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Two Lessons from Two Very Different Survivor Trees

Read: Daniel 4:5-27

 

On April 19, 2024 people once again remembered the bombing of the Murrah Building that occurred in 1995. On that very sad day, 168 people were murdered, and each of their names is read aloud annually to honor them. In addition to this, there are 168 empty chairs that bear the names of each of those who did not survive the bombing and a reflecting pool that offers gently moving water with quiet soothing sounds. There is also a children's area that displays hand painted tiles that children sent to offer encouragement in 1995 to a grieving city. There are other man-made displays. Ways to honor those whose lives were greatly altered on that day but who nevertheless have chosen to continue moving forward in spite of their physical or emotional pain. There is also one other special display at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. This one not made by the hands of man. The Survivor Tree. An American Elm that looked as if it would never thrive again. That tree was devastated on that day. Stripped of leaves, branches and limbs. Even the bark was riddled with shrapnel. People began to wedge coins into the damaged bark until a note urged them not to do so. Doing so would damage the already wounded bark even further; so, people began leaving gifts on the ground surrounding what was left of the tree. Now, as many know, the Survivor Tree, as unlikely as it seemed, has flourished, and it is a big part of the memorial. People like to stand under its shade and find hope of surviving whatever they are enduring.

 

Each year on the anniversary of the bombing, saplings that have been gleaned from the now thriving tree are given away. There is even one growing on the lawn of the White House. What a reminder the Oklahoma City's Survivor Tree is of the truth that hope is a precious commodity. The flourishing of that unlikely tree reminds people that just maybe they will once again prosper. No guarantees. Simply a possibility, and even a possibility can be just what people need to take the next step; however, let's turn the corner in order to see hope that is even sweeter because it is founded on truth. We find one instance of this kind of hope in Daniel 4 where we see a second survivor tree whose name is Nebuchadnezzar.

 

When we meet Babylon's king here, he had dreamed a dream that his so-called men of renown could not interpret. So, he called for Daniel for an explanation. The problem with having a gift such as Daniel had is that sometimes it was necessary to be the bearer of bad news. Well, to be fair, there was some good news, but there was some very bad tidings that Daniel also had to share, and Nebuchadnezzar, as has been seen in earlier chapters in Daniel's book, didn't always look favorably on hearing what he considered bad news. Even so, Daniel was faithful. He spoke to the king about his power and majesty. A good start, but there was to quote the singing group "a bad moon on the rise."

 

Here is where the survivor tree image comes into view. The king who was the lush tree was going to be stripped of his luxurious branches and fruitfulness. Daniel reported to him that this would last for seven periods of time. Probably seven years. The king would live like an animal until he would acknowledge the power and sovereignty of God. The only God Who, according to His will, bestows power on men. When Nebuchadnezzar would finally acknowledge this truth, this judgment would end. The tree would once again be restored. Babylon's king would once again be honored by his officials and would return to his throne. This, according to Daniel, would occur. How did he know it would happen? God had promised it. Both the down falling of Nebuchadnezzar and his being lifted up. Each was promised by God.

 

I wonder if during those seven periods of time Nebuchadnezzar was ever buoyed up by remembering the hope Daniel had given him that he would one day, be restored. I don't know, but I know that we have Hope both in this life and the one to come because we serve the One Who has a track record that is perfect. Every promise that God has made-both for blessing or for cursing-has or will be fulfilled.

 

For example, in Joshua 21:43-45, we are reminded of this truth. Israel was able to settle in the land of promise because God is able to do what He promises, and He will not and cannot lie, Numbers 23:19. Imagine it. Israel was able to subdue enemies stronger than they were, fulfilling every promise the Lord had given them. No wonder they have continued to survive. God has promised. The same God who was at work in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, the original "survivor tree." God had decreed what would occur, and what He said came to pass. How unlikely a good outcome for the king must have looked as Babylon's monarch ate grass. How unlikely it surely must have looked to his officials that that formerly powerful man would one day, once again, occupy his throne. Yet, by the power and enabling of God to keep His promises, it was so.

 

What about us? Can we remember Nebuchadnezzar. Israel's survivor tree whose kingdom was stripped down to nothing only to be restored again? What promise from God looks as unlikely to be fulfilled as Nebuchadnezzar's reign being restored as his men watched him grazing with the animals?

 

With God, all things are possible, Luke 1:37. May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, Romans 15:13.

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