To bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. IS 61:3 NIV
In the fall of 2015, the hidden pines fire ripped through Buesher State Park near Smithville Texas, destroying over 600 acres, nearly half of the park’s area. The blaze decimated a pocket of isolated old growth loblolly pines for which the area is well known and celebrated for. This past week my family and I spent a few days at Buescher in a cabin, ringing in the new year with a restful retreat. We hiked the trails that have now reopened but were severely burned several years ago. In many ways the landscape was a shadow of its’ former self. Dark, gnarled pine trunks dotted the landscape,
reaching skyward so like so many discarded giant match sticks.
But there was something else distinctive about this landscape, new growth. Salt cedars had begun to aggressively repopulate the space once covered by dense pines. The calls of birds were everywhere. The pines themselves are returning in number. Everywhere we saw dense bunches of new pine saplings 4-6 feet tall. I used this as an opportunity to talk with my children about the fire cycle, and about death and rebirth. We spoke with wonder about how they one day may be able to bring their children to this very spot and see once again a lush and vibrant pine forest.
In the book of Isaiah, the Hebrew prophet gives a message of hope and renewal to a people faced with imminent destruction and tragedy. Yes Jerusalem would fall and there would be great trial, but God promised to bring beauty from the ashes, to plant them as His oaks of righteousness for His splendor. This promise is ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Though God has allowed great tragedy and destruction to come upon His people, thorough them He planted a seed that has brought redemption and life everlasting to all who will place their faith and trust in Him. Whatever you are facing today may you take hope from nature and from God’s word. The things that seem as though they will destroy us are often the very circumstances that God uses to renew us and bring the most glory to Himself. Truly He brings beauty from ashes!