Stump Grinding vs. God’s Promises
June 8, 2016 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: Theology
Twelve years ago a rather young live oak tree was planted in our front yard. It was cute in its barky adolescence, even awkward in that it couldn’t decide which direction to lean. As any caring father would do for an adolescent, my hands guided it in a way I thought it would look most regal as it reached for the sky. I remember easily pulling it in a direction, roping it and pegging it to give it the most upright bearing. I wanted it to one day maturely stand at attention while spreading its verdant and leafy crown. In short, I nursed it along while it “spread its roots.”
That was then. However, as the years passed and its trunk widened, it leaned more and more forward toward the street. It leaned imperceptibly in the early years but as the years passed it became obvious that there was a problem. At this point its trunk was 15” wide and as it continued stretching itself ominously forward the massive root system on the other side was lifting up the cement sidewalk leading to our front door. It had to go.
Once the rotating metallic teeth bit into its trunk the self-confidence this tree had grown and exuded was over in less than a minute. The “tree service” fellows felled it. Its branches no longer formed a leafy crown casting a soothing shadow. As this behemoth lay slain its appendages needed to be lopped off and taken away. All that remained was a stump. So, you might wonder, did something remain? No. Next came the stump grinder that shaved what remained down to 15” below where stump and ground agreed to meet. They said their goodbyes and all that remained was a hole. Nada!
The tree service foreman assured me that the tree would never return and even its unseen roots would slowly decay, along with all the wood shavings, and turn to humus as they became part of the soil that once lent support. I must say that my wife and I felt rather melancholy seeing this giant completely disappear in the space of a couple of hours. What had so much potential to keep thriving according to its nature had to be interrupted owing to the unswerving course it kept maintaining and the disruption and danger it was causing.
I couldn’t help but think of another stump that was spoken about in the Old Testament; one left by God’s judgment on the nation of Israel as a result of its downward arrogant spiral into sin and covenantal disobedience (see blog: 52 Words Every Christian Should Know - Word 18). God had chosen the Israelites to be a blessing to all peoples and to experience God’s blessings themselves. In Isaiah we read about God executing terrifying judgment on ungodly and rebellious Israel by using the pagan Assyria. He lumps them both together as one cesspool of depravity. You can almost hear the groaning in God’s Words concerning Israel, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.” (Isaiah 1:4; NIV84) And these were his people! Those he planted, meaning for them to flourish and to draw pagan nations into the comforting shade offered by God’s blessing; to be deeply rooted in Him.
But God never reneges on His promises generated by the love and grace for those who are truly His. In Isaiah God speaks of His chopping down the arrogant and godless like they were colossal trees, “See, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power. The lofty trees will be felled, the tall ones will be brought low.” (Isaiah 10:33) But unlike the end of the road for that massive oak in my yard, God remains faithful to His promise to bless all nations. Despite appearance that all seemed lost, in God’s yard a stump remains. And a twig sprouts out, a root of the family of Jesse, David’s father. God establishes the Davidic dynasty from which Jesus comes—from the stump of Jesse. (Isa. 11:1-2) And even that kingly dynasty lay dormant for 600 years until Jesus came as a verdant branch from a seemingly long-dead stump. Jesus came and fulfilled in perfect obedience to the Father what Israel failed to do and established one people of God as His church.
The picture we see here is that God brings renewal from what might seem to be cut off for good. He brings forth life. He brought forth life in and through a remnant of those who were genuinely His people; He brings forth life in any single person who is His. That’s the big story.
I see my Christian hope in Christ in this amazing story. There are periods when I’m merely lumbering along and not sensing that I’m even being used by God. Yet, I don’t see a hole with life’s disappointments, dashed dreams, personal failures or guilt like chopped up wood chips dumped in a hole. Rather, what I have embedded in my heart is God’s promise. It's the assurance that He will always be there for me even when I’m leaning in the wrong direction. He will lovingly set me upright.
That’s the Christian hope. God’s promises are always secure and will never change. What assurance; what hope. God’s purposes get fulfilled because of the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death. Instead of appearances like that confident oak, robbed of its branches and its pulverized trunk detached from its roots, God promises and delivers certainty.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:2b)
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.