TREES SET AND PLACED IN THE WILDERNESS AND DESERT - Isaiah 41:1-20

Shabbat shalom family, it is always good to come and be together and raise a shout offering of praise and thanksgiving unto our Master יהוה of Hosts!

Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in יהוה, and whose trust is יהוה. 8 “For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and does not see when heat comes. And his leaf shall be green, and in the year of drought he is not anxious, nor does he cease from yielding fruit.

Very encouraging words indeed – to be like a tree that is not affected by adverse weather conditions and continues to yield fruit – this is the condition of the one who trusts in יהוה and whose trust is  יהוה! The one who does not trust in יהוה is cursed and is like a shrub in the dessert that cannot see when good comes. As we walk out our lives of living obedience we recognise that the times are tough and it is getting a little (for some a lot) harder to makes ends meet so to speak and some of the greatest tests of our belief in Messiah are beginning to unfold before us, which will certainly reveal whether we trust in יהוה with our leaves green and steadfast or whether we will be found to be a dried up shrub of thorns ready to be blown away and destroyed  by the coming wind and heat!

With the imagery of trees and thornbushes that we see in Scripture, tonight I want us to be encouraged to be like the trusting trees so to speak and in a message called, “TREES SET AND PLACED IN THE WILDERNESS AND DESERT” I would like us to be greatly encouraged that we have a ‘Gardener’ who cares for us, especially in our Wilderness journey.

Please turn with me to Yeshayahu/Isaiah 41:1-20 (Read)

This chapter is a message of comfort for the children of Yisra’ĕl, and a great woe to her enemies who will be destroyed.

This chapter starts off with the clear command for silence as יהוה in essence is telling the nations to ‘shut up’ as it is now time for Him to speak and for people to listen! He says that the nations will certainly do their best to strengthen themselves and try to contend with Him, when He brings forth His right-ruling.

This is certainly end-time language as we see that all flesh will hush and be silent when He comes out of His set-apart Hěḵal.

Zeḵaryah/Zechariah 2:13 “Hush, all flesh, before יהוה, for He has roused Himself out of His set-apart dwelling!

He begins by asking the nations who raised up the righteous one from the east, called him to His foot and gave the nations before him and made sovereigns submit to him? In essence He is asking “who called Aḇraham and brought him from the east”  and is also a foreshadow of the Messiah who would come forth – the Ancient of Days and subdue the nations under His feet! יהוה asks the clear question “who has performed all and called all generations from the beginning?” It is יהוה – No one else – He is the first and the Last and He is responsible for all.

When the nations hear this profound Truth when His voice shall sound forth, they will fear and be very afraid and will turn to each other and make more idols, and they will strengthen one another and do their utmost to make their false worship become even a greater image made by the hands of men, that the masses will flock to in the false hope of being secure through the message of the anti-Messiah as they strengthen their programmes and structures so that it does not fall – or so they think – just as they did back in the building of the Tower of Baḇel!!! This is also a picture of what so many do today as they are not turning to hear the voice of Elohim but are rather turning to whatever is an immediate comfort to the flesh, be it alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, hobbies etc. just to get a high and numb the reality of the Truth for a while!

Now while the world and all its false religions begin to unite themselves and strengthen each other,  יהוה speaks very clearly to His chosen and tells us, the descendants of Aḇraham to not fear, for He is with us, He will fortify us, help us, and uphold us with the right hand of His righteousness – that is יהושע Messiah.

Everyone who strives with us and those with whom we have struggles shall perish and will not be found anymore. 3 times we are told to not fear and in verse 14 He says.. “Do not fear, you worm Ya’aqoḇ…”. The word used here for ‘worm’ is תּוֹלַעַת  ‘tola’ath’ from the word תּוֹלָע  tola – Strong’s H8438 meaning, worm, crimson, scarlet stuff, purple, and may be pointing to the words from:

Yeshayahu/Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says יהוה. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

He word translated as ‘crimson’ is תּוֹלָע  tola, and so here in chapter 41 we see once again the faithfulness and loving-commitment of יהוה in saying that while you were sinners – I redeem you:

Romiyim/Romans 5:8 “But Elohim proves His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.

