From a Wilderness to a Forest
Rev. Lily Lim | On 02, Nov 2014
Isaiah 32:14-15 (RSV)
V14-For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;
V15- until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
Transformation is a specialty of God.
There are many things in the world or even in our lives that are chaotic or hopeless until God infuses the Holy Spirit into our situation and lo and behold, a new transformation takes place. A 180 degree change takes place.
This is what happens to the nation of Israel in Isaiah 32. The nation of Israel was steeped in rebellion, foolishness and complacency “until the Spirit is poured upon them from on high” and the nation is transformed from a wilderness to a forest.
And this is the title of my message this morning – FROM A WILDERNESS TO A FOREST.
There are two Ts I would like to touch on this morning:
If you were to study the book of Isaiah, you will realize that Israel underwent a four-fold transformation by God Himself, by the word of God and by the Holy Spirit. This fourfold transformation transcended the fallen Israel to a restored and majestic nation, a glory to the name of God and an envy to many nations.
As I was praying and reading the book of Isaiah on this four-fold transformation, God showed me that this four-fold transformation will also take place for Evangel Tabernacle and for our people as well.
1. TRANSFORMATION IN CONDITION
Isaiah 32:14-15 (RSV)-For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
The first-fold transformation will be brought about by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
After being attacked by the Babylonians, the palaces of Israel were forsaken, the populous city became deserted; the hills and watchtower became dens for wild animals endlessly. Israel remained in this desolate and devastated condition, UNTIL the Spirit was poured upon them from on high.
Before the Spirit was poured upon Israel, Isaiah used the metaphor of WILDERNESS to describe the DESOLATION AND DEATH OF THE NATION OF ISRAEL DUE TO SIN.
However, after the Holy Spirit was poured upon them from on high, Israel was transformed in two stages.
Firstly from a WILDERNESS to a FRUITFUL FIELD.
Before the infusion of the Holy Spirit, one could say that the heart of the nation of Israel was like that of a wilderness (desert) – hardened and dry.
After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the heart of Israel became soft and thus able to receive the seeds of God’s law and teaching again.
When a field becomes soft, it is easy for sowing and planting, thus turning the land into a FRUITFUL FIELD.
E.g. I remember in February 2013, our new sanctuary was completed and we tried to landscape our garden with many plants, fruit seedlings and flowers. As you know, February is the hot summer season. Our caribou grass turned parched brown. Our well dried up. Whatever we planted died. I told Carlyn to stop buying seedlings during that summer period and to wait for the month of June, which is the rainy season, to come in. True enough when we started to plant again during the rainy season, our planting sprouted and today one of the features in our church that always gets the praises of visitors are our garden and our plants. Our garden here has been transformed from a wilderness to a fruitful field now. Whatever we plant in this field grows. If you don’t believe, go to the back of our church and you will see a small plantation of Chia seeds. Besides Chia seeds, there are many healthy seedlings of fruit trees growing and I know if I don’t control Rosalie Basanes, she is going to turn our field into a vegetable farm or a fruit orchard.
For the nation of the Israel, her backslidden heart was transformed from a wilderness (a dry and hardened heart) to that of fruitful field (a softened heart, conducive for the planting of God’s word and laws; God’s plans and purpose.
Secondly, after the outpouring, Israel was transformed from a FRUITFUL FIELD TO A FOREST.
It is not enough for a field to be fruitful with many seedling and plantings. Those seedlings and plantings must mature to become strong trees. In the case of our key text, Israel was transformed further by the Holy Spirit from a fruitful field to a forest. The nation of Israel sprouted and grew VIGOROUSLY and NUMEROUSLY into many strong TREES forming a FOREST.
Forest in the dictionary is defined as ‘large tract of land mainly occupied by trees – large wood trees.”
Trees in the Bible symbolize MANY PEOPLE.
And these trees in the forest may compose of the same species of trees or it may have a variety of species in one forest.
“To be turned into a forest” biblically means “to become an army of strong people.”
Can you see the transcendent power of God to transform a backslidden nation in the wilderness condition to that of a fruitful field and now to the condition of a forest, having the characteristic of large wood trees that are USEFUL and SOLID?
