He grew up before us like a tender shoot
Like a root out of dry ground,
I’ve meditated on this verse from the start of Isaiah 53 a number of times. I find the simple vulnerability of a tender shoot to describe Jesus approaching the cross as a very powerful and yet unsettling image. The more we dig into the depths of Jesus’ amazing vulnerability the more it challenges and realigns our subtle, conscious and subconscious attempts to find power to protect ourselves.
God’s great master plan, was one man dying for the sake of the rest of us. As Jesus spent his last week in Jerusalem, the rest of the world were totally unaware of him, In the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia tribal people were living their lives on different continents unaware of what was happening. The Egyptians were a developed nation but waning against the might of the Roman empire and Britain was very much a primitive tribal backwater. Yet God planted a tender shoot in Israel and he planted it into dry ground. In worldly terms, God’s plan was high risk, tender shoots can be eaten by rabbits, squashed by something bit big feet or crowded out by other bigger plants. But God protected his plan, he planted Jesus into the right place at the right time and then he caused the growth to happen.
And all this happened like a tender shoot bursting out of dry ground.
We see the desert, the infertility, the difficulties the dismissal of God’s purposes. God sees the potential, God knows that in every seed there is all the potential for a vast tree and multiple more trees.
I look at our ‘village’ and I look at the generation of young adults in the UK and I can choose to see desert, tough resistant ground. But when I hear of stories from around the world of God at work, of renewal, of many coming to know Jesus, of God transforming communities, I’m stirred and challenged that not long ago that place was dry ground, that place could have seemed like a desert.
So I pray Isaiah 35 for where I live and for those places and people God has given me a passion for;
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water;”
(Isaiah 35:1–7 ESV)
There is hope for wherever you live and whomever God has given you a love for, because all around us God is planting tender shoots and what seems like a desert to us, is an opportunity for him.