Trees Tall and Low, Green and Dry2
All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it (Ezekiel 17:24).
It’s a beautiful picture: Chatham Church as “a noble cedar,” planted by God our Father-Gardener, grounded and secured in Christ our King-Taproot, watered by the Holy Spirit, who takes all that is God’s and showers it upon us—a tree that becomes home for every kind of bird, every kind of person and people-group. May it be ever more true of us, Chatham Church!
Ezekiel 17 ends with a warning: God brings down the tall tree and exalts the low one; he dries up the green tree and causes the dry one to flourish.
Notice how God doesn’t do things the way we would? Why bring down a tall tree, or dry up a nice green one? What might be going on here?
I think what this passage is getting at is success and self-sufficiency (“Look how tall we are! What a mighty trunk, what broad branches—aren’t you impressed with us? We are!””) rather than humility and dependence (“low trees”). Getting at self-satisfaction “(We’re green, we’re growing, we’re good!”) rather than continuing thirsting after God (“dry trees”).
Here’s what often happens: a church experiences the blessing and favor of God. Like a tree receiving all it needs for life and health, it starts growing. Really good things start happening—people meeting Jesus and being set afire by his love, healings of body, soul, family, neighborhood, the littlest, the least, the last and the lost being shown the loving care of God. Wonderful success—a tall, green tree!
But we get addicted to the God-given success. We start seeking the success, as we think it should be defined, rather than relentlessly staying rooted and grounded in Jesus. We’re Americans, so bigger must be better, more must be better. We begin to notice that God’s ways are often not “straightforward” and regularly move more slowly than we like. Trees can take generations to reach maturity. Based on our past success, genuine as it may have been, we start to figure we’ve got this “church thing” figured out. We can create trunks out of steel and plastic, we can force-grow branches, increase the fruit by injecting fast-growth hormones and chemicals, encase the whole thing in a huge hothouse …
We’ve “got things going”—and it no longer matters whether God is present or not.
And we no longer even notice his absence. Because, after all: look at how tall and green we’ve made ourselves!
May it please God to grow Chatham Church into a noble cedar! May we cooperate in every way with his planting, nurturing and pruning processes!
However tall we grow, may we always stay low to the earth, close to our Root. However green we become, may we always be thirsting, thirsting, thirsting for the living water that only comes through Christ.
And may we become a home for “birds of every kind,” even the ones that make us uncomfortable!
See you at “Family Meeting” this Sunday!
What are some ways you seek “success” apart from God? Where are you prone to self-sufficiency? What are some ways we could practice thirsting for Jesus instead of seeking self-sufficient “success”?