[Image: Fir Island, 2013, Dave Johanson]
Isaiah 41:18–19 (NKJV)
18 I will open rivers in desolate heights, And fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, And the dry land springs of water. 19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, The myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine And the box tree together, ....
This is one more excellent image from my friend Dave, and is, to my eye, one of his best. The cattle have "bobbed" the tree as high as their heads can reach... the winter has robbed it of its foliage and the cold and damp clings to it like the jaws of death itself. But the tree is full of promise... It stands strong and certain in the otherwise barren field and those tendril limbs will soon shoot forth lush leaves... it cannot be moved from its purpose and will not fail in its design.
Just like the Word of God.
Our world is barren, dark and misty in many aspects. Certainly all is not bleak and dead. New life keeps surfacing in joyful young families... for many, perhaps most, there are the blessings of home, hearth and health. The storm clouds gather on horizons framed by inviting fields planted and anticipating harvest. Not all is bleak and dead.
But death still looms menacingly over all that is joyful. A beloved friend, diagnosed with cancer, brings solemn sadness. This morning's news tells us of a man shot dead on the streets of Baltimore, apparently a case of mistaken identity for he was recently retired and walking down the street for pleasant cup of coffee (I think) with his wife. Death screams at us from every angle and casts a grey hue over our joys. Apart from the promise, joy would be hypocrisy... it would be a mere distraction from the ultimate truth of death and we could give ourselves to it only by an act of will.
But the promise holds... it stands in the midst of the darkening and depressing fog and proclaims that "these will pass but I will remain." There will be tears in the night but joy comes in the morning.
Isaiahs words teach of the promised beauty of a transformed world in which the trees always bloom (metaphorically) and the worm does not rot. Life wins... death loses...
Another tree... on another hill... fixed that promise with certainty as the empty tomb could not suppress the power of life. The promise is certain .... it shall not fail...
That is Good News.