Like a tree that withers
During prolonged times of drought, especially towards the end of the summer, some plants just wilt, wither, dry up and die. As a result there are extreme fire hazard warnings in some areas. It’s often a very serious situation.
In a similar way, the situation is even more serious in the spiritual realm, when people are dried up inside and miss out on a refreshing relationship with God. What makes this state of affairs so dangerous is that people try to cover up their spiritual dehydration by doing even more religious things. This was the problem that Isaiah had to address with the people of God. They continued to go through the religious motions. Ministry was still buzzing at a mind-numbing clip. Formal worship was upheld, but God was sick of it.
“The multitude of your sacrifices--
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations--
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.” (Is.1:11-16 NIV)
Christian leaders know about this “trampling of my courts”. They are always at the church, whenever the doors are open. “Sabbaths, convocations, assemblies and festivals” are dictating their schedules. Ceaseless activities are on their to-do-lists. Every few minutes their Blackberries go off indicating another urgent text, email, or meeting reminder.
All of these activities are not bad in themselves: there is nothing wrong with sacrifices, offerings and prayer times. The problem arises, when these activities are separated from a living relationship with God.
This was the core problem that Isaiah underlined right at the beginning of the chapter. According to Is.1:4, these religious practitioners had forsaken the Lord and had turned their backs on him.
Such a separation from the Source of Life has obvious consequences, which Isaiah points out in v.30 (VOICE): “Like a tree that withers, like a garden without rain, you will fall apart, fade, and dry up.” Many ministry leaders are right there!
The word used for wither (Heb. root NBL) can have these meanings: sink or drop down, wear out from exhaustion or from discouragement, fall like a leaf, wither like a flower, or fade. And in a metaphorical way it can also have the meaning of being senseless or foolish, i.e. their ability to reason has wilted and withered away. (Nabal was the foolish husband of Abigail -- 1.Sam.25:25).
It is foolish to get so involved in religious activities that we neglect our relationship with God. Jethro recognized the symptoms in his son-in-law Moses and said to him (using the same Heb. root word NBL) in Exodus 18:18 (NIV): “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”
This is a good reminder for ministry leaders: they don’t need to, and cannot, do all the work themselves! Delegate to others! Moses listened to Jethro and prospered as a result. He focused on his relationship with God (Ex.18:19).
The apostles did the same in Acts 6:4, when the immediate needs of the Hellenistic widows almost made them neglect their priorities of prayer and the ministry of the word.
Blessed are those who focus on intimate communion and communication with God. They are no fools and they’ll never wither: “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (Ps.1:3 NLT)
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We are a pastoral couple named Stefan & Heidi König. We have many years of experience in various ministries, and are thankful that God has given us this property to use as a way to bless others who need a place to relax and reconnect with Him.
Kingfisher Spiritual Direction
Direct your heart to Jesus and restore your soul. If you need to hear from God, to grow deeper with Him, consider spiritual direction. An ancient discipline of soul care, Heidi is trained to prayerfully lead you in this practice.