2020 was a bumper year for acorns. I can verify that this is true, walking past the Holm Oak at the front of Wavendon churchyard numerous times in October and November. It was fascinating to watch Autumnwatch on TV around the same time and discover the reason why.
Apparently every 4-7 years there is a bumper – or ‘mast’ – year. The reason why oak trees drop their seeds later than most other trees is that it coincides with the time of year when animals like squirrels and jays are storing food for winter. The more acorns, the more seeds to bury. Jays in particular like to bury acorns some distance from the original tree, about 1.5cm deep into the soil – perfect sowing conditions for a new oak, which can germinate safely over the winter whenever a jay forgets where all its acorns have been buried. So a mast year means lots of potential new oak trees and a boost to the wildlife population. All from one oak tree.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? The more we learn about nature, the more we discover how interconnected the balance of our ecosystem is. In this case squirrels and jays act as woodland farmers, sowing seeds for the next generation.
In our Psalm today we see another type of divine sowing. Psalm 97 is a great Psalm, which speaks beautifully of the majesty of God. But towards the end, we see this extraordinary phrase – ‘Light is sown on the righteous’ (v11). Modern translations will usually paraphrase it as ‘Light shines…’ But the original text is almost certainly the agricultural image – applied to light! What does it mean?
It’s actually the last of several ‘light’ images in this psalm, all related to God. First there is fire (v3, the main source of human light after sunset) – symbolising God’s purity and judgement. Then there is lightning (v4), which speaks of his power and majesty in creation. But then comes this last and most intimate image. Fire and lightning are awesome – scary, even. Is this how humans can only relate to God?
Not at all. For the righteous, God sows light uponthem. This light brings joy (v11) and praise (v12). What a beautiful image! To sow is to plant things which bear fruit and feed us. So God’s desire is to plant light into our lives. Yes, God is majestic and awesome – but he is also the tender gardener, sowing good things into the lives of his children.
I’m not much good at gardening – but thankfully the divine gardener is not like me. As we dedicate ourselves to him, God sows light upon us. Where is God sowing light for you today? Pray that this light grows! And if light is hard to find, claim this verse as a promise, that we might again find joy in our hearts.