It is neither majestic nor unduly magnificent or in any way outstanding. Yet, I find pleasure here. I’m talking about a typical African thorn tree. I sat beneath its shelter and marvelled at the fact that this very ordinary tree gave so much. We were privileged to live on the Monateng Safari Lodge, East of Pretoria City in South Africa, for a few months. Taking walks in a place like this is just a privilege. Sitting beneath the thorn tree, after having made very sure that all the thorns on the ground had been cleared, gave me many sermons!
It can get very hot here and the heat escalates as you walk along the dusty roads. Finding the lovely cool shade and the equally cool soil beneath it brings a welcome respite. Our two little leased dogs were ever so thankful and always duly curled up next to me as we enjoyed this natural umbrella, provided by His Hand. Eyes closed, I could always hear the gentlest breeze moving softly through the branches and the sounds of silence were always food for the soul. In a situation like this – you just know- that the Creator is present. So one can sit, cool off and drink liberally and freely from his fountain of Life.
Looking up, I could see the reality of just an ordinary thorn tree. It is actually a very busy place! Amongst other treasures, I spotted three nests; a haven for a future bird family to live and grow in. Quite a variety of worms has made this particular tree their home. To the left I noticed a web, intricately woven, with the small eight-legged creature anxiously anticipating its next meal. How confounding it is look at that small, seemingly insignificant creature enabled to produce such a detailed yet perfectly made web. There are ants of course, bustling about and being about their business. This tree gives life and shelter to an entire eco-system. How can we just willy-nilly hew down, without giving any though at all, to its greater purpose? How we humans love to be the king of every castle, taking over whatever we wish in order to make our dreams come true. We do this at the expense of what or who we consider to be less.
“Once upon a time the tree decided to elect a king. First they asked the olive tree, but it refused. ‘Should I quit producing the olive oil that blesses God and man, just to wave to and fro over trees?’ it asked. Then they said to the fig tree, ‘You be our king!’ But the fig tree also refused. ‘Should I quit producing sweetness and fruit just to lift my head above all the other trees? It asked. Then they said to the grapevine, ‘You reign over us!’ but the grapevine replied, ‘Should I quit producing the wine that cheers both God and man, just to be mightier than all the other trees?’ Then all the trees finally turned to the thorn bush, ‘You be our king!’ they explained. And the bush replied, ‘If you really want me, come and humble yourselves beneath my shade! If you refuse, let fire flame forth from me and burn down the great cedars of Lebanon!” – Judges 9 :8 – 15 LB
This parable was told by Jotham, who was the youngest and the only surviving son of Gideon. His half-brother Abimelech had murdered all of the others. Jotham’s name means “Yahweh has shown Himself to be perfect”. Sitting beneath this tree and remembering this Old Testament parable, reminds me yet again of all the killing and murders conducted and justified by the power hungry. This parable is such a great lesson as it teaches us as people to set good priorities. Leaders must be first and foremost good of character. Leaders should constantly examine their motives. One way or another, we are all leaders and the thorn tree reminds me to question myself: Do we want praise, prominence, power or prestige? The good trees in the parable chose to continue in their calling. They chose to continue providing blessings and continued to be productive. Serving rather than to be served.
Sounds like good advice – from trees.
African Blessings Missions Director