A lot of things in life can shake you so that you think you don’t know what is true.
When I found myself in a dark time of not knowing what to believe anymore, God gave me the grace of the Acacia tree. I share it with you, so that you can also have this tangible proof of God’s Love to hold onto when life comes crashing down.
A while back as I was reading through the book of Exodus, I kept coming across verses that describe the type of wood used to build the tabernacle, ark of the covenant, and the altar.
“For the framework of the Tabernacle, construct frames of acacia wood.” Exodus 26:15
“They shall construct an ark of acacia wood…” Exodus 25:10
“Then he made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood,” Exodus 38:1
Each of those things described represent Jesus Christ in some way. The tabernacle was the tent of God’s presence while the Israelites wandered through the desert, and they would approach God by coming to that tabernacle. Inside were the altar and ark of the covenant, each representing the need for a sacrifice to pay the debt of sin and God’s desire to show mercy and restore people to follow Him wholeheartedly.
So I asked God why He wanted the Israelites to use acacia wood. Was it particularly abundant in that part of the desert? Or perhaps an elegant and straight type of wood, useful for making long tent poles?
I don’t often get obvious answers from God… but I love it when I do!
A few weeks later I was walking through a conservatory, and came across a real life acacia tree…
It was all I could do to keep from weeping openly as I looked and marveled at God’s design in the Acacia tree.
The trunk of the Acacia tree is covered in lines that look almost like whiplashes. I tried to scratch the trunk to see if it was just kids coming by and making those lines. But the bark was hard and my fingernail did not leave a trace. (Looking it up later, I found that there’s a beetle larvae in most acacia species that leave those lines as they burrow through. But that was just from google-wisdom, so if someone else knows what causes those scratches, please let us know!) I stared at the trunk of this tree, wondering what the whiplashes on Jesus’ back looked like, when He was flogged before being crucified?
And then the thorns. They were only in the top half of the tree, not lower down. Almost as if the thorns were gracing the top of the tree like a crown… And those thorns were nasty looking. I stood there wondering what the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head looked like.
I closed my eyes and took a breath. And thanked God for creating such a clear picture of Jesus on the cross, with a whiplashed back and a crown of thorns. And that the Tabernacle tent by which the Jewish people would approach God, the altar on which the sacrifices were made, and the symbol of God’s covenant that held the Mercy Seat… all of these things had a picture of the sufferings of Christ woven into their structure and frame.
Centuries before Jesus ever walked this earth, God put a picture of His death on a cross literally into the very structure of the Israelites’ way to approach God.
Fast forward a few years as I’m driving through the city after one of my miscarriages. The tears streaming down my face, blurring my vision, were the outward expression of my heart that was filled with questions and pain.
And then, like a whisper of a breeze on a hot still day, I remembered the acacia tree.
I don’t have all the answers. But I know that centuries before Jesus ever walked this earth, God put a picture of His death on a cross literally into the very structure of the Israelite’s way to approach God.
And now, in all of my uncertainty, I had something that I did know for certain: that Jesus is the right way to be reconciled to God. He proved it by fulfilling a symbol that was put in place hundreds of years prior. And I also knew that His suffering was not a mistake, but was announced long before Jesus walked this earth as a man. God willingly chose to suffer and die to redeem me. He does not stand aloof and tell me to deal with my pain by myself. No. Instead He holds out his nail-scarred hands and tells me that He has felt the deepest of pain and loss, and died in order to adopt me as His child. (Romans 5:8)
I love the acacia tree, because it whispers the love of God, who endured suffering and brokenness to show the extent of His Love for us. Announcing to those who pause to notice its humble form, that we do have physical evidences to remind us of God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus, when all of our emotions refuse to cooperate.