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January 16, 2013

Reflections from Waldport: How stumps on the beach proclaim grace

by Dave Malnes

Strolling on a beach outside Waldport, Oregon, the looming skies overhead brought a steady rhythm of light showers on the wet sand. The chilly temperatures only invited the stout-hearted for a brief stay to feel the ocean breeze and breathe in the invigorating smells of sea water. The angry waves produced from winter storms pounded its fury producing a white foam along the shoreline. Littered throughout the beach were tree stumps, logs, and driftwood of varying sizes and colors. The sea air and salt water sucked dry any possibilities of life. Parasites awaited every meal when the tide began to ebb its way back after high tide. What was left on the beaches as far as the eye can see were stumps, remnants of large, proud trees that basked in life and glory in the forests. These were not nurse logs that produced and maintained life on the forest floors, but bare, lifeless forms that created eerie images when the light of day tucked itself away in the far off horizon.

These stumps were not just dead logs, they were stark dead. A wasteland of brokenness. A place of refuse rejected by a living ocean. Only a miracle could ever bring these back to life.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jess: from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD — and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”  (Isaiah 11:1-3a)

The world exercises its influence through riches and power. From pillars of marble and lofty boardrooms decisions are made that effect the humble masses. God’s wisdom and glory typically come from the most humble of circumstances. And that was the case when salvation came to earth.

The once proud tree of Judah was reduced to a stump. The reign of King David with all his riches and glory were now plundered and lost, shadows of former greatness. Out of utter humility, the plan materialized. The fulfillment of God’s promises would have a miraculous beginning. For out of the city of David, a child will be born from a virgin. They will call him Immanuel, the Savior of the World, the Word made flesh. From death will come life. Out of a stump will come a shoot. From this beginning will come an amazing blessing — the gift of grace and the full forgiveness of sins.

 

Like a weathered stump spit out from the sea, we are completely dead in sin. With no chance of life, a miracle is needed to bring back to life. In Christ, a miracle is provided. The Spirit of the Lord provided him wisdom and understanding into the depths of God’s nature and grace; counsel and power to advise what people need most; knowledge and fear to be concerned and aware of what the Lord desires.

Christ came to establish a new and better covenant — a covenant of grace. A message that a lost soul can believe and trust to be true. A gospel that proclaims the power of God’s Word that miracles do happen, that sins are forgiven through faith alone, and a dead stump becomes a new creation.

On the beaches of the Oregon Coast there is new life

On the beaches of the Oregon Coast there is new life

Out of the morning mist, a new sun arises. A new day ordained from God that quietly celebrates God’s creation. Looking upon the driftwood and stumps with roots gnarled in the exposed air, I give thanks to the Lord for the miracle he has created in me. Not only receiving the full measure of God’s grace and the free forgiveness of sins, but the power of the Holy Spirit to grant me counsel and power, knowledge and fear. That’s something to celebrate and ponder when walking on the beaches of the Oregon Coast during winter.

 

This article is a shoot from the fine work of Mark Braun’s commentary on Isaiah.  (Isaiah 1:39; The People’s Bible, Northwestern Publishing House.)

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