Read these words of a man name Job who had just lost everything he loved. His life had crumbled to the ground, and in his hopelessness he exclaimed:
“Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays, at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling. But when people die, their strength is gone. They breathe their last, and then where are they?” (Job 14:7-10 NLT)
Did that stop you in your tracks? No? Let me explain why it stopped me in mine.
It mostly has to do with what God is saying here about water.
Truly, there is a lot of water in the Bible. Floods destroying every living thing. Water baptisms in the wilderness. Jesus asking a woman for a drink at a well. The list goes on.
In fact, it’s possible that water was the first thing ever created. I’m no protologist, so I’m not here to debate this. I’m just saying that it’s possible.
For many people, the creation story begins in Genesis 1:3 when God says, “Let there be light.” But before that, Genesis 1:2 says, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Water was already there before light was created. According to scripture, in the beginning, there was God, his Spirit, and water. And since water couldn’t create itself, we have to infer that God created it.
Regardless, my high school biology education tells me that water is the base ingredient for all of creation. It truly is the key to life. Not just plant life, but my life, and your life too.
So here is Job, pontificating that when a tree is dying or already fully dead, water can bring it back to life. Actually, he says the very _scent_ of water will do the trick. This is what confounded me.
The scent of water? What does water smell like?
When I turn on my kitchen faucet or twist open a bottle of Dasani, I don’t smell a thing. If I ever did, I wouldn’t dare take a sip.
My husband—who has the olfactory senses of an albatross (they can smell fish from the air)—can’t even smell water. (True story. Todd happens to be colorblind, and I am pretty sure it’s because God put all the power in his nose.)
But somehow dead trees can sniff out the scent of this scentless substance?
But I realized something—it’s not that water has an odor, it’s that everything else does. Down there at the root of things, beneath the surface of what anyone can see. Down where there is dirt, and mud, and bugs. Decay, and rot, and fungi. Down there at the roots of a dying tree, things don’t smell too good.
Isn’t this like us?The moment we detect that God is near, our withered leaves begin to revive. Dry areas are nourished. Dead parts are resurrected. Old things are made new.
We get chopped down by trauma or tragedy. We wither up beneath the pressures of life and responsibility. For myriad of reasons (or excuses), our Bibles, our mouths, and our hearts stay closed to God and we dry up like elephant skin.
I’ve heard it called spiritual dehydration. And when it happens, everything around us starts to dry up and decay. And soon, our lives begin to emanate a foul odor.
The stench of sin, and stress, and anxiety. The odor of sadness, discontentment, and weariness. The perfume of a parched soul.
But these putrid aromas are exactly what make the scent of fresh, clean water stand out. There is a stark contrast. When the scent of our lives is less than flowery, even something odorless is refreshing.
Trees are constantly searching for water, stretching their roots to find it in the midst of the mire. They need it so desperately that the moment they detect its scent (or lack thereof), they immediately begin to flourish. Leaves begin to sprout, and the life inside them is renewed.
Isn’t this like us?
We cannot survive without water. Of course this is true physically, but it’s also a spiritual truth. When we are wasting away at our roots, water is our only hope. That is, Jesus himself, our well of living water.
The moment we detect that God is near, our withered leaves begin to revive. Dry areas are nourished. Dead parts are resurrected. Old things are made new.
That’s a promise.
According to Job—and let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, the man was in a whirlwind of trauma—people aren’t like trees. Once we’re dead, we’re dead.
But that’s not the gospel.
The gospel says that in Christ we are like trees. Planted by streams of water that cause us to produce fruit that lasts (Psalm 1:3). The gospel says that the water Jesus gives will bubble up to eternal life (John 4:14). The gospel is cold water to a thirsty soul (Proverbs 25:25).
The gospel says that Living Water is waiting for you. Waiting to quench your soul and bring you into a season of fruitfulness and growth.If you and I can train our spiritual senses to sniff out the presence of God in the midst of soul-deep dehydration, our lives will be restored.
So, if you are lost, let the scent of living water lead you home. If you are being poisoned by the foul odors of sin, sadness or unbelief, stretch yourself to find the living water you need to come back to life. (Tip: this might involve literally stretching your hands toward heaven.)
Are you too _________ to drink deep of God’s goodness and mercy? Fill in the blank with your own life circumstance. Too busy? Too hurt? Too unhappy? Whatever you think you are too much of, let this serve as a blunt reminder that you. are. not. No one is disqualified (or excused) from having their cup filled to the brim.
Job eventually realized this. After 30+ chapters of focusing on himself, he finally became truly aware of God, and his life was restored.
Isn’t this just like us?
If you and I can train our spiritual senses to sniff out the presence of God in the midst of soul-deep dehydration, our lives will be restored. Like a new seedling. Ready to truly live again.
How do we do that? By familiarizing ourselves with his fragrance. He is the opposite of all the things in our lives that can go bad. The worry, the chaos, the weariness—that’s not God. His aroma is pleasing to the soul.
If you sense peace in your heart, God is near. If you discern contentment and joy, He must be close at hand. If you pick up the scent of love and acceptance, that’s the presence of Christ.
Stretch yourself to find Him. And when you do, hold on because He’s about to bring you back to life.
And isn’t that like him?