Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power, for Thou hast created all things.”
“We make a mistake if we do not learn to admire God in all things, great and small, for a new rich mine would be opened in our consciousness if we could learn to recognize God in nature as well as in grace! We do acknowledge that the God of nature is also the God of grace; and it is true that we glorify God’s redeeming grace no less when we glorify His creating and sustaining power. If we will obey and believe, we can go on pushing back the narrow borders of our spiritual world until it takes in the whole creation of God!
At one time, an English merchant and the renowned poet William Blake, stood watching the sun come up out of the sea. The bright yellow disk of the sun emerged, gliding the water and painting the sky with a thousand colors, ‘Ah! I see gold!’ the merchant said. Blake answered, ‘I see the glory of God! And I hear a multitude of the heavenly host crying, ‘The whole earth is full of His glory.’”
A. W. Tozer
Today’s Study Texts:
“You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a
leaf, always in blossom.”
“Whose leaf does not wither.”
“They Withered Away”
Psalm 1 Part 12
“It’s All About Your Roots”
Definition of “Withered” in English: Todry up or shrivel from as if from loss of moisture. To droop and loose freshness.
Definition of “Wither” in Hebrew:To fall away, foil or faint. To fade away. To act foolishly. To disgrace and dishonor.
Definition of “Wither” in Greek: To desiccate – dry up and lack spontaneity. Sun-bruised. Scorched and shrunken.
“Faith does not grow by being pulled up by the roots time and again to see how it is getting on. Faith grows when we look steadily toward God for the supply of all our needs and concentrate on Him. There is little point in becoming engrossed with our faith as if that were the thing we believed in.”
What does it mean to me to “wither away”?
What is the condition of the “roots” in my spiritual life?
“Spiritual growth consists most in the growth of the root, which is out of sight.
“When we stop growing we stop living and start existing.”
Warren W. Wiersbe
Several days ago, much to my distress, one of the trees we had planted in our yard nearly 15 years ago began to look as if there was something very wrong with it. The once bright green foliage had turned brown. Instead of the leaves standing out firmly, attached to the branches of the tree, there was a pile of dead leaves which had accumulated on the ground.
What frustrated me most about the situation is that I had an idea of what the problem was. This tree happens to be planted about 6” from the edge of the road. Since we have a large, straight area in front of our house, guests of all the neighbors in our cul-de-sac have decided the front of our home is their parking lot. What’s more, instead of parking away from the flat rock border that serves, hopefully, as an edging protecting our landscaping, many of the folk have taken to driving their cars right onto our property. In doing so, they have not only damaged the roots to our trees and bushes but they have also run over the underground irrigation tubing breaking it as well.
With some exploration, we found that injured roots which lacked an adequate water supply turned out to be the source of the death of our withered tree.
Well guess what? The same situation can happen in your spiritual life and mine. What’s more, because all the trouble is taking place out of sight, it’s easy for the destruction to be concealed. And then one day, a few spiritual leaves begin to wither away and drop to the earth. Then a few more until we say to ourselves, “What’s killed the tree? It isn’t growing anymore.” And as John Henry Newman so correctly points out, “Growth is the only evidence of life.”
Interestingly, the reason I shared the definition found in English, Hebrew and Greek for the word “wither,” is because if we just skim over our study text for today, the short clause, “his (her) leaf also shall not wither,” can easily lead us to the conclusion that our tree is perfectly safe and free from anything that can harm it. Not so! If anything disrupts our water supply – a spiritual blockade – we could have a big problem. And if our roots are harmed, we could also find that the long-term affect, though not visible at first, could in the end kill us.
This is why I think Jesus took time to preach a sermon on this very problem. In Matthew 13, after Jesus went “out beside the sea” so many people followed Him that He “got into a boat and remained sitting there, while all the throng stood on the shore” (Matthew 12: 2, Amplified Bible). The disciple Matthew tells us that Jesus told all those eager listeners many things in parables, stories which illustrated heavenly truths. On this occasion Jesus may well have taken His story from an actual scene He witnessed for He started by saying, “A sower went out to sow.”
I’d like to use a Transformation Garden “STOP SIGN” for a minute. It’s been a while since I’ve pulled out our “STOP SIGN” but this is a perfect place for it to be used. I don’t know how you’ve studied this particular parable in the past. I’ve heard a number of sermons about the sower and usually they are about “evangelizing” the lost. And often the speaker uses the story as a way of encouraging the listeners to never give up or get discouraged if the seed planting doesn’t turn out the way you hope and pray for. Now please understand, I think this is one very instructive way to read this parable.
