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”