Judgement and mercy as slow as the trees grow

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. – Micah 3:12

The temple mount “like a wooded height” – a curse of de-civilization is pronounced here. Just as man’s body returns to dust, so his works return to nature.

Trees take a terribly long time to grow, but they do eventually. A friend of mine used to work as accountant for Weyerhauser, which produces lumber and paper. He told me an interesting fact. The company has been buying up forests all over America for over a hundred years and now controls about 14 million acres. And here’s the deal – after it logs an area, it plants new trees. And then they just sit and wait. Whole careers come and go and generations pass, and the forest grows up from nothing and then after about 50 years, all the trees are back and they cut them down again. It’s a completely sustainable and renewable resource because they make sure to cut them down at the same rate they are growing up. Environmental advocates might be horrified at the prospect of cutting down a million acres of forest, but what if you could prove you had another million acres growing up right next to it that you had planted earlier? That takes patience and planning to pull off.

Part of Micah’s curse in this passage is that a hill that was richly developed by man would turn back into a forest. That doesn’t happen overnight – it takes an entire generation for those trees to grow up. It has to sit there quite a while – until your children are old. We would have our works today rise up with ridiculous rapidity. Instead of a cathedral taking a hundred years, the new highest sky scraper rises in Dubai on the backs of slaves and cranes in only 2-3 years. We have overnight billionaires born of tech acquisitions. We want to get rich quick and cram as much into our lives as possible, extending it with surgery, Viagra, and dialysis. Our lives are fleeting and we desire things NOW lest we whither away before they arrive.

I think we project this impatience on God as well. We imagine his judgements to be in the form of lightning strikes or fire from heaven. That’s how we would have it done after all. But scripture shows us a God whose judgements are often slow, lasting through a great deal of time. He gives us over to sin for a while. He let’s things work themselves out for a while and then rescues us. He sends Israel to exile, not for a week, but for 70 years. The remnant is literally all pushing up daisies by then. It’s their grand children who see new things take shape. The temple mount is hosed long enough for tall trees to come back.

And then, in a sense, his saving of us is the same way. Suddenly on the third day was death defeated and Satan actually cast down “like lightning”. But then oh so slow was the rest of the redemptive work – as if a small seed was planted to grow into a garden to cover the earth. Such is His mercy for us – it can be terribly slow too. We see death as some tragic interruption or disappointment in this process. He does not. The seed is still growing.