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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Only God can make a tree!

It would appear that I am going through a "secular poetry" phase as, once again, I make reference to a poem.  This time it is the poem "Trees", written by Joyce Kilmer at the beginning of the last century, but made famous when, set to music, it was sung by the famous American negro bass singer, Paul Robeson.

The words of the poem are:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

I wonder if Joyce Kilmer knew any New Testament Greek!  If she did, then she may have been making quite a theological statement in that poem.  What I mean is that the Greek word from which we derive the English language word 'poem' is 'poiema'.  This word occurs only twice in the New Testament writings - in Romans 1:20, and in Ephesians 2:10.   

In the first of those references, we read, "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."  The context of these words is that if showing that no one has any excuse for not accepting the existence of Almighty God - the evidence is all around us, for those who have eyes to see.  In this verse, poiema is translated “things that have been made.”  All that we see around us - and all that is unseen - is testimony to the creativity and power of Almighty God.  The Psalmist-king of Israel knew this: "The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display His craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world." (Ps 19:1-4; NLT).  If a poem - a mere ordering of certain words - requires a poet to create it, how much more does this amazing universe in which we live?!   And, of course, as Joyce Kilmer makes clear in her closing stanza, while mere humans are capable of penning a poem, only God can "poiema" a tree.

The second reference reads: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  The context, here, is of salvation.  Paul reminds us that it is "... by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8-9).  In v.10, the word poiema is translated "workmanship".  How amazing this is!  What the apostle is saying, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, is that those who have appropriated that wonderful grace of God, are God's 'poem'!  A life once dead in sin, now born again and walking in good works is God’s greatest poetic masterpiece of all!  Only He can "poiema" a lost soul; transforming it into one redeemed by His grace.
Are you one of God's poems?  Are you?!

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