The trunk is split and gray, dry as sun-bleached bones. Leafless branches stick their skeletal fingers in the air, some broken and hanging like fractured digits. It is obvious there is no life in this old tree spindly on the edge of a cabbage field. Yet it stands steadfast through the seasons, drawing my eye whenever I pass.
I feel a slight sadness when I drive by it in spring. While it’s fellow trees are flaunting fresh, green leaves, the dead tree remains bare. Until one day I notice something different where a section of its trunk has broken away and fallen. Slowing down, I see green shoots sprouting out of what looks like dead wood. Tears prickle behind my eyes and my heart swells with something like hope.
I am reminded of what Job said. Heavy-hearted under the hand of God, occasionally Job speaks a glimmer of hope into his melancholy musings. In chapter 14 his thoughts are on the brevity of man’s troubled days, numbered by God and soon over. Then ….
“At least there is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” (Job 14:7-9 NIV)
I see this as a picture of Job’s deeply buried hope. “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble,” (Job 14:1) he states gloomily. Then he uses the image of a dead tree putting forth green shoots at the scent of water. This is such a vivid picture of growth sprouting from decay, hope from hopelessness, new life from death. And what calls forth this green shoot? The scent of water.
Can a tree detect the scent of water? It seems impossible if it is dead, yet somewhere deep inside its mouldering wood a dormant cell senses life-giving moisture then begins to multiply. Can a soul dead in sin conceive of a life beyond this present world? God planted eternity in the heart of man, imbued it with an awareness of life beyond this conscious one now lived. At the scent of water our heart is called. Drawn by the scent of living water welling up to eternal life, water which symbolizes the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.” (John 4:14 The Voice)
What is the scent of living water? It is the fresh fragrance of forgiveness by God, who alone is able to pardon your sins. It is the perfume of perfection emanating from the Savior who calls you to be perfect, as He is perfect. It is the incense of sacrifice rising from His life laid down for you, no greater demonstration of divine love existing.
I was once like that bone-gray dead tree on the edge of a field. No green shoots, no new leaves; no life within my spirit. But then the scent of living water drifted across my heart, drawing me to the One who satisfies all my longings, filling me with His love. I bud with vibrant spiritual life, putting forth shoots new and green. The scent of water is now the River of Life flowing strong.