Have you ever started a book that just seemed to take forever to get through? One that you started and stopped, picked up and put down, brought with you to read during appointments and then kept on your shelf for months? There is a particular book that I started last summer and what with the ups and downs with life, other books, activities, and holidays, I’m finally finishing Beyond Desolate by Schultz and Estabrook.
Right now, I’m inspired to write about this book because of a realization and inspiration from God that just hit home for me. Sometimes I’m amazed at God’s timing with even the smallest details- such allowing me time to finish a book today of all days, that my heart is ready to hear some truths that might not have hit me the same way when I started the book 6 months ago last summer. Details in life matter so much to God!
The author’s write about Isaiah 61:3 in the last chapter of Beyond Desolate, God taking a destroyed, torn down, scraggily plant of a life and changing it to a strong standing tree… “That they might be called trees of righteousness…” (Isaiah 61:3). The author’s write, “You are no longer a brittle bush, blown about by the winds of this world. You are a mighty oak tree… This is possible because another tree held the bloody body of the Son of God for you and me. Out of the devastating rubble and ashes, God loves to take the shattered and make us strong,” (p. 269).
My question after reading these quotes and processing the powerful imagery was, “Why? Why would you do this for us, Lord?” My life feels beat down, dried up and scraggily. So really, why would you desire to change me to a strong standing oak?
I know in my head Jesus loves me. That He died for me. That God abandoned His Son on a cross for me. But really, why? What is it about His love for us that He would go to the ultimate extreme to show us, and make us righteous? And strong? And lovely in His eyes?
So I asked Him. And waited. And within seconds a song from church floated to the front of my mind. I thought that was a distraction and tried pushing the song from mind in order to find the great Truth from God that I anticipated would take days and weeks for Him to reveal, but then across my heart I heard the word, “Listen.” So I let the words of the song speak to me, a song that I don’t even really like the tune of.
“Not to us, but to your name be the glory… It’s not for us it’s all for you.”
Have you heard the song Not To Us by Chris Tomlin? Take a listen if you haven’t.
Basically what God revealed, and what is written in the second part of the verse in Isaiah 61 is- it’s not for us but for His own glory’s sake! God is the reason that Christ died for you and me, giving us life, calling us wonderfully made, created and sustained by Him and for Him! We are trees of righteousness “that He might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).
Read Isaiah 61: 1-3 with me. It says:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 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.
I praise God that He revealed this truth to me, and so quickly! My transformation from shrub to an oak, is not for my sake alone, but it points to the greater glory of God; a tree growing and strong that when others look, they don’t see me, but God’s work in me.
It’s not up to me to make me better, more holy, strong, or capable. It’s the storms of life, being rooted in the word, and trusting the warm rays of His love to change and grow me to the woman in righteousness for His Own Glory. Taking pressure off of myself to make something amazing happen in my life and pointing back to Him. He is already amazing and is doing the work to change my life for a greater purpose- His own.
There is such powerful imagery in a tree growing by God and for God. And I encourage you to look at the storms and words that God has spoken in and over your life to grow you wonderfully and made for His glory.