In the cool of the evening, the sprinkler began its raining circuit. I have been doing a fair amount of gardening lately. In the past, my gardening efforts have been short-lived and somewhat ineffective. For example, trying to mow the lawn with shears is not time or effort effective at all. However, in the last week, I have found a renewed determination to cultivate a thriving garden. Some precipitating factors include:
- Realising how lucky we are to have five well established fruit trees in our garden
- Inspiration from seeing the results of other people’s gardening efforts
- A desire to steward nature well, as God has entrusted it to us
I have had quite a bad track record so far, having killed pansies, rosemary, lavender, and thyme so far. Even the succulent and the bamboo are slowly withering. However, we have managed to salvage and taste a few more pieces of home-grown fruit this year compared to last year.
As I was digging holes, carrying buckets of water and re-organising plants, I thought about God gardens. I thought of all the times the Bible makes references to God as the gardener – what he does, how he thinks, how he feels. As I meditated on these things, I found myself more eager to persevere in working on my own garden, more eager to familiarise myself with the plants and their needs. The Bible begins with God planting a garden, the garden of Eden. Adam was a gardener, God is a gardener, and now I am becoming a gardener too. Here are some lessons He has taught me from the garden.
- GOD KNOWS HIS PLANTS
As I reflected on how I managed to kill so many plants, I realised how little I knew about them all. I didn’t know how much water they needed, what kind of soil they liked, whether they needed to be in sun or shade, or what extra nutrients they might need. God, however, knows us completely. He is the one who created us, and He know what is in us – our potential, our beauty, what we need to grow, and what will kill us. What God plants has every opportunity to grow and flourish. He places us in the exact environment we need to be. God knows us, and He is in control of our surrounds.
“For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
And ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the Lord –
For wheat and new wine and oil,
For the young of the flock and the herd;
Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,
And they shall sorrow no more at all.”
“And [You] have not shut me up into in the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a wide place.”
[Song of Songs 4:12]
“A garden enclosed
Is my sister, my spouse,
A spring shut up,
A fountain sealed.”
- GOD LOOKS FOR GROWTH
Unsurprising, God the gardener, looks for growth. When I sow a seed, or plant a flower, when I water the garden and dig up the roots, I want to see growth. I want to see the seeds sprout, the flowers blossom, and the trees give fruit. One of the most disappointing parts of gardening is the futile effort I may spend on some plants. For example, our smaller lemon tree sprouted two lemons, then succumbed to citrus wasps and died. Seeing the fruit made me so excited, and I longed to see the tree flourish with more. When it was sick, I replanted it near a more established lemon tree, and when it died, I kept watering it for a while, hoping it would revive.
God not only cultivates growth, He breathes life into the dead. He causes dead plants to rise up, dry bones to lives, and empty hearts to be filled with His Spirit.
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.”
“If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
[Song of Songs 4:16]
“Awake, O north wind,
And come, O south!
Blow upon my garden,
That its spices may flow out,
Let my beloved come to his garden
And eat its pleasant fruits.”
- GOD PRUNES AND UPROOTS
Pruning is a necessary part of a healthy garden. Recently, I pruned our Bird of Paradise tree so that it would grow upwards instead of outwards. God’s pruning and discipline directs our growth, it keeps our focus on His ways, and on His throne above. It enables us to rely more on Him, to grow more, and to bear more fruit.
[John 1:1-2, 6] – “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit… If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
[Isaiah 5:1-2, 5-7]
“Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard
On a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes…
.…And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard:
I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;
And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
I will lay it waste;
It shall not be pruned or dug,
But there shall come up briers and thorns.
I will also command the clouds
That they rain no rain on it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.”
- GOD GRAFTS IN MERCY
Romans 11 speaks about how Israel will bless the nations. It gives instruction to the Gentiles, that we should not despise Israel, but contend for their salvation for,
[Romans 11:12] – “… if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”
The passage then goes on to use the analogy of a cultivated olive tree being the nation of Israel, and a wild olive tree being the Gentile nations. As we read on, we find that God breaks off branches, and grafts in branches according to His mercy.
- Christ is the root of the tree
- Branches of the natural olive tree (Israel) are broken off because of disbelief. Likewise, grafted-in Gentiles may be broken off if they fall into disbelief.
- Branches of the wild olive tree (Gentiles) see grafted into God’s salvation through faith, and the grace of God
- Broken off branches of the cultivated olive tree (Israel) can also be grafted back in through repentance and faith
Imagine this picture of God, breaking off branches, then lovingly grafting them back in again.
[Romans 11:22-23] – “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness. Otherwise you will also be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in disbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”
- WE ARE GARDENERS WITH GOD
One of the things I love about God, is that He always includes us in what he is doing. I know that He is in charge of everything and that all He does prospers. God lets us see what He is doing, how He is planning His garden, and what His next action will be. Whether my role is in planting, or watering a seed, I will do it joyfully. God is the one who makes things grow, everything in its time and in its place.
[Isaiah 45:8] – “Rain down, you heavens, from above,
And let the skies pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation,
And let righteousness spring up together.
I, the Lord, have created it.”
[1 Corinthians 3:7-9] – “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”
“.…The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few,
Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”