This is a wonderful picture here as the true love of Elohim for us is shown in that He died for us!

Yoḥanan/John 15:13-14 “No one has greater love than this: that one should lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

Here in verse 8 of this chapter in Yeshayahu we see that יהוה refers to Aḇraham as being one who ‘loved’ Him and this root word for ‘loved’ in the Hebrew is אָהֵב  ahaḇ – Strong’s H157 meaning. to love, dearly loved, friend, friends, lover.

Here this word is written in the “qal, active, pure noun participle”, which can also therefore render the intense love between two friends and so we can see why so many translations actually translate this as ‘…Aḇraham my friend…’ and when Messiah tells us that the greatest love anyone can have is to lay down his life for his friend! This makes so much sense in that יהוה expresses the greatest love any could by laying down His life, not only for His friend who loved Him – Aḇraham, but also for Aḇraham’s descendants, the chosen and called out children of Yisra’ĕl! יהוה Himself took on the nature of flesh by bearing His Right, Outstretched Arm and proved His love for us by redeeming us through His Blood – He is our Redeemer and the Set-Apart One of Yisra’ĕl – He is our refuge whom shall we dread?

He not only redeems us but He strengthens us and causes our mouths to be sharpened with His word, that we will ‘eat up’ the nations with our testimony and the Sword of Truth in our mouths.

We will winnow them as the wind will lift them up and the whirlwind will scatter them. The whirlwind speaks of His coming wrath and our role to winnow reminds us of the process of making bread; and winnowing is another step in the process, that involves a ‘fork’ that looks like a rake. The threshed grain is thrown up into the air in order to expose it to the wind which will blow away the lightweight particles and the heavier – that is the more important – will be left behind! So here in Yeshayahu we also see clearly how the threshing comes before the winnowing and after the winnowing the heat is turned up through parching! But our role is to be a praying people, lifting up our prayers to יהוה, and He will do the rest and we are commanded to rejoice in יהוה and boast in Him – this is how we will certainly ‘winnow’ the chaff form the wheat!!! We are to be a boasting people – boasting in the Set-Apart One that is, and you will find that when you do this many may resent your boasting and praise for יהוה, yet this is what we are called to do and not be afraid, and our boasting consists of a bold statement of our belief as seen in our daily lives of true obedience, which will indeed ‘winnow’ many and cause us to be further separated from the chaff of unbelief and the lawless, so to speak!

Verse 17 gives us a clear promise as the result of our obedient boasting and rejoicing in Messiah – when we are thirsty and in need, יהוה will hear our cry and answer!!! He will open up rivers on bare hills, fountains in the valleys and pools in the wilderness and springs in a dry land. This is His sure provision for us, no matter where we find ourselves, for He does not leave us nor forsake us. You might be on a ‘bare hill’ so to speak – all you see is a height that is bare and stripped of all and you feel hopeless and unable to cope with the matters at hand – He provides the needed waters of refreshing! You may be in a dark valley of destruction and despair with seemingly no way out – He is there with you and will give you fountains of water – that will flow from within you, even in your darkest times – if you will but just drink of Him! In the dry heat of the Wilderness He will wash and refresh you with pools of water as you draw with joy from the waters of Salvation.

In light of us last week having completed Bemidbar/Numbers in our yearly Torah portion cycle, we are reminded that the wilderness is the time where we learn to hear His Words and are nourished and refreshed to stand strong and be courageous in Him as we sojourn in Messiah, holding on to the sure and promised hope we have at His soon return that we will enter into the fullness of His Promises for us as His Bride.

