“At this present time. . . there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Romans 11:5)
In the heartland of America, after the Covid 19 pandemic, acres of trees were cut down so the farmers in the neighborhood could grow corn to feed their families and their livestock. But out there in the distance was a mystery. A lone tree still left standing; its limbs spreading out and reaching up toward the sky. Then one day, I discovered the reason for leaving this tree still standing, and it solved the mystery for me. There was a specific purpose to leave that tree standing. It was a traditional practice from long years ago. The farmers spared one tree from being cut down, so both the farmers and their animals would have a place of shade to rest from the rays of the hot burning sun. That was the saga of the surviving lone tree.
Have you ever found yourself having survived something and didn’t know why? Do you know friends or family that succumbed to Covid 19 three or four years ago, and left you still standing to tell the tale? I too lost a vibrant friend in her 50s and a 30-year-old son of a volunteer who helped us with our mailings. I also know of servicemen and women returning home from combat who struggle to know why they survived while their comrades died. We read in the Old Testament of a remnant of Israelites whom God spared from exile. Those left to remain preserved God’s law, and years later rebuilt the temple. (Ezra 9:9) Here we see what it means to be “chosen by grace.” This phrase refers to God’s gracious design to include those who willingly choose to accept the leadership and authority of His Son Jesus, whom He sent into the world – those who accept His message by faith and surrender their lives to Him. This salvation includes God’s gifts of forgiveness of sins, a restored relationship with God, and eternal life with Him. These simply cannot be earned by good works or behavior; they are undeserved favor because of the sacrifice of Jesus and must be received only by exercising our faith. So, the question arises, has God already decided who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? God is omniscient and is aware of all the past and the future in the world He has created. However, He has created us with a free will to be responsible for our own choices and actions. (Genesis 2:16)
In our day, if you and I are seen to be part of the remnant still standing while others have fallen, there must be a purpose. God chooses people as they identify with and are united with Christ through the acceptance of forgiveness of their sins. (Ephesians 1:4) We are to raise our hands heavenward in praise to our Lord. We are to reach out to provide a place of shade and rest for the weary and the worn out. With the enablement of the Lord, we too can be a ‘tree of shade’ still standing to provide refreshment and encouragement for others.