I love driving along Arizona Highway 260 between Payson and Show Low. For years, it was the easiest route from our home in Phoenix to my hometown in New Mexico. That highway, which climbs from 5,000 feet elevation in Payson, tops out at about 7,500 feet. The drive to the top of the rim is one of the most scenic in the state. Right after you hit the top, you are greeted by a marshy area that is teeming with wildlife and greenery, but which freezes to a huge block of ice in the winter. It's hard to believe that you were in the desert only an hour or so before.
For the past several years, one part of that drive has been marred by the destruction of a massive forest fire which went through there. Young saplings are growing everywhere, but they are still obscured by the surrounding charred remains of once great trees. I would think that people who live in that region felt as if their world was was blowing away in the heat and smoke. Now they must live year after year among the rubble. Every day some of them recall what was as they face what is.
The prophet Joel spoke of a time like that. He saw it coming upon God's land and God's people in their near future. They would no longer see beauty, but ashes. They would no longer have food, but be hungry. Their joy would be replaced by sorrow and hardship. Is there any hope in such a prediction? Can new saplings grow when everything seems dead? Those are the questions we will take up this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. If you can't be here, catch the podcast on iTunes under "Stone Ridge Sermons."