Several weeks ago, in early July, we planted some 60,000 cabbage transplants.
Ground conditions were dry, but the rain forecast looked promising. Over a three-day period, our two-seater water wheel transplanter chugged along, planting row after row after row. Almost as soon as we were finished, the weather forecast changed substantially. Instead of thunderstorms, we got almost two weeks of very hot, dry weather. Despite lots of transplant water, the plants were really suffering. Now mind you, we have planted such transplants in early July for many years with great success. However, this season was proving to be a real humbler.
After missing several storms, we finally got a tanker with 6,000 gallons of water and went to work with modified spray rigs to rescue the plants. Then, within days, we got over 17 inches of rain!
We laughed and commented that maybe the water tanker was the last straw. The Lord observed our feeble attempts, and said, “OK, folks, now let me show you what a heavenly tanker looks like!”
After the monsoon ended, we surveyed the damage and estimated that perhaps as much a third of the transplants had been lost. Disappointing, but it could have been much worse. Some of our farm friends have lost whole fields after they had been flooded for days.
As our normal routine of crop care resumed, we noticed something curious as we sprayed the cabbage field. Amid the larger plants, every once in a while a small cabbage plant had emerged from the ground. Clearly the transplant plug had survived. It was almost as if it had been raised from “death” to new life. What was dead to us, was actually waiting for sufficient water for a rebirth. In the same way, all the dried-out seeds we plant in the ground, whether they be beans, corn or squash, must decompose before a new, wonderful, unimaginable life begins. Of course, this truth is throughout the Bible — God is the God of resurrection.
In Ezekiel 37, God reminds the prophet that the Lord can, and will, raise the dead to new life. Ezekiel is set in the midst of a valley full of dry bones. And the Lord said to him, “Son of man, can these bones live?... Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.’... So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone….”
Finally, Ezekiel saw a great army of reborn people. Just when we have given up hope that whatever we are facing in life can never be restored, God often reminds us of his life-giving power.
“Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.’ Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost, we are indeed cut off,’... Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O, my people.’”
Remarkably, in the latter part of this chapter, God foreshadows the Messiah with a promise of the Holy Spirit, an everlasting covenant, and one shepherd (a descendent of David).
Early in Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist is in prison, and he is discouraged. He sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is actually the Messiah, or should they expect somebody else. It is an amazing and encouraging section of Scripture. We should take heart. Yes, even John the Baptist got discouraged!
“And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.’” (Luke: 7:22).
Later in Jesus’ ministry, news of his healing and teaching is spread everywhere, even into the capital city of Jerusalem.
In John 3:1-6, we read, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
Nicodemus, like many of the learned and faithful Jews of his day, was confused as to how could one literally be born again.
“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”
Once we are reborn, we have the great privilege to bear spiritual fruit.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus gives examples of how various seeds are cast. Some are flung onto bare ground and are immediately taken away. Some are cast on rocky ground and, having no root, fail to grow due to having no real foundation.
“And others are the ones sown among the thorns. They are those that hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:18-20.
Rebirth gives us not only the opportunity of spending eternity with God, but also enables us in this life to bear an abundance of spiritual fruit that draws others to a love relationship with Jesus.
How blessed are we to be called to his service!