The Big Picture

The Big Picture

You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

I’ve heard the expression all my life from various people. I don’t hear it now from younger people as much as I heard it in the past. What does the above expression mean? How does knowing what it means affect a person’s life? These seem like valid questions, and if we understand them we might be able to think about our lives differently.

So where is the meat in, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”?

To help answer this question we can look at what was going on with Jeremiah. Jeremiah the prophet of God struggled with what people thought of him when he told them the truth about what God had said. They did not like to hear the truth. The old expression of “the truth hurts” became very true in Jeremiah’s life. He was on the receiving end of the hurt for telling the truth. The priest, Pashur, who was the big cheese in the house of the Lord, had Jeremiah beaten and placed in the stock. (Jeremiah 20:1-2) Pashur was the chief officer of the temple. He had absolute authority and control over the house of God in Jerusalem. Now Jeremiah was merely a prophet who had been called by God before he was born. (Jeremiah 1:5-10) Pashur did not know or consider that, but remember he is the big cheese in the people’s eyes—not Jeremiah. Jeremiah was only a person who told about bad things that would occur to the nation because of God’s judgment. Get the picture? Pashur was looked up to and Jeremiah was looked down on. So how does “you can’t see the forest for the trees” relate to Pashur and maybe us?

To answer that question we need to examine further how Pashur and Jeremiah fit into their society. Pashur was at the top—in authority, responsibility, and education, both in his mind and in practice before the people. He was educated in all the law, ritual and traditions that pertained to God’s house, the temple. We need to remember that the temple was the center of Jewish life and had been for years. Pashur’s life revolved around the temple. His only purpose in existence was to see that none of the laws, rituals and traditions was violated. We could say that Pashur could only see the world from within the temple. His view of the world was based on the laws handed down from Moses. He was to enforce those for the good (what he believed) of God’s house. So when a word came through Jeremiah from God that challenged his view, he had to shut that word down. He couldn’t see the forest for the trees of traditions and the law. He could not think beyond his role. Pashur could not see the righteous, just God or the loving heavenly Father. He could not see upward beyond the roof of the temple. All he saw was his responsibility to shut up Jeremiah, who was making the priest and the people look evil. Why? He did not see any evil in himself or in the other priests and the home grown prophets who were saying good things about the nation. Pashur was trapped in a world created by him that was very small—and he was the center of it.

What about you and me? Have we planted trees that hinder us from seeing the forest? I believe we have. We can’t see the forest for the trees. We are the center of our world. Everything tends to revolve around what goes on in us. We try to control our world so we will feel safe. I say that because I’ve been there and have a tendency to do that. It is called control over others and events in my world. We spend much energy controlling others and events. We are afraid our world would collapse if we didn’t control it. We can’t SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES WE’VE PLANTED. We are in the center of a forest we have created. The forest is dark and lonely. Being in the midst of our forest is all we know, and we feel safe if we can control what goes on in our forest. Pashur did. But Jeremiah’s voice with words from God shut Pashur up. It threatened the forest of his world. So what did he do? He fought back because he could not see or think beyond himself. He didn’t want the God of the universe in his forest because there was already a god in his forest. It was him, Pashur.

I know where Pashur came from. I’ve been there. HAVE YOU? Have you been the god of your forest? If you have, I empathize. I’ve been there, done that.

How depressing a thought it is to be god in one’s own forest. How isolating and lonely.

The big question is how does one get out of one’s forest? Can others pull us out? NO! Can I get out by developing good self esteem as we’ve been told by the self esteem movement? NO! Or will good self esteem just create in me a bigger little god? YES! Interestingly, a survey was conducted in the 1990’s of prison populations by psychologists. Those in psychology (that’s me) had believed that the criminal element in our society had very low esteem, so this survey was to determine the level of self esteem. Guess what they found! In comparison to a group in society the prisoners had the highest self esteem. That quieted the psychology world. ESTEEM won’t get us out. So the question remains. How do we get out of our forest? In other words, where is truth about our lives?

Does each person created truth? Pashur had his truth, or so he thought. Think about that. If each one of us creates our truth, how does our truth smack up against another person’s truth? Where does our truth take us in our family, job, and social interaction if others have their truth and they are not the same? We are told daily in our society by learned people that each person has his own truth. That is called relativism. This is nothing more than planting trees around us so that we can’t see the forest. We only see our trees. Now put some serious thought into that idea. Maybe you will conclude as I have that there is no way for a people to love their neighbor if each of us has our own truth. Therein lies a dilemma and a major problem that people and nations experience daily. There has got to be truth outside me, and each one of us; we are to live a life of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jeremiah said truth comes only from God. In John 14, Jesus was comforting His disciples, and Thomas asked Jesus how would they know the way. The disciples did not know truth (reality) of their future. In verse 5 and 6 we read this:

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (NASB)

Oh there is a marvelous truth available as it was to Pashur, but he did not want to hear it. The truth is that the One who created us and our bit of soil we trod on daily tells us to follow Him and He’ll get us out of our dark forest we have created. Jeremiah was telling this truth, but Pashur and the other people did not want to get out of their forest. They were safe there, or so they believed, and did not want to leave. They were their god there. In scripture that is called sin. We have all sinned. We have all lived in a world we have created. Our condition is that we cannot escape from self. Try as we might we can’t do it. The Good News is that the Almighty, Holy God sent a Savior, the Lord Christ Jesus, to lead us out. To save us. What are we to be saved from? Ourselves!! But do I (we) want to be lead out? Do I want to be saved from myself and be free to follow our Creator? Pashur didn’t. If I do I must throw myself on His mercy and grace. Why? Romans 3:23-24 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus”

My desire is that all of us experience the joy of getting out of our forest by believing, surrendering and begging Him for His glorious mercy and forgiveness for our trying to be our little god. (By the way two gods cannot survive in one universe. Have you ever thought of that?) He can forgive us for building our little fortress around ourselves and against Him. Then and only then can we begin to see the forest and escape from our little world. Then and only then will the light of truth come in through the trees we’ve planted. Seems Pashur never got out of his forest. How sad.

Praise God from whom all blessing flow.

Sola scriptura

Sola fide

Sola gratia

Solus Christus

Sole Deo gloria

May God bless.

Dewey Wise

January 29, 2009

Hope Fruit and Berry Farm

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