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Tuesday, October 24, 2006
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"The Oak Tree Covenant"
"And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. 'See!' he said to all the people. 'This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God'" (Joshua 24:26, 27).
I have often noted in this series my joy in observing trees. This is also obvious in my photography! Today's photo is an oak leaf I recently took on a tree in our front yard in the midst of magnificent seasonal change. Although in my view the oak is not the most astounding autumn tree from a distance, compared to the sugar maple for instance, this individual leaf sure is!
The two oak trees in my front yard are probably about twenty years old since my home was built in 1986 and prior to that had been farm land. But they're already stately trees. Some species of oak have a life span of 600 years and they may have had an even longer lifespan 4,000 years ago. The church property where I pastored in New England has a huge oak tree in the back. I often wondered if this tree was around at the time of the American Revolution or even at the time the first Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, which was just 25 miles east. In fact Taunto, the town we lived in was founded less then twenty years after Plymouth. My family had devotions under this large tree one night and I sought to teach the spiritual lesson found in the daily text.
An oak tree at Shechem is first referenced in Scripture in Genesis 12:6 where Abraham received assurance from God that He would keep His promises. Later, as Abraham's grandson Jacob grew in his faith, an oak tree at Shechem was the place where Jacob's family made a firm stand for God in burying their false gods under it (Genesis 35:4). And many years later an oak tree at Shechem (see Joshua 24:1) was a place where Joshua made a tangible memorial to the people concerning their covenant renewal to faithfully serve God. *
As Joshua's life was coming to an end he called the people to Shechem and made a powerful appeal to serve God which includes a proclamation memorized by many Christians. "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." In my family we often end our prayers by reciting this verse together. I am blessed when Ester adds the word "forever" at the end. Although it's not in the original text I certainly believe it is a proper expression of commitment.
After Joshua made the personal proclamation and challenged the people to do the same, he then took a large stone and set it up in a place clearly identifiable to the people, under the oak tree. He said the stone would be a "witness against us." The purpose of Joshua's action seems to be that of a memorial that would remind the people of their solemn commitment to follow the Lord. Today, let us all personally renew our covenant to serve and obey the Lord!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, we daily bow to You in worship and present our requests to You in prayer. Alongside prayer we open Your Word to see and hear what Your instruction is for our lives. Habits we regularly repeat indicate what establishes our values and brings meaning into our lives. Good habits seem hard to make but very easy to break, while bad habits seem easy to make but very hard to break. Father, would You place regular reminders in our path that keep us repeating the excellent habit of spending "alone" time with You in prayer and in Scripture reading. Even as the people said to Joshua on that notable day, "We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him" we make a renewed covenant with You on this ordinary day and repeat, "We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him!" Amen.
* I realize of course that it cannot be stated with certainty that this was the very same oak tree in each instance. However given the lifespan of an oak tree, and the clear landmark status this oak tree in Shechem had, it very well could have been. (I believe it's significant that the definite article is used in each instance, signifying a specific oak.) Here is the text of the verses referenced above: "Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh" Genesis 12:6. "So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem" Genesis 35:4.
Several years ago I took a distance photo of the oak in our front yard. This is a high resolution .pdf with a Scripture on it. In the past I used .pdf when I made photos to share since it prints very nicely.
Here's a photo of a beautiful ash tree I shared recently.
I have directed readers to this website before but am reminded of it again today since it shows a close-up of an oak tree and leaf. I have no idea how they did this. It reveals the wonder of God's creation beginning with a view of the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then it moves through space toward the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. (My niece happens to be a student at this college!) After that, it begins to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons. WOW!
Tip: I would set it to manual and read the description of each picture.
I am amazed by the incredible faith demonstrated by anyone who can view a presentation like this and see a mere random naturalistic rather than the absolute intelligent design of the Creator. Yet I suspect most involved in this project probably had such an outlook. When you view this site I'm curious as to the emotion you feel when earth comes into view. I absolutely marvel when I consider the God who created the universe loved this world so much that He gave His only begotten Son!
Two songs come to mind in relation to today's message.
Heaven on my Mind (mp3 audio)
Unfailing Love (mp3 audio)
These songs are presented by the Willingdon Church in British Columbia, Canada
I suppose in part my interest in trees was spurred on by foresters I had in the church I served in northern Pennsylvania. At one time we had four or five foresters in the church and several have remained long-time friends. In fact one of them, Jeff, gave me some input for today's message.
Finally today, for others who like me, enjoy trees and leaves here's a neat page on autumn leaves.
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