In “Thorny Things” we looked at different kinds of Thorns in our lives that hinder our growth and frustrate our work. This time, I would like to take a closer look at the promise found in that same passage of Scripture:
You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” (Isaiah 55:12-13)
Battling the Thorns
Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I spent a fair amount of time in the woods and walking along the ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains. During these excursions, there were many times I had to fight the thorns that had overtaken the small paths. On good days I carried a machete and was able to whack my way to victory, or at the least I wore tough denim pants, gloves, and a heavy coat which thwarted the attempts of the thorns to tear into my flesh.
On bad days – when I wasn’t so well armored – the going was a lot slower as I carefully surveyed every move and attempted to either avoid or gingerly move thorny vines out of my way. Many times, these vines would spring back, leaving me bleeding and in pain.
On both good days and bad, I would often make it to a clearing where the difficult journey suddenly seemed worthwhile. The fact that I had overcome thorns that others would never battle made my victory all the sweeter. Often, in the middle of a clearing, there would stand a majestic tree that seemed to lord over the region. It offered a home to squirrels and shade to deer and other wildlife. The beauty of the scene leaves an indelible memory.
In our Scripture passage, God, through Isaiah, promises to replace thorns with Cypress and nettles with Myrtles. In “Thorny Things,” we explored different kinds of thorns. Nettles are much smaller. Instead of tearing and ripping the flesh, they imbed themselves and continually irritate. My Mom used to have a Cactus that you couldn’t even get near without the nettles attaching themselves to your skin. I hated that thing. It sometimes took days, for my skin to clear up after getting too close. What are the things in your life that serve as an ongoing irritant? God wants to transform these as well as the bigger thornier ones.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) It is interesting that both trees God refers to in this passage are evergreens. There is never a time of year – even in the harshest of winters – that they are not full of color and life.
The Myrtle is a very attractive tree, reminding us that how the world sees us is a reflection on the God we serve. The Cypress is tall and broad. It stands above the fray and is often used as an ornament for gardens and important places. Although you can only fight your thorns, God can transform them into ornamental Cypress trees which proudly reveal His majesty.
The leaves, flowers and berries from the Myrtle are used to make perfumes and spices. In the same place where nettles once irritated, God plants trees that awaken our senses with sweet smelling fragrance. In response to His redemptive mercy we become a sweet-smelling fragrance that serves to attract God’s attention to us, and others to God.
The white flowers of the Myrtle are symbolic of purity. God replaces irritating nettles with a Myrtle of purity. We are no longer pestered by the distractions and irritants of sin and lawlessness. Notice, it is not by our power, rather it is by the grace of God. God purifies us and makes us holy.
Peace & Joy
The Myrtle also symbolizes peace and joy. God provides these fruits of the Holy Spirit that we might have life more abundant (John 10:10) and that we might be ambassadors for the peace and joy of God’s Kingdom to everyone we meet. It is fitting that the Hebrew name for Queen Esther, Hadassah, means Myrtle. Through her courage and faith, the Jewish people moved from the thorns of persecution and nettles of disdain to celebrated status where they experienced peace and joy. This is still celebrated every year during the festival of Purim.
The Cypress tree is long lasting. It is said that the oldest living Cypress tree has been around since one-thousand BC. Just think, when Jesus walked the earth, this tree was already a thousand years old and is still alive today.
The Cypress grows up to 130’ tall and is 12’ – 15’ in circumference. One of the attributes that makes it so valuable is that it doesn’t rot or knot. This makes it an ideal candidate for the most important and precious of products including: Ships which can also symbolize reaching out in missions and evangelism; Musical instruments symbolic of Praise; and The Temple an obvious place of Worship.
Finally, the Cypress is a symbol of the blessings of God. Where once there were thorns, a result of the curse, now there is a majestic, ornamental, long-lasting, productive, beautiful tree that represents the blessings of God.
Curses to Blessings
I don’t know what kind of thorns you’ve been trying to whack your way through or what kind of nettles have been causing you irritation, but I do know that God has a better plan for you. He wants to replace your thorns with Cypress and your nettles with Myrtle. He desires to give you a life of Peace, Joy and Blessing that is an inspiration to everyone around you and brings glory to your God.
Please let me know how we can pray for you.