Made to Grow

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. – Isaiah 61:11

My parents had a minor garden emergency the other day. The roots of one of their shrubs had grown under the PVC water line, lifted it and caused a restriction. All the water was squirting out onto the neighbor’s house.  Dad was out splicing in a new section of pipe and removing the root.  I commented how different it was in late December dealing with growing things.  The oranges and grapefruit were far along and looking good.  The flower bush that mom had cut down to nothing because it was covering the window was back to the bottom of the window.  In Illinois and New York, this is fallow time, everything under a blanket of snow. Things never really stop growing here as long as they get water.  I even had to send Ethan out to spray the yard for weeds.

This is something of mystery to me. I have no idea how anything grows in this clay almost rock.  But it does.  I suppose that is akin to looking at the fallow snow cover and thinking about the Spring.  It is that sense of mystery that the prophet is evoking. “As the earth brings for its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up.”  How does it do that?  Yes, we can go back to High School biology class and give some type of explanation.  But really, how does it know when to start? That line of questioning always ends in invoking something like “the seed senses the change in temperature” or “the change in light.” Really, the seed senses? I suppose we should be talking about the mind of the plant?  I think Jesus is a little more honest, “He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. (Mk. 4:27 ESV)” When you put seeds in the earth, they grow.  That is what they were made to do.

Now all Hebrew poetry is parallel; what comes before is meant to illuminate what comes after.  Seeds are placed in the soil and they do what they are made to do.  All nations and peoples and individuals are found within God.  In Him we live and move and have our being. And like the seeds in the earth, people produce what they were made to do.  “The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise.”  The sanctified life is the life we were meant to lead.  That is what it means to be fruitful.  And we were meant to return that fruit to the LORD in praise.  Not every seed grows.  Not every person is fruitful.  Sometimes wild grapes come up.  But we were made for righteousness and praise.

And that fruitfulness is not only a private thing, nor is it only for one people.  It will “sprout up before all the nations.” Just as this Arizona rock produces plants appropriate to it and the Iowa loam likewise, peoples of various times and places produce the righteousness and praise appropriate. No nation is left without a witness. And those witnesses do not grow in hothouses or under specialized grow lights.  They sprout up before all the nations.

In its larger context the one who grew before all the nations is Jesus Christ. Isaiah 61:1ff is what Jesus cites to Nazareth at the start of his ministry. The LORD has caused righteousness in the form of his son to sprout up before all the nations.  As long as we are connected to that vine we also bear fruit.  How does this happen?  This is the purpose of Christ, that we might have life and have it abundantly. That is what the incarnation was made to do.

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