The Israelites, after being rescued and led to a new life in the Promised Land, chose to trim their life trees into shapes of idols and self-aggrandizement. Invading Assyria applied a scorched earth policy. The landscape was barren—decaying stumps were everywhere, remnants of human dreams, institutions, and relationships gone awry. Only then did God reveal through the prophet Isaiah that a Messiah would come to rescue them—a tender shoot from a root out of dry ground.
Our trees are no different from the trees of the Israelites—rebellion, idols, and distractions that defile God’s holiness and His plans for His people. God sends each of us our own “Assyria” to clear the way for the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. He prepares the receptivity of our hearts by cutting down unnecessary trees so that we can become branches on the tree of life. The pruning and cleaning can be gentle or it can painfully resemble the scorched earth policy of the Assyrians.
My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. Hebrews 12:5–6 (NLT)
When God sends an Assyria into your life, don’t run from what the Lord wants to cut down. Lean into the love of God and inquire. Then, you chop down what the Lord wants leveled so that:
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:2-3 (NIV)