April 19, 2021

Like Poplar Trees

Isaiah 44:1-23

“I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring. . . . They will spring up . . . like poplar trees by flowing streams.”

—  Isaiah 44:3-4

Western red cedars are common in the temperate rainforest on the western coast of Canada, and they provided the natural resources for the establishment of Vancouver. It’s impossible to under­stand the history of Vancouver without appreciating that it relied heavily on felling centuries-old trees for great profit. Fortunately, a few citizens had the foresight to protect remaining parcels of old-growth forest, or the forest might not be there today.

Cedars, which are mentioned often in the Bible, provided a similar wealth of resources in ancient times and were used to build the temple of God. In Lebanon today these trees are now rigorously protected, and they remain an important part of the area’s history. Then, as now, cedars were a symbol of power, resilience, and long life.

We might assume, then, that the Lord’s people might be compared to cedars. But in Isaiah 44, the descendants who have the blessings of the Spirit of God are compared to “poplar trees by flowing streams,” while cedars and other valuable trees are described as firewood and material for making idols.

Here the Lord is lamenting that some people go their own way and turn away from the true God. But the Lord also calls the people of Israel (Jacob) to serve him, saying that he has swept away their sins. And he closes with a command to the whole creation, including the forests and their trees, to give thanks for God’s compassionate redemption.

Lord, pour out your Spirit on our lives so that we may be like trees by flowing waters, and may we join with all creation in praising you for your saving grace. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Julia Prins Vanderveen

Julia Prins Vanderveen works and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband, Trevor, and their three sons. Julia has served as a copastor with Trevor at a church in Vancouver. She is a campus pastor and a humanities teacher at the Vancouver Christian School.

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