However, over the past few weeks as I’ve studied Psalm 1 over and over again, I’ve asked God to send His Spirit as I read so that I will see how this Psalm applies to my own daily walk with Jesus. And low and behold right here in a clause like “leaf does not wither” I was impressed to pull out my well-used and very worn Strong’s Concordance and look up all the times in the Bible that the word “wither” or “withered” or “withereth” was used. So you don’t have to count as well, I’ll reveal to you that 28 times in the Old Testament and 16 times in the New Testament we find a form of the word “wither.” And then, since Jesus used this word in His teaching and Matthew, Mark and Luke share the same parable, I thought there must be a vital spiritual insight that we ought to dig to uncover. And sure enough, what gold Jesus’ words have for us and they relate directly back to Psalm 1: 3.
As Jesus continued His parable about the Sower He shared the fact that, “some seeds fell by the roadside, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and at once they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose they were scorched, and because they had no root, they dried up and withered away” (Matthew 13: 1-6, Amplified Bible).
I have to be honest, I almost let out a “Dorothy holler” when I read this because I had just looked up the word “wither” in Greek, Hebrew, and English and found that the word “wither” in English means to “dry up,” “to shrivel because of a lack of moisture.” But there’s more and it comes from the Hebrew in the Old Testament. I call them the “Five F’s”. Fall away. Fail. Faint. Fade away. Or act Foolishly. If I wither, I will fall away. I may fail and faint. I will also fade away if I act foolishly. Indeed, these “Five F’s can all take place when and if my spiritual life withers.
Finally in Greek, which is found in the New Testament, “wither” means sun-bruised or scorched! If we begin with the English definition we’ll notice that because of a lack of moisture and fertile soil, what was once growing, dries up and dies. This is exactly what the Psalmist keeps telling us about the Tree – it matters where it is planted – in fertile soil by a crystal stream.
If we look more closely at Jesus’ words in Matthew while we might think these words are focused on planting seeds in an evangelistic fashion, I’d like to offer the potential thought that both the Psalmist and Jesus may well have been thinking about your heart and mine. Daily as we open God’s Word and as in prayer we converse with our Father, His Word can sometimes be blocked because we don’t have the same closeness we once had with Him. Or we’ve fainted by the way because of the heavy burdens we are carrying. Or we think we have failed once too many times so we’ve just given up and let ourselves act in a foolish way as we fade away.
Or just maybe, as Jesus talked about the seed that fell in a rocky area where the road was tough and the scorching heat had been like the furnace of affliction, that heat burned all the growth out of the seed that was in your heart or in mine for that matter. Life seemed like too much to bear. So what is the solution to this problem? It’s just too much to bear. So what is the solution? There’s no question it is all about root-care! Go deeper into the fertile soil of God’s word and keep drinking from the fountain of life where we are promised that our thirst will be quenched forever because this stream never runs dry.
If right now you feel as though you need more root-care, more refreshing water of Life, then I want to encourage you with these words I came upon yesterday, buried deep in a box I was cleaning. I don’t ever believe that the choice of quotes is something that is a random finding. And I think you’ll agree as you too find heartening assurance in these words. Possibly today you are feeling like you need more than one cup from the stream of life because your roots are injured. They are dried out. And you are withering. Here are the powerful words of encouragement from Matthew Henry:
“’Thou has nothing to draw with and the well is deep,’ there are those who will trust Christ no further than they can see Him, and will not believe His promises unless the means of the performance of it be visible, as if He was tied to our methods, and could not draw water without our buckets…The springs of living water which Christ has for those that come to Him are secret and undiscovered…The future, how many a thought it costs.” As Pastor J. R. MacDuff adds, “Though the well is too deep for us, it is not too deep for Him. ‘Trust Me,’ He says, ‘That well is mine. Trust Me. The unwritten scroll of the future is Mine. Therefore trust thou in Me.’”
His and her leaf also shall not wither. Not when we drink of the streams that never run dry and care for our roots in the fertile field of God’s Word.
The Harvest of Love
“Lord, Your harvest is the harvest of love;
love sown in the hearts of people;
love that spreads out
like the branches of a great tree
covering all who seek its shelter,
love that inspires and recreates,
love that is planted in the weak and the weary,
the sick and the dying.
The harvest of Your love is the life that reaches
through the weeds of sin and death
to the sunlight of resurrection.
Lord, nurture my days with Your love,
water my soul with the dew of forgiveness,
that the harvest of my life might be Your joy.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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