I like oak trees. In one of my many jobs I’ve had in my life, I was once a delivery driver with a mostly rural route to cover. I enjoyed those times when I had to deliver to someone way out in the sticks on a faraway gravel road. Early mornings were the best. On a cool summer morning I would begin to smell the distinctive odor of a woodworker in his shop, as I drove along. Entering the woods, untouched by the farmer’s plow, with small creeks winding through the trees, there was enormous oaks. Yes, even in this day-and-age, there are remote untouched places of pristine beauty – you just need to know where to find them. I delivered my package, wanting to linger for as long as I could in the celebration of senses. Off I went, hoping that another day would bring another package to the faraway woods.
Oak trees are majestic. Strong root systems, thick trunks, unique twisted branches, and beautiful leaves become home for all kinds of bugs, squirrels, birds, and the occasional possum and raccoon. To have an oak piece of furniture is to have something of permanence. The wood from an oak is heavy, attesting to its great strength.
Those who seek, discover, and respond to Jesus Christ are much like an oak tree. Strong, lasting, giving life and shelter to all kinds of creatures. Read carefully these words from the prophet Isaiah and take note of who the prophecy is directed toward, and what they shall be called:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. (Isaiah 61:1-3, New Revised Standard Version)
You might quickly observe that these are the words the Lord Jesus quoted in the temple at the beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:18). Our Lord Christ is the one who fulfills these words and gives them their greatest meaning. Remember those to whom Jesus directed his ministry toward, the very people mentioned in these verses: the oppressed; the brokenhearted; the captives; the prisoners; and, those who mourn.
Jesus clearly discerned that the kingdom of God is flip-flopped from how many people think about it. God’s kingdom is not made up of the rich and powerful, that is, those who don’t think they need a Savior. The kingdom is populated with the financially least, the socially lowest, the spiritually lost, the emotionally as well as the physically lame. While others might believe these are the people who are weak, the prophet and the Lord have something different to say about it.
It is those for whom the bulk of society would consider incapable and/or unworthy of strength and position who are the truly strong in God’s upside-down kingdom. The weak are incredibly strong, and the strong are woefully weak; the poor are wildly rich, and the rich are pathetically poor; the lost are joyfully found, and the found are slack-jawed in their lostness; the lame are more than able, and the able are laughingly lame. In short, all these marginal people are described by God as “oaks of righteousness.”
These people for whom are seemingly forgotten by so many are the ones God will use to display his glory to the world. God does not choose the wise, the learned, and those with prestige and power. God pursues those who are discarded by others; who seem useless to the rest of society; and, who appear worthless as emissaries of the King of Kings (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
Maybe oak trees have such an appeal to me because they are a reminder that the truly strong and majestic of this world are made up of people just like you and me – common ordinary sinners and saints who just want to know Jesus better. To be rooted and established in Christ gives us a quiet strength the world can’t touch (Colossians 2:6-13).
Most of us will never win an Oscar. None of us will ever be an Arnold Schwarzenegger (whose nickname back in the day was the “Austrian Oak”). We’ll never play in a Super Bowl; command a Fortune 500 company; or, wow millions of fans with our superior talents. Instead, we have something better. We are growing and developing, straining and struggling to become a mighty oak of righteousness. Perhaps no one will ever notice, but that’s okay. We are giving life and happiness to all those woodland creatures who need us.
The world is not changed through the power which comes with position, prestige, and pedigree. This old broken world is mended, repaired, and set right again by the God who uses oaks of righteousness – the quiet enduring strength of you and me – in a kingdom which will never end. So, may you be encouraged today and every day with the God who is growing you into someone who is mighty and strong.