A year ago, my mom shared with me that God impressed upon her heart that I have found my ‘terebinth tree’ – a place where I belong, a place where God is, a place where I have met with God, a place where I would not have found if I had remained in Malaysia, and it’s my hiding place in Him. In line with this, I did some study on the ‘terebinth tree’ as mentioned in the Bible. Here’s what I got:
Of all the trees God could have chosen to represent Israel in Isaiah 61:3, why did He choose the oak? Maybe the best–known oaks in the Bible are the “oaks of Mamre,” where Abraham settled in
(Gen. 13:18). Today there is an oak referred to as Abram’s Oak near Hebron . It is 23 feet (7 meters) around, and its foliage reaches a diameter of around 90 feet (27 meters). A few, however, have reached a girth of 70 to 90 feet (21 to 27 meters). The slow-growing tree produces a hard, tough wood that is almost indestructible. After checking 11 different translations of Isaiah 61:3, I found five that simply say “trees of righteousness,” five say “oaks,” and one says “terebinth.” There are six Hebrew words in Scripture rendered “oak.” The word used in Isaiah 61:3 is ayil, which is most often translated “ram.” Its root word refers to strength and power. It can also mean “pillar” and refers to a strong leader. Pistacia (terebinth) develops a very deep and extensive root system and therefore remains green even in years of drought. It often sprouts from the stump after being cut, as noted in Isaiah 6:13. Because of its large size and great age, pistacia trees were well-known landmarks and were used as memorials for the dead. Absalom, great in his own eyes, was trapped in a large pistacia. As often in Scripture, great trees are associated with great men. Gideon was by a large pistacia when he was called by God (Judges 6:11). David faced Goliath in the Valley of the Pistacias (I Samuel 17:2) (elah in Hebrew). Hebron
From this, I realized that this secret place is a place I meet God face to face, a place that I encounter God and His love, a place of security and a fulfilling of God’s promise and will. It is also a place associated with greatness and a significant place in my life for such a time and such a season. More so, it’s a place to dig my roots deep into Christ, extend and expand from here. What reminded me of my ‘terebinth tree’ was today’s reading from Gen.28:10-22.
Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although the name of the nearby village was Luz. Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”
Verse 15 struck me most: “...What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” These words seemed so familiar. I heard it before I left for England. But now, these words are taking me on a new journey. I see them partly fulfilled and partly in progress. This is my assurance – God will not leave me until He has finished giving me EVERYTHING He has promised me. Bethel is as significant as a ‘terebinth tree’. Every one of us should have our own “Bethel” and “terebinth tree”. These are places and encounters which keep a person focused on the promises, and gives strength at the lowest points of life. It is a remarkable and memorable place simply because heaven came down on earth and opened a stairway to heaven. Moments like these calls for a divine engagement with God; a meeting of hearts, where deep calls to deep... Our gateway to heaven only gets better by developing a deep and extensive root in Christ. Only then will we be able to “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.” (For a full picture, read Isaiah 54:1-5) Such is God’s covenant with those whom He loves.