In the meantime we are to remain faithful as we sojourn and what struck me in this chapter was verse 19 where יהוה clearly tells us that He sets in the Wilderness and places in the desert some trees together. And I would like us to look a little closer at the imagery of these trees being mentioned here as we understand the great work He is doing in our midst, as He gives us all we need to be a prepared Bride!

The word used for ‘I set’ in Hebrew is אֶתֵּן  ‘atan’ which is from the primitive root  נָתַן  Nathan – Strong’s H5414 meaning, to give, put, set, appoint, assign, designate and you will notice that the first letter ‘nun (נָ)’ falls away as it is in the qal imperative and the ‘weak nun (נָ)’ falls away as there is an emphasis placed on the action of this ‘setting’ being done by Elohim. The Hebrew word for ‘I place’ as in ‘I place in the desert’ is אָשִׂים  asiym from the root word שִׂים siym – Strong’s H7760 also with the meaning, set, ordain, establish, appoint and with this being written in the ‘qal active’ can figuratively have the meaning to ‘extend compassion’.

What is interesting to note is that this word was first used in:

Berěshith/Genesis 2:8 “And יהוה Elohim planted a garden in Eḏen, to the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed.

What יהוה is doing with us in the Wilderness is setting us in His perfect order so that we are able to ‘dwell’ fully with Him again as we were made to! It is in the Wilderness where He shall ‘set’ us – graft us back into the fullness of His purpose and provision that we may joyfully inherit and rule with Him!

As we have mentioned the Hebrew word for ‘in the wilderness’ is  בְּמִדְבַּר – ‘Bemiḏbar’, from the root word - מִדְבָּר  mibar – Strong’s H4057 meaning, ‘wilderness, desert’ and can also mean ‘mouth’. This word comes from the primitive root - דָּבַר  daḇar – Strong’s H1696 meaning, ‘to speak, command, counsel, declare, proclaimed, converse, warn, threaten, promise’ and a derivative of this word is also translated as ‘speech, word, commandment/s, message’.

The meaning of Bemiḏbar as mentioned means ‘in the wilderness’ and the literal meaning of this actually carries the concept of ‘The place of words’ or ‘The place of speaking’.

The Hebrew word for ‘in the desert’ is בָּעֲרָבָה  – ‘ba’araḇah’, from the word עֲרָבָה  araḇah – Strong’s H6160 meaning, desert, desert plain, wilderness, and comes from the word עָרַב   araḇ - Strong’s H6150 meaning, to become evening, grow dark.  

As the days get ‘darker’ so to speak, יהוה sets and places us the Wilderness – the place of hearing for it is time to listen!

In Scripture trees often symbolise people, as we saw from the verse form Yirmeyahu I quoted at the beginning, of those who trust in יהוה, and Dawiḏ repeats this thought or picture in:

Tehillim/Psalm 1:3 “For he shall be as a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That yields its fruit in its season, And whose leaf does not wither, And whatever he does prospers.

With this in mind let’s look briefly at these trees being mentioned here in verse 19: The cedar, acacia, myrtle, oil, cypress, pine and box.

1 – The Cedar - אֶרֶז  erez – Strong’s H730. In Tehillim/Psalm 92 Dawiḏ tells us that the righteous will grow like the cedars of Leḇanon. It is a strong and firm tree and a cedar tree is in itself a wonderful illustration of bringing us a picture of a person who is טוֹב  to (good) and fully functional in Messiah. They have been known to grow up to 12 meters in circumference! The roots grow down extremely deep and wrap around rocks for anchorage, and grow upwards in heights of up to 45 meters!!! The fragrance of a cedar tree acts as a great defence against being attacked by insects and pests and it is ‘knot’ free and rot resistant, known for their longevity and are perennial evergreen trees. Cedar as we know is used in Scripture for the process of the cleaning of a leper – it is used is the Red Heifer sacrifice; Shelomoh used cedar wood to build the Temple. The cedar speaks of us being strong and trustworthy in Messiah and being the fragrance of Messiah, which to some will be death and to others life. It also speaks of trusting in יהוה and obeying the command of יהושע Messiah to not worry! The cedar also represents for us ‘storing up treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy’ and so as we do the good works prepared in advance for us we repel the need to store up the fleshly desires that are like pests that cause rot!