Application: What condition are you in now personally? Are you in the condition of a wilderness where you are dry and parched; where you are being tested? The Holy Spirit is already released and infused upon this church. Sunday after Sunday, if you are only willing and hungry to come into the presence of the Holy Spirit, God will pour Him over you to transform your life from a wilderness to a fruitful field. Your dry and desolate heart will be watered by the Holy Spirit to become soft to Him and His Word.
For some of you, you have been touched and filled by many ministry of the Holy Spirit that happened this year, through the camp, the Spiritual Emphasis week, the Encounter Camp and soaking time during the Bible Study, Sunday Service altar call and now the Children Church Conference. Your heart is softened up now. You have a fruitful field in your heart now. But don’t settle for less. Continue to soak in the Holy Spirit because soon the seeds and the teachings of God will grow into a TREE in your life. God’s goal is not just a fruitful field in your personal heart. God wants to transform you into a forest – very fruitful and many and matured enough to be useful to Him like a tree does.
This first-fold transformation is for believers who are still in the wilderness condition – dry, weary and backsliden.
2. TRANSFORMATION IN CHARACTER
Isaiah 55:10-13 (AMP) – For as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and return not there again, but water the earth and make it bring forth and sprout, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater. So shall My Word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out [from the spiritual exile caused by sin and evil into the homeland] with joy and be led forth [by your Leader, the Lord Himself, and His word] with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name of renown, for an everlasting sign [of jubilant exaltation] and memorial [to His praise], which shall not be cut off.
This second-fold transformation will be brought about by the WORD OF GOD through prophetic utterance or rhemas (quickened word of God).
Using the analogy of the RAIN and the SNOW that fall from heaven, God says through Prophet Isaiah that these elements come from Him and do not return to Him, yet they accomplish His purpose of creating a FERTILE EARTH. In the same way, His word bridges the gap between His transcendent thoughts and His immanent ways. As the text says, it is HIS WORD, FROM HIS MOUTH, that goes out to earth and effectively accomplishes His good pleasure, namely our salvation and transformation.
Isaiah’s prophecy is absolutely consistent with John’s prologue, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) and with Paul’s message to Timothy, “All Scripture is given by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Or who can deny the direct connection between Isaiah’s prophecy and John’s proclamation of the incarnation, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
For the prebelievers as well as for the believers, the WORD OF GOD, spoken and written, is the effect agent of their salvation and transformation respectively.
What can the WORD OF GOD do?
It can transform the thorns and briers into a cypress and myrtle tree.
Life of a thorn in the Bible is an emblem of the WICKED.
The life of a brier in the Bible is an emblem of UNCULTIVATION.
“Thorns and briers” signify WICKED PEOPLE; FRUITLESS, USELESS; HARMFUL; PERNICIOUS (spiteful and malicious) PEOPLE; UNDER A CURSE and their end is to be burned.
However, if these groups of people receive the spoken word of God (whether through prophetic or rhema), these people with the character of thorns and briers will be transformed into good and godly trees like the cypress [godly] and myrtle [beautiful, evergreen and fragrant] tree. Here we see the grace of God through the agent of the Word of God in action.
The transformed character from a thorn and brier into a cypress and a myrtle tree will be to the Lord a perpetual memorial to the glory of God’s name.
Application: What kind of character do you have now? Are you a thorn and brier in this church – always prickly; always malicious and critical; uncultivated; wild and unruly; wicked and rude; dangerous to the leaders and the church? Are you like the thorns – fruitless and useless? If you are humble to acknowledge so, then cry to God for the spoken and creative Word of God; get the prophetic word to transform you from a thorn and brier to a cypress or a myrtle tree. God did it to Israel and God can do it to you. God has done it to many individual with thorn and brier character like Paul and transform him into a great cypress and myrtle tree for the churches in the NT.
Leaders and workers – do not be discouraged if the people of the community you are connecting with now are having this thorn and brier character. Pray and get the prophetic download from God and release that word to them and you shall see how the Word of God can transform an utter wicked person into a godly and evergreen believer. Don’t underestimate the power of the Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word.”
This second-fold transformation is for the wicked – those with thorns and briers character.
