I keep returning to Isaiah 61; I don’t know why. It’s similar to having gum stuck to your shoe; but, every time I look at it again I learn something new and that’s the objective so believe me, I’m not complaining. I find this entire chapter very comforting and encouraging. I’ve already written a couple of posts about it, at least the first three verses. The more I thought about it I wondered why the oak tree was selected for the analogy in verse 3. I also wondered what “oaks of righteousness” really means. It sounds good and it says “they will be a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” That sounds good too and I would love to accomplish that before I say good-bye to this world.
This chapter of Isaiah, (actually the last several chapters of the book) is directed to the Israelites who were captives in Babylon. These chapters describe how God will deliver them, and restore them to a right relationship with Him. Chapter 61 is titled “The Year of the Lord’s Favor” in my Bible. It represents a new beginning for the weary and downtrodden Israelites who are slave captives in a foreign land. So, one might ask, what does this really have to do with us? The answer is in Luke 4: 16-21 which says
“He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”
Isaiah’s prophecy says in verse one “release from darkness for the prisoners”, and Jesus’ reading says “recovery of sight for the blind”. Of course, we know that Christ did restore the sight of the blind as part of His miraculous ministry, which did release them from a prison. Christ’s fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is what enables us to have a “right relationship” with God. Notice He stopped reading in the middle of verse 2; He did not come to avenge all of the wrongs, He came to comfort and offer encouragement of better days to come. He came to
“bind up the brokenhearted (1); proclaim freedom for the captives (1); release from darkness for the prisoners (1); to comfort all who mourn (2); provide for those who grieve in Zion (3); to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes (3); the oil of gladness instead of mourning (3); a garment of praise instead of despair (3)”
Because of the right relationship, His people will
“rebuild the ancient ruins, restore the places long devastated, feed on the wealth of nations, receive a double-portion in their land, AND EVERLASTING JOY WILL BE THEIRS.”
The chapter closes with verse 11 saying “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”
The dictionary in my Bible defines righteousness as “the fulfillment of a relationship. God brings believers into a right relationship with Him erasing their guilt and crediting righteousness to them (Ro 3: 21-24) and helping them to be devoted to the service of what God says is right (Ro 6: 11-13).”
As it turns out oak trees have several characteristics that make them the perfect analogy for this message. First, oak trees are considered one of the best shade trees. They reach a mature height of 50 to 70 feet and the majority of oak trees adapt well to a wide range of soil conditions. Oak trees are generally free from pests and disease. So, they are hardy with very long lives and can live to 200 years or even more. A certified old oak is named the Seven Sisters Oak in Louisiana with an estimated age of 1,000 years. The tree measures 37 feet in diameter with a crown spread of 150 feet (see image below).
Mature oak trees can draw 50 or more gallons of water on a daily basis through their root system. Consequently, they need to be well watered and do not have to be planted in well-draining sites. Oak trees have very extensive taproots and are able to compensate for any water shortages by seeking water from underground sources.
A “right relationship” with God brings us to a full majestic maturity as the oak tree, and offers protection against our adversary and his methods of undermining our relationship, we need large amounts of “living water” to survive and we need a deep taproot in His word to cultivate our relationship with Him. So, may “righteousness and praise spring up before all nations” because we are “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”