Shall the Trees Clap Their Hands?

Isaiah 55:12-13
“For you shall go out in joy
            and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
            shall break forth into singing,
            and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
            instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
            an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Fellow travelers,

Today may bring thorns and briers, but as we travel toward eternity, consider the marvelous picture of nature glorified in a new heaven and earth in this Psalm.

First, the mountains and trees we experience in this world may not be the same as trees in heaven.  They will rejoice when the perfect creation is made manifest because they are not fully what they should be now.  Tolkien may have been thinking of this when creating the Ents of Middle Earth.  If the trees are described as clapping in heaven, what will people do?

Bring some of that joy to this earth.

Second, the Psalm describes a direct reversal of the curse on Adam in Gen 3:17-18, where the ground would be cursed and “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.”  Instead, the cypress and myrtle will come up.  The new creation will not fight against us, but instead sprout glory after glory.

Bring some of that glory to this earth.

Living Faithfully in the Times You Have

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

“while the [Old Testament] prophets train their attention on the eternal, kairos drama of God’s words and actions, they remain intimately involved in the events of their historical time. Being caught between these two times can be quite painful and disorienting, particularly when it is difficult to see the hand of Providence in the daily news. Near the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien articulates this predicament well. When Gandalf, acting in many ways as an heir to the biblical prophets, tells Frodo that Sauron has risen and is searching for the ring that Bilbo gave him, Frodo’s reaction to this news is quite natural: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Frodo would prefer to step out of his time, to escape the confusing and frightful events of chronos. In this regard, he is much like King Hezekiah, who is pleased when Isaiah tells him that his sons will be carried into captivity and made eunuchs- at least, Hezekiah thinks, “there will be peace and security in my days” (Is 39:8). Gandalf’s reply to Frodo balances empathy with a bracing call to courageously and faithfully inhabit the tension between the messy demands of chronos and the divine call of kairos: “‘So do I;’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” The biblical prophets likewise repeatedly urge their hearers to decide how to respond to the events of their time by the standard of God’s eternal word.”

From “Reading the Times”, by Jeffrey Bilbro, P. 95-96