3. TRANSFORMATION IN CALLING
Isaiah 44:1-5 (Amp) – Yet now hear, O Jacob, My servant and Israel, whom I have chosen. Thus says the Lord, who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: Fear not, O Jacob, My servant, and you Jeshuran [the upright one –applied to Israel as a type of the Messiah], whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him who is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, I will pour My Spirit upon your offspring, and My blessing upon your descendants. And they shall spring up among the grass like willows or poplars by the watercourse. One will say, I am the Lord’s, and another will call himself by the name of Jacob; and another will write [even brand or tattoo] upon his hand, I am the Lord’s and surname himself by the [honorable] name of Israel.
This third transformation is brought about by the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came upon the nation of Israel, many offspring sprouted like willow trees.
The willow trees in the picture. They grow by the watercourse.
Watercourse in our key text refers to the pathway where the Holy Spirit flows or where Revival flows.
In every place that is touched by the Holy Spirit, there you will find your willow trees springing up and they will be watered by the blessings of the Holy Spirit. Bring the revival to your barangay or CP (Community Penetration). Activate your 9-fold spiritual gifting when you are conducting CP. You will see salvation springing up among your contacts like willow trees.
These willows – our offsprings and our descendants will be transformed in their calling. They won’t call themselves by the name of their old gods anymore or their family but each will call themselves by the name of Yahweh. Each will call themselves as those who belong to Jesus. They will surname themselves as born again.
This third-fold transformation is for our natural and spiritual children or offsprings. They shall spring up like willows.
4. TRANSFORMATION IN COMPOSITION
Isaiah 41:17-20 (Amp) – The poor and needy are seeking water when there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the wild olive; I will set the cypress [KJV –fir] in the desert, the plane [tree] and the pine [tree] together, that men may see and know and consider and understand together that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
The fourth transformation is for the poor and the needy and it is to be brought about personally by God Himself.
Some of the exiles in the first and second deportation of 597 and 587 B C had succeeded in business and gained a measure of social standing. Those in the third deportation of 581 B C however, had come from the lower and poorer classes of people who were used as slave labor in Babylon for massive building projects in the city. Perhaps God has these people in mind when He speaks to them first with the assurance that their cry of suffering had been heard and that He has not forsaken them. For them, in particular and for His people, in general, God will transform the dry, desolate, wild and lifeless desert into rivers, fountains, pools and springs of water that will create fertile soil in which the cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive tree, cypress, plane and pine tree will grow.
Application: In the wilderness of the barangay and the world, you will find many poor and needy. God loves these people very much. He has heard their cry and He himself will use the “water” to turn the desert in their lives into a garden. And in this garden, God will plant 7 different types of trees. The composition of the “forest” for our church will no more be that of wilderness or desert; or thorns and briers but it will be a composition of 7 types of very good and sturdy trees. These 7 types of trees points to the composition of our future congregation. Therefore don’t despise all the people who are won through the CP. In the future they will grow up to be the one of the following 7 trees.
This fourth fold transformation is for the poor and needy.
(II) TYPOLOGY OF TREES
There will be a transformation of our lives from the wilderness to a forest. In this forest, will be the composition of 7 different types of trees.
What type of believers do these 7 trees typify?
Isaiah 41:19-20 (amp)-I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the wild olive; I will set the cypress in the desert, the plane [tree] and the pine [tree] together, that men may see and know and consider and understand together that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
(1) THE CEDAR
This is a noble evergreen tree greatly celebrated in the Scriptures. These trees are remarkably thick and tall; some among them are from 35-45 feet in girth and 95 feet in height. The cedar shoots out branches at 10 of 12 feet from the ground, large and almost horizontal; its leaves are an inch long, slender and straight, growing in tufts. The tree bears a small cone, like that of the pine. This tree is not only found in Mount Lebanon but it also grows upon Mount Amanus and Taurus in Asia Minor.
The cedar is a type of the believers being……
• Slow growing
• Long lived
• Useful (much used for boards, pillars and ceilings, for mast and for carved images.)
In a nutshell, Cedar typifies believers who are GODLY and STRONG AND STATELY IN THE LORD.
Application: Are you the above?
(2) THE ACACIA
The acacia has another synonym in the Bible – Shittim. This tree is usually found in Abel-Shittim – the Valley of Shittim. It flourishes in dry places. In fact it will grow when nothing else will. It is very adaptable to dry soil. It is not particularly attractive because of its beauty but it provides shade in a dry and thirsty land. It is also indestructible. Wood in the Valley of Shittim is always destroyed by worms that bored from within and caused decay but not for the acacia tree.
