When the Trees in the Fields Clap Their Hands

We tend to see the world through modern eyes colored by the Enlightenment, rationalism and reductionism


“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ‘For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.’”
Isaiah 55:10-13 ESV

The language in these verses from Isaiah 55 are figurative. Will the mountains and hills really break forth into singing? Will the trees of the field clap their hands? (What hands do trees have?) But the language conveys a truth: the world was created in response to God and awaits the fulfillment of God’s purposes for which He created it.

Just as the rain and snow produce the intended results of watering the earth, sprouting the seeds that allow the sower to produce bread, God’s word goes out and accomplishes the purposes for which it was intended. This is true from the beginning to the end.

God spoke the world into being. He set the heavens and the earth (the universe) into motion by His word. (2 Peter 3:5) The world came into being in response to God speaking. And the ultimate ends God has purposed will sprout (and have sprouted) into the seed that produces the material from which the sower ultimately accomplishes the end purpose.

Continue reading “When the Trees in the Fields Clap Their Hands”

Inerrancy and the Spirit of the Age

The concept of inerrancy was developed by Christian rationalists in response to atheistic rationalism. It isn’t in the Bible.


When I was in college, I was one thesis away from being a religion major. I took the thesis class, did the research and even wrote the paper. I just didn’t turn it in.

I graduated with an English Literature major. I didn’t need the double major. I wasn’t satisfied with the product, so I didn’t turn the paper in.

I’ve recalled these things before, but I haven’t really addressed the subject of that thesis paper. It was biblical inerrancy.

I recall the religion major that fell short now, and the topic that derailed it, following some comments that NT (Tom) Wright made to Justin Brierley on the podcast, Ask NT Wright Anything (episode #8, I believe). I chose the topic, of course, but I felt I bit off more than I could chew.

It turns out that there may be another reason the topic was so difficult for me, a new believer at the time. NT Wright sheds some light on the subject.

Continue reading “Inerrancy and the Spirit of the Age”

Interplay of the Word and the Spirit

God works through “the word” He gave us through the writers of the New Testament, along with His Spirit working in us to guide into truth.

Depositphotos Image ID: 36662225 Copyright: alexraths

I recently heard a Sermon on Matthew 3:15. The verse was posited for the proposition that believers in Christ should be baptized as a public expression of faith in obedience to God. This is a pretty fundamental proposition that most Christian denominations would advocate in some form or another.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist has been preaching repentance, turning to God and baptism to make the way for one who “is coming soon who is greater than I am – so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals”.[1] This was Jesus, of course. Then we are told that Jesus went to Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, and John tried to talk him out of it, saying, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you….”[2] This is the context in which Jesus makes the statement that was the focus of the sermon.

The New Living Translation of the Bible was used for the textual reference. I tend to use the ESV and NASB translations because they are more literal. They are word for word translations, rather than phrase for phrase (or idea for idea) translations, like the NLT. The word for word translations tend to be considered more accurate and more authentic to the original text. These are things I was thinking as I listened to the message, and I wondered what difference a more literal translation would make.

Continue reading “Interplay of the Word and the Spirit”

When the Bible Comes Alive – What is Your Story?

If God made us, He would know how to communicate Himself to us in a way that we could understand.

depositphotos Image ID: 61118525 Copyright: 4masik

How many people have experienced reading the Bible, or trying to read the Bible, before “becoming a Christian”? I did. I took a World Religion class as a freshman in college, and in that class I read the Bible for the first time. I have distinct memories of it.

I am not unintelligent. I was second in my law school class. I say that not to boast, but to make a point. Human intelligence is limited, and in particular, it is limited by our perspective.t

Our perspective is that of a finite being who lives a very, very short amount of time and, then, dies.What can we really know of an infinite God? On our own, given our limited perspective on a very small planet in a small solar system in a vast universe, what can we understand of the Maker of it all? In our 100 years, if we are fortunate to live that long, what we can we really know and understand of the 13.7 billion years of the existence of the universe. From our perspective, we have learned a great deal, but compared to what?

We have only to compare to ourselves – other people with limited perspectives as our own!

And if there be a God of this incredibly vast universe, this God would have to be greater still. He would have to be “other” than the universe to have created it. Things don’t create themselves. This material universe filled with matter and space and existing in time would have to have been created by a timeless, space-less, matter-less (immaterial) God who exists on a “plane” other, outside of and beyond the material world we live in.

The words and thoughts we have to define what that other existence might be like are wholly inadequate to describe it because it is completely other than anything we know. We can only describe it in terms of our existence bounded by time, space and matter, yet we have some sense of something beyond, like prisoner who spent his whole life in a small cell, who sees the sunlight streaming in through the bars of the window above him,  but has never seen the sun.

