Acacia in the Wilderness

As I have been praying about what my role should be in feeding the hungry in my community in particular, I’ve been taking a more analytical eye to Scripture passages I come across that address the needy.  In particular, I first came upon this passage in Isaiah 41:

17 When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
20 that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

I decided to do some research on the trees in verse 19, and I discovered something that absolutely blew my mind.

First, I looked up the word “wilderness” in my Strong’s Concordance. I found that it also can mean desert, or open plain.

Next, I looked up the cedar tree (which I’ll blog about later), along with the acacia tree.  What I first learned is that this tree reproduces VERY rapidly in coastal or island environments.  That would lead me to believe that a desert isn’t its native habitat.  Okay, I thought, So in telling us that he’s going to put a tree that isn’t native to a desert, in the desert, he is showing us that he will feed the hungry in a way that isn’t normal. That way, they will know it was GOD who fed them.

This probably could have been a blog on its own, so I don’t want to gloss over this important truth, but what I discovered next caused my jaw to drop.

It turns out that scientists have recently discovered that the acacia tree can be planted in Africa to enliven the soil so crops can grow better.  The acacia has nitrogen-fixing properties, which means that its mere presence adds nitrogen to the soil.  In my limited gardening study even I know that plants need nitrogen to grow.  Unfortunately, in sub-Saharan Africa, the soil quality is very low, causing poor yields in their crops.  The researchers also found that this tree can bring about many other benefits, such as fodder for livestock, medicine in the bark, and more.

One example of the benefits of this specific acacia tree – which they said is unlike any other tree – is that it caused maize yields to increase 280% on farms with the acacia trees compared to those without.

Disclaimer: I know virtually nothing about agriculture, and I know even less about Africa.  But I found it interesting that this tree is the one that has the potential of increasing the food production in a land that has the second-highest rate of hunger in the world! (source)

Let’s read portions of that passage again:

I the Lord will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will put in the wilderness (or desert) the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.

If you’re as fascinated by this as I was, click here to read the article.

What does this tell me?

  1. God’s word is timeless! Call it coincidence, but I don’t think that this verse – and this tree – was included in the Word of God by accident.
  2. God is relentlessly pursuing us! He wants us to see that he is REAL, he loves us, and he has a plan!
  3. If God is that passionate about feeding the hungry (as is clear throughout his word), than we should be as well!

Personally, I still am seeking where God wants me to join him in his desire to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the oppressed.  But one thing I know, I must realize that this IS a subject near to his heart.  This IS a subject that gets ignored in our wealthy American culture.  But it’s one that we as Christians cannot ignore.  To do so would be to ignore the very heart of God.

Food for thought:  the acacia tree is speculated to be the same “burning bush” in which God chose to reveal himself to Moses, the man who lead the Israelities out of bondage. It was also the tree from whose wood was created the Ark of the Covenant, repsenting God’s presence with Israel. Interesting.

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