Scripture Focus: Isaiah 10.33-34
33 See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will lop off the boughs with great power.
The lofty trees will be felled,
the tall ones will be brought low.
34 He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax;
Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One.
10b Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Reflection: Clear the Old Growth
By John Tillman
I worked, for a few weeks, as a lumber surveyor’s assistant in the piney woods of East Texas.
I would drive a stake in the ground and then plow as straight a path as possible along a compass heading, dragging a long, smooth strip of hard plastic, called a “chain.” I wasn’t to turn to the left or the right. Unless it was impossible, I had to push straight through brush, bushes, or thorns.
The surveyor would step on the chain to stop me when the tape reached the stake. Then, I would drive another stake and wait. By tugging on the chain, he would signal me to continue straight or turn 90 degrees left or right. In this way, we marked off squares of wooded land, and calculated the value of its trees based on the ratio of “quality” trees to trees that were not useful or valuable.
In Macbeth, the wicked-hearted king is given a prophecy that he cannot be defeated until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Macbeth assumes he is invincible. For when does a wood travel?
Similarly, Assyria grew overconfident. Sennacherib knew God’s word well enough to twist its meaning in his threats to Jerusalem, yet he had no respect for God. He thought he was a god and all other gods were idols. He expected to overwhelm Jerusalem as easily as Samaria. Sennacherib’s army was an impossible, forest-like foe, covering the ground and overwhelming the land.
The foes we face don’t determine our fate. Like Hezekiah, we can turn them over to God. Isaiah promised that the Assyrian army would be cut down in a day. The “lofty” and “tall” trees would fall before God’s ax.
In the ancient near east, trees were valuable and important—especially the highly valued cedars of Lebanon. Yet no earthly value or importance will stop God’s judgment. God’s ax “is already at the root of the trees.” (Matthew 3.10)
Instead of focusing on outward enemies we have little control over, let us survey our inner forest and the foes we find there. With sober judgment, let us clear the old growth, turning neither to the left nor the right, cutting down pride, selfishness, hatred, fear, greed, and lusts so that better fruits may flourish in the forests of our hearts.
“Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our god. — Psalm 92.12
Read more about Uprooting and Replanting
People uproot thornbushes and burn them. Then they plant fruitful vines in their place.
Read more about The Ever-Patient Agriculturalist
God wants to give us every opportunity to flourish. We, however, can put a halt to his husbandry…uproot in our hearts what he plants…