Imagine if you will a dense forest. It doesn't matter what country it's in because it doesn't have to be real. It could be so beautiful that even Earth itself was unable to maintain and contain the unsullied atmosphere that you find in your (neck of the) woods. I'm sure there are forests on this earth that mirror perfectly the image I have in my mind. After all, it's only from seeing forests (in person, in movies) that I have a kernel of fact with which to imagine from. But I'm talking about the most beautiful, fresh-green forest you would ever want to find yourself in. Is it morning? The sun rising in the distance and filtering through the branches, rendering the leaves bright and opaque. Maybe it's midday. It might be the middle of Summer and hot but you don't feel it. The shade from the canopy keeps out both the light and heat. There's a cool breeze flowing among the gnarled trunks. It waves the leaves around and they whisper to you the promises of God. Now imagine that, in spite of the beauty, you'd been traveling for days and days and months. If you don't remember when you entered this forest, that's okay. You might have noticed that now, we've gone from imagining for ourselves a great forest to imagining ourselves within. I say all of this to get firmly fixed in your thinking that "the forest is beautiful". Remember this.
The forest for the trees connotes that we're blind and desensitized to the larger reality of things. If, as I mentioned before, you ever found yourself wandering through a dense yet beautiful forest for days on end, would you stop noticing the beauty after a while? I think I would. Even if our journey started out wonderfully enough, without map and compass, we'd likely lose interest in the birds singing in the branches and any low hanging fruit that at one time tickled our fancy. Maybe some honey might open our eyes? As an aside, there's a story in 1 Samuel (14:24) where King Saul is seeking to fulfill some illogical revenge complex and exacts a curse on all of his men if they eat anything. They're travelling and sure to be famished but they don't even so much as taste any food. Then it says "And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground." (14:25) The funny thing is, Jonathan, Saul's son, hadn't heard the command of his father and decides to eat some of the honey. It says "and his eyes were enlightened." I think that's pretty cool. Food for thought: something so simple as partaking of a sweet blessing—and presumably giving thanks—is enough to open one's eyes. And to keep us pressing on:
"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. Robert Frost
Just like the desert, the forest inspires one to keep moving. I don't know if we're moving toward civilization? Toward the coast? The plain? A forest can inspire fear and despondency as well. If you're lost. Or wonder and awe depending on your heart condition. Restless, discombobulated, anxious? Keep moving. But to where?
"Lo we head of it at Ephrata: we found it in the fields of the wood." (Psalm 132:6) The fields of the wood. I like that. It reminds me of childhood dreams and a fulfilling adventure anchored by the love of a parent at home. We've come to a clearing. David is speaking in this Psalm of looking for a "place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob" (132:5). This verse could be seen as prophetic of Jesus' birth because "Ephrata" is another name for Bethlehem. It means "fruitfulness" in Hebrew. Do you see where this is going? Wherever and however we're headed through the bright forest of wonder or lost in the "tangled forest of bad decisions", God wants to get to us. The field within the forest is spoken of as "fruitful". Can I draw that inference? A place to rest and relax and enjoy the fruits of our labors and maybe, just maybe (essential) meet up with Jesus if we'd lost sight of Him among the trees, before we press on in our journey.
The edge of the forest promises something new. Something as yet uncharted. Keep going and stay alert.
Do you feel it?