When Small Beginnings Die
It’s strange weather for starting seeds, with the garden buried six feet under in snow… but spring is only seven weeks away!
Every year when we start seedlings, my husband says, “I’ll just plant a few different kinds of tomatoes…”
Every year, the “few” turn into a vast, unnavigable jungle, tightly packed with tomatoes to pick.
I try to view this as a blessing…
But when I’m crawling between overgrown tomato cages in the August heat, my skin inflamed with itchy leaf rashes and my hair netted with the webs of lurking spiders… the curse comes more naturally to mind.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it… By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…” (Genesis 3:17,19)
All this is the fault of the cursed serpent – with his “seed,” which he must have scattered in our weedy garden last year.
The serpent-curse marks the beginning of one of those threads through the tapestry of the Old Testament…
the threads that weave together the New Testament picture of Jesus…
the threads that transformed my belief.
The “Seed” Thread
seed = offspring, descendant/s
“Seed” can mean either:
– one person (Jesus – the one who will crush the serpent’s head in the verse above)
– or multiple descendants.
God gives several “seed” promises in the Old Testament. The one He gave to King David is remarkable, because God tangles up His personal treasure in the promise:
“I will set up one of your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.
I will be his father and he shall be my son…”
I watch my own “seed” planting seeds…
and I remember the years of begging God for children. I never expected I would have four in just over three years.
When Abraham and Sarah longed for children, God told them what to expect.
Abraham: “What will you give me, since I am childless…?”
God: “One who who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir… Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them… So shall your seed be.” (Genesis 15:3-5)
Then God gave Abraham a son, Isaac. Wrapped into this one, tiny newborn came the hope of a countless multitude of people to be called “family.” It was a gift to treasure, to hold tightly.
I know about that… holding a long-awaited child tightly, my own big dreams all wrapped up in the tiny body.
My kids buried each seed – entombing it under a layer of earth – to wait for the incredible power of life to propel the tender shoots out of the ground.
“A farmer doesn’t acquire seed to consume it or hoard it. He only decides where to plant it. And only when the seed has been irrevocably cast into the ground is a harvest returned.” (Andy Stanley, Fields of Gold, 2004)
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jesus, in John 12:24)
God took a huge risk, asking Abraham to hand back his precious dream, in a literal sacrifice on an altar. Maybe the biggest risk was that Abraham would misunderstand God’s character.
I doubt that Abraham had any idea what God was asking of him:
to be a living prophecy…
to pre-enact another Father’s sacrifice…
But Abraham did know the character of his Friend, and he trusted Him completely.
So, in the foreshadow of the appointed mountain, Abraham placed on his son’s shoulders the wooden means of his execution. They ascended to the designated place, and Abraham commenced with child sacrifice – an evil practice that God harshly condemned everywhere else in the Bible. But that wasn’t the real purpose of the journey…
As they went, Abraham reassured Isaac of God’s character:
“God will provide for Himself the lamb.” (Genesis 22:8)
Abraham’s trust was not disappointed. At the last minute, an angel intervened, and an innocent sheep, crowned in the brambles of a nearby thicket, took Isaac’s place. It was finished – God’s purpose was complete.
Technically, Abraham had another, older son (conceived when Abraham got tired of waiting for God to fulfill His promise). It seems strange to me that God affirmed Abraham with these words:
“You have not withheld your son, your only son…” (Genesis 22:12)
…almost like God was speaking to Himself… Was He was comforted by a mortal friend who could understand His heart well enough to share – even a small part – in His future sacrifice?
It’s always a treasure to find anyone who can really see inside your heart…
God was happy with Abraham, and He expanded the promise:
“I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore… In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” (Genesis 22:17-18)
The same seed that would crush the serpent’s head…
the same seed promised to Abraham (and to his son, grandson, great-grandson…)
the same seed that would reign, as God’s only Son, on David’s throne forever…
would turn into an overwhelming overabundance – and this would be a “blessing.”
I can, at times, become a little frustrated…
because, oh my golly, having kids involves so much clutter, and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with it all. And there’s the mompetition, and I don’t stand a chance of measuring up to the ultra-organized moms out there…
But this overwhelming overabundance is part of my harvest – a blessing.
Someday, God may ask me to open my hand and give something back. It may be a sacrifice that is more than I can imagine enduring. It may feel like a death. It may be a death.
It may feel wrong – an evil that was not meant to happen to me and my family.
When suffering and disappointment come, will I trust the One who has the whole thing planned out, far in advance – down to the little, significant details? The One who longs for me to see into His heart through my sacrifice? The One who has taken the ultimate loss onto His own shoulders, for my sake?
Best of all, the One whose specialty is Resurrection?
Today, I am wrangling and herding my blessings… but I look back and remember what it was like before – the empty longing – and I find it impossible to count the overwhelming ways God has already resurrected dreams.
In the blessings, God, teach me Your character, and in the sacrifices let me trust You.