the warm milk straight from the cow – but Mom had given us explicit instructions to drink it anyway without gagging….) It was on the farm I first learned what it meant to ‘slop the pigs’, witnessed sheering the sheep, watched sugar cane turn into sorghum and had my first experience with an ‘outhouse.’
But one of my fondest memories is recalling the hours spent climbing the two majestic oak trees that dominated the front yard. Their branches were just right for climbing and if we were careful to step only on the strongest limbs, we could make it to the top where the view was amazing. Whether it was the summer heat, or the coldest of winters, nothing ever seemed to bother the trees. Without fanfare, the oaks had sunk roots deep into the earth and those roots continued to bring life to the part of the tree that was evident on the surface.
I learned that becoming an oak tree is a long, hard process. It takes 20-50 years for an oak tree to begin producing acorns. Even though an oak tree will produce more than 2,000 acorns every year, only 1 in 10,000 will ever develop into an oak tree.
Throughout the Bible the oak tree is referred to as a symbol of strength and endurance. The strength of the oak does not come from what you can see above the surface. It is the root system that reaches down to where there are ample supplies of water and nutrients in the soil that feed the tree and provide the anchoring base that allows the tree to withstand the elements.
God likens His people to oak trees and says we can be just like them: “They shall be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3) These are not the words of a long-fulfilled prophesy that have no meaning for us. This is God’s desire for His people down through the generations. God wants His people to be strong and enduring. God is looking for people who want to become oaks for Him.
God’s desire is that our lives display the “splendor of the Lord.”.
Displaying God’s splendor means that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It means I am not going to be affected by the changing climate of culture around me. I am not going to wither when the heat is on or fall down when the winds of change blow into my life. It means I will demonstrate to the world what it means to trust Jesus because in the midst of all the uncertainties of life, He will be the Rock that I lean on.
Many years have passed since I climbed to the top of those majestic oak trees, but they are still standing. Persevering through the good and the not so good seasons, they continue to draw strength from those deep roots that continue to provide what they need to stand strong. And every fall, they continue to display their splendor with brilliant shades of red and orange for those passing by.
How about you? Have you been feeling the winds of discouragement? Is your strength almost gone? Don’t give up – remember God might just be in the process of helping you to become an ‘oak of righteousness’ for His splendor.