2 – Acacia Wood – Acacia is the Hebrew word - שִׁטָּהshittah’ – Strong’s H7848. The ‘Shittah’ tree grew in the deserts of Sinai, and the deserts around the Dead Sea. The wood is hard, very heavy, indestructible by insects, and has a fine, beautiful grain. It was remarkably luxuriant in dry places, sometimes attaining a height of twenty feet. This pictures for us the indestructability of Messiah and His incorruptibility in the flesh.

The Hebrew name means "sticks" or "piercers", because its thorny branches do indeed look like a hodgepodge of twigs. Very few of the branches are thick enough to make boards out of, so articles were made from them by connecting the sticks together to make beams that could support great weight. This ties in wonderfully to the concept of the "two sticks" of Ephrayim and Yehuḏah being made into "one tree" (Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 37:17), and to Sha‘ul's explanation of Genesis 18:18 in Romans 11 about branches from other trees being grafted into Aḇraham’s root. We also take note that the Ark of the Covenant was made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold and represents that where יהוה dwells and being made of acacia wood would also symbolise the two Houses being made one in the incorruptible Messiah, and  be a people who have His Covenant (Torah) on their heart!

This wood would not rot or be affected by any insects and speak of the purity of Messiah and grafted into Him we will never see decay or rot!

3 – Myrtle - The Hebrew root word for ‘myrtle’ is הֲדַס  hadas – Strong’s H1918  and a derivative of this word is the name of הֲדַסָּה Hadassah – Strong’s H1919 the brave queen who stood up for her people and caused the death sentence decreed over the Yehuḏim to be reversed and Yehuḏah struck down 75000 of their enemies at the decree of the king! The myrtle tree stays green the longest and the branches of myrtle trees were used to make the booths for Sukkot/Tabernacles – which is also a great reminder to us of יהושע being in our midst as we sojourn here!

The picture of יהושע standing among the myrtle trees in Zeḵaryah/Zechariah 1 is a wonderful encouragement that shows how The Living Word stands amongst His Covenant people, even in the midst of our troubles and oppressions, just as He is in the midst of the seven lampstands as recorded in Ḥazon/Revelation 1!

4 – Oil Tree - שֶׁמֶן  shemen – Strong’s H8081 meaning, fat, oil, choicest, olive’. This can give reference to the ‘olive’ tree and this word שֶׁמֶן  shemen meaning ‘oils’ certainly points us to a word that is derived from this together with  the word  גַּת gath – Strong’s H1660, which means ‘a place for pressing oil (or wine)’, and that is the word Gethsemane.

During the time of יהושע, heavy stone slabs were lowered onto olives that had already been crushed in an olive crusher. Gradually, the slabs weight squeezed the olive oil out of the pulp, and the oil ran into a pit. There the oil was collected in clay jars.

The image of the Gethsemane on the slope of the Mount of Olives where יהושע went the night before He was impaled provides a vivid picture of the suffering of יהושע. The weight of the sins of the world pressed down upon Him like a heavy slab of rock pressed down on olives in their baskets. His sweat, ‘like great drops of blood falling down to the ground’, flowed from Him like olive oil as it was squeezed out and flowed into the pit of an olive press.

Luqas/Luke 22:44 “And being in agony, He was praying more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

5 – Cypress - בְּרוֹשׁ  berosh – Strong’s H1265

The cypress is a tree that grows in swampy areas. Often you will see cypress trees with their root structure starting to grow out from the trunk above the water level. This complex root structure allows the cypress to stand firm when the tide is high, or when it is low; whether there is fair weather, or foul. No matter what, the cypress can stand in the water, unmoved by the water swirling around it. And this speaks to us about being firmly grounded in the Truth and not moved by every wind of teaching or doctrine that is contrary to the Torah, and how we stand steadfast on the Rock when the storms come.

