Memories of the wondrous redwoods have appeared often in my posts, for I grew up along the magnificent northern coast of California in the land of the giants. One day, the Lord impressed me to start going back to older hand-written journals to refresh my memories of old dreams, Spirit-inspired insights, and lessons learned. Doing so, I was surprised to find a poem jotted down during a journaling session that I don’t even remember writing. I share it here now, not because I’m a gifted poet; trust me, I’m not! I share it because it illustrates scriptural principle of unity:
If I were a tree, what would I be?
A redwood you see, a redwood for me
Standing, standing, so strong and so tall; years upon years, staying strong through it all
Planted by God beside the sea; centuries before they ever saw me
Through lightnings, thunderings, and winds big and small; reaching up to the heavens standing so tall
Supported by others, so like our churches; left alone they’d fall, like baby birds from perches
So many wonders in redwoods I see
Yes, oh yes; if I were a tree, that’s what I’d be
Redwoods can reach heights of over 300 feet, and live for over 2,000 years; and one of the secrets of their strength and endurance is their root system. Typically, the roots only reach about 6 to 12 feet deep, certainly not enough to keep such giants standing through the storms of time; except for one thing – unity. Each tree’s roots intermingle with those ot its neighbors, creating a networked system that quite literally holds them up.
Biblically, we see many examples of both unrighteous and righteous unity. First the ungodly version that leads to destruction:
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:1-9
The people of Nimrod’s kingdom built a tower into the heavens, using ungodly unity to tap into false glory and false unity, using a valid spiritual principle to establish an evil kingdom. The Lord recognized what was happening and, in His wisdom, turned disunity loose among the people by confusing the language. They could no longer communicate and were scattered across the earth.
Ungodly unity always sows seeds of discord; it reared its ugly head time and again throughout the scriptures, as is well illustrated by the persistent agreement of the pharisees against Jesus, the stoning of Stephen, and the persecution of Paul:
So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” … So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
John 11: 47-48, 53
But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:57-58
But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” Acts 18:12-13
Currently, one need only look at wars and rumors of war, personal and political animosities against anyone who doesn’t share one’s view, rioting, rampant crime—in other words, the world in general—to observe glaring examples of disunity. Clearly, the enemy is still up to his old tricks thousands of years later, but we can’t say we haven’t been warned. Jesus himself described in great detail the chaotic world in which we now live in Matthew 24.
But enough bad news! Let’s turn to the good news, which gives us hope and should definitely make us feel a whole lot better.
Clearly, the enemy is the prime promoter of disunity, so how great it is when God steps in and uses it against him. King David certainly understood this when he wrote:
God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! Psalm 68:1-3
This was Gideon’s experience, when God whittled his army down to just 300 men who were expected to defeat the forces of Midian, which were innumerable:
That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.”… When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.” And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.” As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.”…Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled. Judges 7:9-11a, 13-15, 20-22
The characteristics of unity are diametrically opposed to disunity; complete opposites, and certainly much more pleasant! Synonymous with unity are agreement, accord, consensus, peace, harmony, solidarity, unison, assent, unanimity, concord, wholeness and oneness; [i] and unity can be defined as:
- The quality or state of not being multiple: oneness
- A condition of harmony: accord
- Continuity without deviation or change (as in purpose or action)
- The quality or state of being made one: unification
- A totality of related parts: an entity that is a complex or systematic whole [ii]
God in His three persons as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the perfect example of unity: “God’s unity is an incommunicable attribute of the divine essence that refers to the absolute oneness and uniqueness of God (unity of singularity) and to the utter simplicity of his essence (unity of simplicity). Divine unity is an attribute of God which affirms God’s uniqueness and absolute oneness (unity of singularity) as well as the qualitative unity of the divine essence (unity of simplicity). The former implies that there is only one divine being. God is numerically one, not in the sense that he is one among others, but exclusively and solely the one God. All other beings exist from him, through him, and to him. The latter, God’s unity of singularity, is the inner unity of God’s essence by which all composition is denied. It affirms that in God everything is one; his attributes are identical with his being.” [iii]
Time and again, Jesus taught of His oneness with Father and Spirit, and their perfect cooperation was displayed after Jesus’ baptism:
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16–17
Jesus’ prayer for us just before He went to the cross was about being in unity, both with God and with one another:
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:9–11
Nothing comes from ungodly unity aside from chaos, confusion and all manner of destruction. How much better is the Lord’s righteous version of unity!
[i] Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002
[ii] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003)
[x] Gayle Doornbos, “God’s Unity,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).
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