“… That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
We have seen a rapid decline. With jaw-dropping dismay, we have watched violence and hatred flood our communities. Sexual perversions have escaped social disgust and become celebrated values.
Our streets run red with the blood of children. Our America has become the nightmare we once thought impossible. The corruptions of wealth and power have displaced every good virtue of our godly heritage. Yet on the dark horizon, a new year dawns, and the promises of God speak to us.
In the Jewish calendar, which runs roughly four months earlier than our New Year, 2021 is recognized as “Tu Bishvat– a year for new trees.” Some sources define this phrase as “the birthing of new trees.” In every culture, images of green and budding trees speak to the hope of life returning after a season of devastation.
In the Hebraic year 3786, after centuries of God’s silence, a young Galilean Jew took his place in a synagogue within the city of Nazareth and read aloud the prophetic promise of Isaiah saying,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed.
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)
He read only this one sentence, which was not the custom, and closed the scroll and took His seat. Every Jew in that synagogue intently looked at Him, hoping for an explanation. Then Jesus responded by saying, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
His audience had grown accustomed to the oppression of wicked leaders. They had sat subjugated to the oppression of pagan nations for fourteen generations. They were a people submerged in the sexual perversion of the Greeks and the political corruption of the Romans. Yet, this young Rabbi’s voice echoed a hope which had been uttered by the prophet Isaiah in a similar time of oppression.
This same hope comes to us today as we remember the concluding words of Isaiah’s prophecy, which Jesus uttered. He claimed His work was to preach good tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and to open the prison doors. His declaration and salvation had a purpose, which we find in Isaiah’s prediction.
He tells us that Jesus would bring “comfort to all who mourn,” and “console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they (God’s people) may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
These “trees of righteousness” are unique because they tell of a people who will “rebuild the old ruins,” “raise up the former desolations,” “repair the ruined cities,” and restore “the desolations of many generations.”
As we enter this year of new trees, my hope is that you and I grow as the trees of righteousness that were foretold. May God raise up righteous men and women in every facet of our culture to establish His character and kingdom.
This is my hope for 2021. The work before us is great, but the God who called us to it is greater. He can endow us with His power as we set our eyes on His promise to restore His kingdom in our communities.