The meaning of Acacia is ACACIA WOOD THAT IS USED TO BUILD THE TABERNACLE.
It carries the implication of being GUILELESS AND HONORABLE.
The Acacia is a type of the believer being……
• A shade to people
• Indestructible (A righteous falls 7 times but rises again).
• Fit for the use in God’s House
Most of the fixtures of wilderness tabernacle were made of Acacia wood [you will be very involved in the church or could be a top leader in the church]. Some of you have this quality of being fitting in the house of God. You work and fit better in church than in the marketplace. You are more useful in the church than in the market place.
• Guileless (frank, open and candid) and honorable
Application: Are you a shade to people; are you indestructible – you may fall 7 times but always rises again; fit for the use in the church; guileless and honorable?
(3) THE MYRTLE
This tree is used by the children of Israel to build booths during the Feast of Tabernacles.
The myrtle tree is a beautiful and fragrant evergreen tree, growing wild throughout the southern part of Europe, the north of Africa and the temperate parts of Asia. The leaves are rich and polished evergreen; the flowers white, with sometimes a tinge of red externally and the berries are of the size of a small pea, violet or whitish, sweetish and with the aromatic flavor which distinguishes the whole plant. It is said that the flowers emit a perfume more exquisite than that of the rose. The berries are used for spices.
The Myrtle Tree is a type of believers being the FRAGRANT AROMA OF CHRIST.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16- But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph and through us spreads the FRAGRANCE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM everywhere. For we are the AROMA of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a FRAGRANCE from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
E.g. Many years ago, a young lady was born again through Youth Director’s region. The parents of this young lady reacted badly to her conversion as her family has priests as relatives. So they persecuted her to the point her mum brought her bag to our old building during our Main Service at Quezon Street and threw it downstairs. We put up this sister at our Mission School for a while. It was as if Evangel and Youth Director had become odious to the family. However, the older sister of our sister one day fell seriously ill – she contracted an incurable degenerative nerve disease and for 3-4 years she was incapacitated. During these 3-4 years, Pastor and her region faithfully reached out to her and the mum continually. Just last week she passed away to be with the Lord. When Pastor Toh Nee and I attended the wake, I was expecting a very hostile mum. But to my surprise, the mum was very friendly and open to our church and even promised that after the funeral, she would come and attend our church. I realized that her faithful region leaders have become a fragrant aroma to this mother. They are the myrtle trees. From an odious aroma to a fragrant aroma.
Application: Are you always exuding the fragrant aroma of Christ around you? You are always spreading the knowledge of Christ everywhere just like Doctor Eddy of CCF. Then you are a myrtle tree.
(4) THE WILD OLIVE
The olive tree is an evergreen tree that is native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean and adjoining coastal areas of southeastern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. It grows best in the DIRECT SUN, and is suited for ROCKY calcareous subsoil. Its trunk is knotty and gnarled; its bark is smooth and ash colored; its leaves are leathery and silvery green, suggestive of TENACIOUS STRENGTH. Its wood is fine grained, solid and yellowish; its flower is feathery white and it produces an edible fruit.
The Olive Tree is generally seen as a symbol of PEACE but also can be a symbol of WISDOM, GLORY, FERTILITY, POWER and PURENESS. It is also associated with the color green, which signifies LIFE.
When applied to a believer, it typifies a believer who is the ……….
• Choicest- characterized by FATNESS
(Choicest of believers – you always have the fats to offer to the Lord – the best part to offer to the Lord)
When applied to a church, it signifies a church that has been pressed in the press (trials and suffering) of life to produce the anointing oil of Christ to light the world with Light of the World. If indeed we suffer with Him, we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).
(5) THE CYPRESS OR THE FIR (KJV)
The cypress or the fir grows in the mountain of Lebanon. It is an emblem of majestic stature. It reaches sometimes to the height of 60 feet. Its broad boughs are evergreen. It produces a fruit that is in the size of a pine cone. The fruit is polished yellow-brown in color and just before it breaks open after having grown to 4-5 inches eventually, it turns green and it scatters its meat, its NUTS. The nut of the fir tree is in size and appearance something like the seed of a date. That fruit is a delicacy. It is termed as SWEET MEAT and it is served on all occasions of joy like Christmas. Every joyous occasion people would go out and get the sweet meat from the fir tree because it would not be a joyous occasion if it were not there.
