I once was the proud owner of a forest. The formation of my forest came about quite naturally, for it was a forest of egotism. When it comes to egomania I’ve always been a natural – I don’t even have to try …it’s effortless! Every square inch of my self-serving sanctuary grew up naturally …no pruning, no trimming, no curtailing, no paring, and absolutely no transplanting of any kind was necessary in growing and expanding this vast taiga! It’s like gaining weight, I suppose you could argue that it takes some effort to feed oneself, but for the run-of-the-mill fatso, the expansion of self seems effortless. Over the course of my life I have cultivated an entire jungle of self-absorption, self-obsession, self-seeking, and self-serving “trees,” and they are firmly rooted, tenacious, and unyielding.
Now, different from a real rain forest, my forest breathed in for itself all the good stuff that everyone else on the planet needs, and exhaled something like a poison that makes conditions uninhabitable. To the selfish person, this doesn’t arouse any real concern – so the forest remained and continued to grow for quite some time. But then along came a man who for some bizarre reason wanted to pay top-dollar for this piece of land upon which I had established my settlement of selfishness. There were two things that made this pursuit of purchase acutely peculiar: (1) Why on earth would anyone want to procure the narcissism of another – let alone such vast quantities of it, and at such a high-price? (2) It turned out that the man already owned the land …the trees had been sown by me to be sure, but the property itself was unarguably in His name already. The whole scenario seemed absurd and downright kooky, but nevertheless all the necessary arrangements were made and the property was officially purchased.
The mystery man who had come along to prodigally purchase the piece of land of which He was already the rightful possessor moved smack-dab into the middle of that forest of narcissism! The conditions were utterly horrendous …the environment was worse than any slum, hovel, shanytown, rathole, prison, or pigsty! Folks speculated and surmised that the man would soon suffocate on the fumes of conceit, which filled every square inch of the forest, or He would mutate into some monstrosity of pomposity having been exposed to such ridiculous amounts of arrogance. People waited with baited breath to see what would happen…
The absurdity escalated! The man fought off every seduction of the self-obsession jungle; He didn’t give inch to the incessant and relentless temptations of the egocentric environment. He was eventually killed by the unholy habitat, and though it caused Him tremendous grief, He acted as if this were part of His plan. And then the most absurd thing happened …He did not remain dead! He conquered death and boldly declared His intentions to consummate a covenant with the previous owner of the forest!
Do you SEE the absurdity!?!?
I was squatter! I was worse than a squatter …I was a vandal and a saboteur! Not only did I purloin the land for my own narrow and self-absorbed aspirations, but I comprehensively corrupted every square inch of the property! I cultivated a field of wrath on a premises not my own …a crop worthy of nothing but destruction. I made His temple a den of robbers, His house a haunt of lies. I wittingly and unwittingly aspired and conspired to convert the Land of the Living into a dale of death! And what was His reaction? What would be the proper punishment to pour upon such a wretched wrongdoer???
I hesitate to tell you what He did. Not because I’m ashamed of it, but because I doubt you will believe it. Frankly, I find it incredibly challenging to believe it myself.
…He determinedly determined to substitute His perfection for my perversion! He resolved to bear the wrath aimed against my crimes. And after bearing the penalty of death and hell on my behalf He bound me to Himself as His Bride for all eternity. What ought to have been a world of wrath, wound-up being an everlasting relationship, a full-disclosure friendship, an utterly honest marriage between Husband and wife!
And what is the result of this marriage on the foul foliage of my forest? RENOVATION. Marriage is like a means of grace, and it is a primary channel by which the Landlord finagles joy into the soil. This joy is a mixture of seed and compost (1) the compost is the death and crucifixion of all that must die, and thereby the soil is nourished and enriched by the vitaminizing and fertilizing qualities of said compost (see Matt. 3:8; John 3:30; Gal. 2:20); (2) the seed is the savoring of the paradoxical news that the Landlord has done anything and everything necessary to redeem us from the doom of our own insanely debauched decisions (see Heb. 12:2).
The Landlord sets out to do far more than merely save the wretched squatters who sinfully occupy His ground – He comprehensively REDEEMS them! He yokes Himself to them as their Husband and then gets down to the dirty work of husbandry! He renovates. He restores. He subjugates and cultivates. His love and commitment is that of a jealous Lover! His zeal is that of a Husband for His wife, and He plows the land and produces His righteous crop in accordance with that zeal!