But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.”
Yesterday, I had occasion to help a friend plant a new flower bed around the base of an oak tree, and that got me to thinking about roots. My friend was planting day lilies, and she’s also thinking of planting some hosta closer to the tree itself, where the shade will be nice for such plants. At the far end of where we were planting, there was a lilac bush that had been overwhelmed by vines of bittersweet. The poor lilac bush couldn’t blossom because the vines had overgrown the bush and were stealing all the sun and the nutrients from the soil. My friend said she and her husband planned to tear out that whole bush and vine mess and plant more flowers out there. It ought to look very nice once it’s all done, planted by loving hands in good soil, with definite purpose and design.
In the Bible, the Lord often uses the metaphor of planting to speak of spiritual things. The language of sowing, reaping, vines, grain, soil, and roots is found throughout the Word of God. We have David’s reminder that a man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” shall be “like a tree planted by the rivers of water.” (Psalms 1:2-3) And we have the prophet Isaiah speaking of the Messiah as the Branch of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and also the Lord God speaking of the redeemed Israel as “the branch of My planting.” (Isaiah 60:21) Fruit is often the metaphor for works that glorify the Lord, and vines are often used to represent a plant that is most fruitful when pruned and tended by loving hands.
In today’s verses, Jesus is in the midst of a lesson about what is clean or unclean–in particular, that “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart and they defile a man.” (Matthew 15:18) His disciples mention that the Pharisees are offended by Jesus’ assertion that the kosher laws do nothing to help a man’s righteous standing before God, and Jesus then responds, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” (v.13)
Philosophies of men are temporary, transient, coming and going with the whims of the age. One need look no further than the waxing and waning spirituality of a few well-known celebrities to see that what is rooted in the ways of men is fickle and weak. The problem with human philosophy and traditions is that they are built upon the beliefs of men, on the whims of a few intellectuals who espouse a thought for a while and then move on. Even in the Bible, we see the people of Israel moving from one idolatry to another, one moment following Baal, the next generation whoring after Ashtoreth or Isis or whichever god their neighbors or conquerors like. And we in the modern age are no better, selling ourselves for the idol of the day or the week, and even in our faith we often even cleave unto human traditions more strongly than to the written Word of God.
But remember that man whom David said was like a tree planted by the water?
12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15 To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
“Fresh and flourishing”: what a beautiful thought that is. Those who are rooted in the Lord shall bear fruit, shall not wither, shall even thrive in the face of adversity when other branches have withered. God’s roots run deep like a mighty oak tree. God’s waters provide life for the roots of the faithful. God’s loving hands tend and prune the faithful, and one day He will remove the weeds from around us. Yes, that which the Lord has not planted will indeed be uprooted.
Note that Jesus does not simply say that the plant not planted by the Father will just be cut off. After all, if you cut off the top of a weed, it will simply grown back. No, in the end, God will tear out that which He did not plant, roots and all, leaving nothing behind to spoil the fruit of His faithful, no weeds of unrighteousness to choke like an unwanted vine or disguise itself like tares among wheat. Those philosophies of men that come from our reason and tradition will be uprooted until all that remains is the Word of God.
Of course, we can start the uprooting today. As Jesus did in His day, we can speak out against the empty traditions that attempt to choke the life from the faithful. We can stand up for what God has written in His Holy Bible, and not allow the whims of men to rewrite the solid doctrines of God Himself. We have it within our power to be the living example of what Jesus was saying: people whose righteousness comes from the roots God has planted within us, not people who put up a facade of righteousness based on the teachings of the world.
After the planting we did yesterday, there came a strong rain last night. The roots of the new flowers were watered, and the old oak will continue to thrive where God planted it. And, yes, that bittersweet vine will still grow until it is uprooted entirely. For the time being, God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) So, even weeds can flourish in this time of God’s mercy. But we who are planted in the Lord, we whose roots run deep to the solid rock of Christ Jesus, we who receive the Water of Life–we shall not be uprooted by time nor trial. We shall stand firm, survive the harshest storms, withstand the mightiest winds, and even resist the grasping hands of Satan himself. Those who take refuge in the philosophies of the day will find themselves without deep roots, without strength for the coming storm. But as David said, we who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. Therefore, let us set our roots deep within the fertile soil of the gospel, watered by the Water of Life that is Christ Jesus, and nourished by the very Word of God.
Holy Lord God, let my roots always be found in You. As David said, cleanse me of hidden faults–uproot the weeds that threaten my fruitfulness for Your kingdom, remove the branches of my life that are rotten and useless. Help me to grow in You, to stand tall like a cedar, to bend in the wind like a palm, to last through storm and drought like an oak. And in the day of Your return, may You uproot all the rest that is not of Your planting, leaving only Your chosen children to bask in the light of Your Son forever more. Amen.