We have a large Golden Rain Tree in our front yard, just off our front porch and sidewalk. We love how pretty this tree is, and we love the shade it provides. Every spring the new growth is almost a Chartreuse Green that stands out against the dark green of the leaves on the older branches. Then little seed pods start growing. At first, they are a pretty mauve and soft green color, like little puffy pillows hanging all over the tree. As autumn arrives, the seed pods turn a crunchy brown. They fall off the tree in droves, covering our sidewalk and our flower beds, laying in the mulch under the tree, and generally becoming a nuisance.
Inside each seed pod are several little black, round seeds. As the seed pod dries up and blows away, those small black seeds nestle down into the mulch around the tree or in the flower beds. They fall into the cracks of our sidewalk. They disappear under the Moneywort ground cover in one flower bed, or under the Salvia in another bed. In other words, those pesky seeds go everywhere and there is no controlling them!
It’s easy to forget all about them during the cold days of winter when nothing is growing and when little attention is being paid to my flower beds. But as always happens, winter ends and soon the warmer days of spring are upon us. The rain falls; the sun is higher in the sky; the days grow longer; and plants are growing and blooming and coming to life.
Something else grows, too. In the mulch under the trees; between the cracks in our sidewalk; along the edges of the landscape bricks; mixed in amongst the Moneywort ground cover…just everywhere…grow little tiny Golden Rain Trees.
And so begins my spring and summer job of being vigilant to look for these new little growths, and when finding them, to immediately pull them up from where they are happily growing. I can pick dozens of these beginnings of Golden Rain Trees one day, and literally the very next day find more popping through the moist soil. They grow quickly and they grow abundantly.
They also hide very well in my Moneywort ground cover, being nearly the same color and having very similar leaves. It takes time to look carefully, to find them, and then to pull them out.
These fragile miniature trees have an amazing root system from the very start of their growth. If caught early, they are easy to pull up. But the longer they are left, the harder they are to fully remove…root and all. They take hold quickly in order to grow strong and to secure solid footing.
It would be far easier to just leave them alone…to ignore them…or to even enjoy how fresh and cute they are when they are just small, harmless plants. They won’t hurt anything, right? Besides, who has time for all that searching and bending over and pulling and throwing away?
In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Israel to be His people…the nation through whom He would show His plan for redemption through the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. As God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel was given commands from God…laws to be obeyed…wars to be won…plans to be fulfilled by God through His people.
But over and over the people of Israel tired of obeying God. They forgot God’s abundant love and His steadfast promises…promises that hinged upon their obedience. It didn’t seem like such a bad thing to them to intermarry among the heathen nations…to worship those nation’s false gods…to join in all sorts of pagan living and beliefs…and eventually to totally forget God.
Their sins were like our little Golden Rain seeds…small, and seemingly no big deal. But oh, when left unchecked, how huge they became! How far reaching their impact and destruction, both on a personal and a national level!
Listen as the Psalmist describes the result of unattended sin:
“…they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.” (Psalm 106:35-39)
Sin and disobedience, either personal or national, that is left unchecked will grow deeply and dangerously into actions that could never have been dreamed possible. I’m sure Israel never thought that falling in love with the heathen people and marrying them would one day result in offering their children in an idol’s fire. But indeed it did, as what was once deemed wrong became acceptable and condoned and fully embraced.
It’s true for us today as well. We rationalize…we explain away…we conveniently ignore…we refuse to speak truth. We think that “small” sins are really no big deal. God understands, right?
I mean, your truth might be different from my truth, but what does it matter? As long as no one gets hurt, then it’s OK. The world has changed, and we have to change with it. We need to be tolerant. And on and on we go, even Christians, turning a blind eye to the small dark seeds of sin that are growing unhindered in the hearts of individuals and in our nation.
Now we’re left reeling in the aftermath of sin left untended too long. We’re left wondering what has happened to morals and decency and the fear of God.
It’s happened because of years of ignoring God. Years of not obeying His clear commands. Years of refusing to teach the absolute truth of God’s word and His ways. In our own personal lives, and therefore in the life of our great nation, we are reaping the harvest of disobedience and disbelief.
Sin is relentless because Satan desires to destroy each one of us. Sin may seem innocent enough…such a small matter here and another one there, falling into the cracks of our individual hearts. But sins left alone to grow will do just that, becoming rooted in our lives and then in the lives of our family and finally in the life of our nation.
God is a God of mercy and forgiveness, yet He is also a God of justice and holiness. Sin left to grow will show itself in so many ugly ways, and finally we will face its consequences…not because God is mean, but because God is just and He, as Holy God, cannot tolerate sin.
May our hearts be tender to God’s instruction. May our eyes see with wisdom the sin that so easily besets us. May we uproot those sins, constantly, and live in obedience to God…as individuals and as a nation.