So what does this have to do with reading the Bible?

I realized as I read it in that World Religion class in college that, if God did exist, He would have to reveal Himself to us. We could not reason or research or experiment our way to knowledge of God. That would be like trying to find a painter in the canvass of a painting.

God would have to reveal Himself to us.

And, if God made us, He would know how to communicate Himself to us in a way that we could understand. In my experience, I have learned this to be true. What’s your story?

Continue reading “When the Bible Comes Alive – What is Your Story?”

Love of God and Wrath of God though the Filter of Human Experience

When Ezra speaks of the gracious hand of God on those who look to God and God’s great anger against those who forsake Him, Ezra is speaking through his human understanding.

by Treasure Noel Tatum
photo by Treasure Noel Tatum

This is the fourth segment in the series, Putting the Wrath of God in Perspective.

We should never be afraid to confront the most difficult questions or statements. Truth is truth, and God and truth must necessarily be harmonious. Richard Dawkins says,

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
― Richard DawkinsThe God Delusion

The angry God of the Old Testament problem is often a line of first defense (or is it offense?) for those who do not believe in God, or at least do not believe in “the God of the bible”. It is a problem that believers wrestle with too.

The sermon in church today was on the book of Ezra. Ezra 8:22 reads,

“The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.”

This is the kind of thing that people like Richard Dawkins criticize, but they do so without any understanding (and likely no desire to understand) what they are criticizing. Continue reading “Love of God and Wrath of God though the Filter of Human Experience”

Sharper Than Any Two-Edged Sword

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword….

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When I started this blog, I promised some autobiographical accounts, not that anyone is waiting with baited breath for them. True to my word, though, I will oblige.

I just revised one of my first blog posts, One of My First Light Bulb Moments. In that post, I recounted some early revelations about the Bible that marked my spiritual journey while I was still an unbeliever. I recalled my observation of the intricate harmony of the Bible and acknowledgement that the Creator of the world could communicate to us if He desired to, and He could also protect that communication if He wanted to.

I had these thoughts as I read the Bible for the first time in college. There were other thoughts too. The additional thoughts were not as philosophical; they were much more personal and uncomfortable.

In fact, reading the Bible made me feel uncomfortable. It was sharp. It seemed to expose my heart. It seemed to suggest I was at enmity to God. I virtually squirmed as I read it.

Though I read the Bible as part of an academic class on world religions, I approached each world religion as part of my own journey for truth. Not just the world religions class, I approached every class in college as part of my truth journey. I was eager to delve into the meaning of life. I was very much a product of 1960’s and 1970’s culture in that respect.

I did not really recognize the discomfort I was feeling as I read the Bible until I came across the following verse:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) 

There it was: staring me in the face was an explanation for why I felt so uncomfortable. I at once desired to put the Bible down and leave it alone and to press further like a person exploring a cave in the dark with trepidation. God seemed unapproachable to me, and the conviction I felt was painful; yet I could see there was something there.

The Bible, unlike most religious texts, is unique in confronting the sinful, imperfect nature of man in all of the pride, selfishness and pettiness that we so clearly see in other people, of course, but are much less likely to see in ourselves. The Bible uniquely reflects that pride, selfishness and pettiness back at us. It forces us to be honest with ourselves.

It was many months before I learned a lesson that changed my life forever. If we do not turn from the conviction, but allow it to have its way with us, God’s Word brings us to the cross.

At the cross we see God, intentionally divested of His glory, dying as a sacrifice for us, redeeming us from the sin that is in us.  We are not left to be perpetually convicted of our sins; we are shown the way out of our condition that God provides. When we confess our sins and believe, we find the glorious truth of salvation, forgiveness of sin and relationship with our God and Creator.

“[W]hoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned….” (John 5:24)

We must first see ourselves for who we are, as difficult and uncomfortable as that can be. The Living Word does that: it exposes the sin, but it also shows the way to mercy and forgiveness. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. The painful exposure of the sin that resides in us gives way to the healing that we desperately need by the same Word that smites us.

Words have Power

Both faith and science instruct us that words have power

The phrase Words Have Power on a Blackboard


I find reminders of God in science. This article, Scientific Evidence Thoughts & Intentions can Alter the Physical World Around Us, provides another link between science and religion, demonstrating the creative and destructive force of words/thoughts. Christians talk about the power of prayer, and science backs it up.

I do not believe that these scientists have any religious inclinations; at least none that I am aware. The experiments do not necessarily mean that God is behind the phenomena. The experiments do show, however, a positive correlation between positive words and positive thinking; and they show a correlation between negative words and negative thinking and decay and degeneration. Continue reading “Words have Power”