Cross and flowers

Background Text: Job 11:13-20

Devotional Text: Mark 5:25-34

On a recent trip with my sister, driving from midstate New York to visit friends and family in Florida, she made an observation while looking out the window. We were passing through a number of mountains and hillsides full of various trees growing tall in the sunlight.

My sister, Joanne, turned toward me while I drove and said she found it interesting that trees growing on the mountainsides did not grow outward at an angle, but all of them grew straight upward as if reaching toward the sun.

When we were in the valleys where the trees were on more level ground, of course they grew straight and tall. In areas prone to high winds, we saw trees that were partly bent sideways, but then their angle changed again, growing straight up.

All of this got me thinking of God and how as believers we too reach toward the Son — the Son of God.

Psalm 27:8 says, “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’”

And I thought, as the trees grow upward from the ground, they reach out their branches to the sunlight for nourishment that strengthens them and helps them grow. And we, as Christians, seek God’s Son from whom we find strength and growth as the Lord teaches us in his word.

In the book of Job 11:13-20, Zophar spoke to Job, reminding him, “If you set your heart on God and reach out to him, if you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, you’ll be able to face the world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless. ... Your world will be washed in sunshine, every shadow dispersed by dawn.”

Although, as we remember from Job’s story, he was not undergoing tragedy in his life due to unfaithfulness to God, his “friends” believed Job had sinned and were full of advice on how to return to God’s good graces.

Zophar may have given his advice to a man who was already righteous before God, but his advice was right on for someone who had turned away from God.

Later, in the New Testament letter of James, who was a brother of Jesus, being born of Mary, we find these similar words in James 4:8 — “Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Our Lord Jesus could very well have spoken these words to all followers of Christ, as the teaching found herein compares to Old and New Testament Scripture about living a clean life and doing good while staying away from evil temptations. By doing so, the Lord’s light shines upon us.

Just as the trees reach toward the sunshine and grow straight and strong, the lives of believers become straight and strong as we follow the narrow road that Jesus laid before us.

Even if we occasionally fail and our paths become bent due to wrong choices or tragedy in our lives, or even if we choose to follow a path that is not honoring to God, like the bent or twisted trees, we can take yet another turn, like the trees reaching for the sun, and reach out to the light that is the Son of God.

In 2 Chronicles 16:9, the Scripture speaks to us in these words: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the Earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Just as daylight cycles the day throughout Earth, our God is with us always. Just as the trees reach toward the sunlight, those fully committed to Christ never stop reaching for his mercy and grace and justice that strengthen us throughout our lives.

Then we turn to the well-known story of the woman who had hemorrhages for 12 years, causing her to lose blood. Her story is found in Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48.

Using the Scripture from Mark, we find that her belief in Jesus, the Messiah, as she saw him among the crowd of followers, caused her to reach out and touch him ... if only she could reach the hem of his robe.

As she reached out and touched his robe, she was immediately healed. Jesus, even in the crush of people around him, felt power go out of him. He knew someone had touched him. He stopped his forward movement and asked who touched him.

While his disciples questioned how Jesus could feel just one person touching him in the crowd, the woman came forward and said it was she. Jesus turned to her and said her faith had made her well.

That is what reaching out to the Son of God does for all of us. We find new life, better life, as he helps us and heals us.

In Acts 17:27-28, we learn from the apostle Paul as he spoke to the people of Athens. He told them he could see they were religious people because they worshiped so many gods. The problem was they did not know the one true God who made the whole Earth and everything in it.

Paul told the people, “God made the whole earth so you would seek him, and reach out for him, and find him, though he is not far from any of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.”

This is the Son that we reach out to. The only Son of God, who is Jesus, our Savior. As Psalm 105:4 reminds us, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

Lancaster Farming

The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.

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