6 – Pine - תִּדְהָר  tidhar – Strong’s H8410 from the word דָּהַר  dahar – Strong’s H1725 meaning, to rush, dash (of a horse), galloping. The pine tree is also known as the evergreen tree, because its leaves never turn brown and fall to the ground. Where most types of trees “die” in the autumn and come back to life in the springtime, the pine tree is alive and vibrant all year long. One of the signs in the life of a mature believer is that they are alive in יהושע all the time. They don’t have times of backsliding, as they a pressing forward continually and never allowing varying season to stop the life of Messiah that lives in them! Pine trees can survive both the heat and the cold and speaks of being continually steadfast!

7 – Box - תְּאַשּׁוּר  teashshur – Strong’s H8391 and comes from the word אָשַׁר  ashar – Strong’s H833 meaning, to go straight, go on, advance, blessed, happy. This wood is known for its great utility and can be used for multiple purposes which speaks of us being available to be used of Elohim in whichever way we need to be in building up the Body. With the root of this meaning advance and straight we can see that this speaks about our Wilderness journey is one of going forward and going forward and advancing with joy, not looking back:

Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 10:39 “But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of belief to the preservation of life.

What we can learn from this powerful verse is that יהוה is continually growing and strengthening us in the Wilderness as we listen to and respond faithfully to His voice. Here we also see that there are 7 trees, which speak of completion and fullness, which speaks of how HE is doing a complete work in us, while we sojourn in the wilderness and we recognise how each tree symbolises the characteristics  of His shaping Word being moulded into our lives as we are grafted into Messiah. Each of these trees would naturally require different soil types or ground cover and so this is a great picture of each tree being grafted into Messiah – the Pure root system! What is also interesting is that the 4th tree is the ‘oil’ tree and we know that this can speak of Messiah being the middle light or being the central shaft of the Menorah with its 6 branches, showing how we are joined to Messiah, from which we receive His Spirit to keep our light shining!

יהוה says that He shall set/place these trees together and so we also see how He is by His Word bringing us into unity as a body that can shine His bright light to the nations.

The word ‘together’ is the Hebrew word יַחַד  yachad – Strong’s H3162 meaning, unitedness, alike, one accord, unity, and it is here in the Wilderness where He will bring all the different trees together as one, that each will complement each other and represent the fullness of His completeness within us as a unified body!

My hope is to encourage you with these very encouraging words in Yeshayahu – that we need the wilderness experience, for without it we will not be truly set-apart as vessels unto value! With this picture of trees in mind we also see in:

Yeshayahu/Isaiah 55:12-13 “For with joy you go out, and with peace you are brought in – the mountains and the hills break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field clap the hands. 13 “Instead of the thorn the cypress comes up, and instead of the nettle the myrtle comes up. And it shall be to יהוה for a name, for an everlasting sign which is not cut off.

Thornbushes and nettles are blown away and burned and are worthless while faithful trees who trust in יהוה and meditate on His Torah day and night will break forth into singing and clap their hands.

Tehillim/Psalm 96:12-13 “Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Let all the trees of the forest then shout for joy, 13 at the presence of יהוה. For He shall come, for He shall come to judge the earth. He judges the world in righteousness, and the peoples with His truth.

Our Redeemer is coming soon – and so as He sets us in the wilderness together – let us, as trees that are set and placed in the Wilderness and the desert, rejoice in our Maker and recognize that it is by His hand and His Hand alone - יהושע Messiah – that He does this! Are you like a tree or like a thorn bush? Let him set you in the Wilderness so that we will hear “the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who are saying, “Praise יהוה of hosts, for יהוה is good, for His kindness is forever,” again!

Shalom 

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