The planks on the floor and the slabs for the doors in the Temple of Solomon were made of fir wood and this again symbolizes COMMUNION WITH GOD.
2 Samuel 6:5 also informs us that all the manner of instruments that David and the house of Israel used to play before the Lord were made of FIR WOOD – “And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instrument made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets and on cymbals.
This was a joyous occasion for David and how was it observed? By playing instrumental music on instrument of fir wood.
The fir tree typifies JOY OF THE BELIEVERS THAT IS RELATED TO UNINTERUPTED COMMUNION WITH THE LORD.
In the Song of Solomon 1:17 [KJV-The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir], we were told that King Solomon constructed a house for his bride and he chose fir wood as the material for it. It is like Solomon said – “I am going to make the rafter (roof beam; support) out of fir wood. This is going to be a house where we are one; this is going to be a house where JOY will reign supreme; this is going to be a house where no disagreements that will break our fellowship will ever enter.”
Application: How about your home relationship? Husband and wife, may I ask you – what kind of rafters do you have in your house? Look at them, and figuratively speaking, if they are not made of fir, get some fir wood and make some rafters. Make your house that is roofed with JOY and UNDERSTANDING. What a tragedy it is for wives and husbands to be so out of touch that there are disagreements that fill the house with bickering and nagging and an atmosphere that cause the children to wonder if mummy and daddy love each other and causes the children to wonder what joy and happiness actually is.
SPIRITUALLY, is your House of Communion made of fir? Is that quiet place near to the heart of God? Is JOY the roof and support of your relationship to the Lord, or is there no joy in your life?
(6) THE PLANE
This is not a plain tree. Rather this tree is a relative to a sycamore tree. The Hebrew word used here is “armon”. “Armon is supposed to be derived from the root arm meaning “TO BE NAKED”. This tree sheds its bark annually.
The plane tree symbolizes REVITALISATION OR REGENERATION.
The plane tree is a type of believers who know how to revitalize (renew) themselves in the Lord.
Application: Are you the type of believers who continually REVITALIZE yourself in the Lord by waiting upon Him? Or are you one who relies on a one time experience 10 years ago and never seeks to be revitalized again and again now? Have you continually been shedding off your old nature, dying to it so that your inward man is continually being renewed by the Holy Spirit?
One of the woods that God uses to beautify his sanctuary in Isaiah 60:13 is plane tree. This means that one of the types of people who can beautify the church of Christ is the REGENERATED PEOPLE – people who have been born again.
(7) THE PINE
This is a coniferous tree. Several varieties of pine abound upon Mount Lebanon. Its wood is much used for beams and rafters (roof).
The pine tree is a noble emblem of the PROMISED PROSPERITY OF THE CHURCH.
The pine tree typifies the body of Christ, the Christians who will be blessed with the prosperity of Christ. Christ has become poor so that we can become rich.
A four-fold transformation will take place in all of our lives and even in this church.
When the Holy Spirit is poured upon us, when the Word of God is quickened unto us, when God Himself sends, we will be……
• Transformed in our Condition
• Transformed in our Character
• Transformed in our Calling
• Transformed in our Composition
There will be 7 types of believers composing our church, typified by the 7 types of trees God will be planting in the wilderness.
1) The cedar –an evergreen, aromatic, wide-spreading, slow growing, long- lived and useful believer. They are the godly and stately believers of Christ.
2) The acacia – a shade to people, fit for the use in God’s house, indestructible, guileless and honorable believer
3) The myrtle – a believer exuding fragrant aroma of Christ
4) The Olive Tree- the choicest of believers – you always give your very best to the church
5) The Fir Tree – the joyful believers with uninterrupted communion with God and a home with joy and understanding
6) The Plane – a revitalized and regenerated believer
7) The Pine – the prosperous church or body of Christ.
The transformation is underway and soon you will see Evangel Tabernacle with all its members transformed by God, from a wilderness to a forest. Soon, all of you will mature into these 7 different types of evergreen and sturdy trees – all for a memorial to God’s name.
The Lord says – I am doing this so all who see this miracle will understand what it means – that it is the LORD who has done this, the Holy One who created it (Isaiah 41:20 NLT).
PREACHED AT ETAB 2ND SV ON 2 NOV 2014