Go to the sagebrush, you fool! See its endurance and be wise
By Don Ruhl
When you think of something wonderful in nature, what comes to mind?
- Magnificent mountains?
- Beautiful beaches?
- Fine flowers?
- Awesome animals?
- Spectacular sagebrush?!
God created sagebrush
Moses wrote that God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind…” (Gen 1.11, 12), and that would include sagebrush.
God had reasons for creating sagebrush. If we can learn a little about sagebrush, perhaps we can learn a little about what we should be.
In the Bible, the Holy Spirit frequently used images from nature to teach us spiritual truths. Proverbs 6 even says we can learn from the lowly ant,
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise.
Likewise, go to the sagebrush, you fool!
Consider its endurance and be wise!
Therefore, listen to “sage advice.”
Sagebrush covers 470,000 square miles in 11 western states. Wyoming has the most, covering 50% of that state. What other plant in America can boast of such coverage!
It grows typically in the 4,000 to 7,000 foot elevation range in arid conditions, but where the soil is good.
With so much of it around, God must like sagebrush and we always do well to like what God likes and to learn from what God likes.
We call several different shrubs sagebrush, but the one we know the best is tall sagebrush (common sagebrush, big sagebrush, blue/black sagebrush or mountain sagebrush).
The versatility, tolerance, and flexibility of sagebrush goes beyond most other plants and trees. It can endure
- blistering heat
- freezing cold
- endless drought
- overwhelming floods
If there is not enough water and the soil is poor, sagebrush grows smaller instead of giving up and dying. If there is enough water and the soil is good, sagebrush will grow as much as 12 feet high, looking more like a tree than a shrub.
As adaptable as the sagebrush is, God created us with more versatility, tolerance, and flexibility. Look where we can live and where we can travel. We can live in
- hotter places
- colder places
- drier places
- wetter places
We can travel anywhere
- on the land
- under the land
- under the water
- in the sky and beyond
We can do anything, as even Genesis 11 speaks of the God-created ability we have, “And the LORD said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them’” (Gen 11.6).
What have we not done yet? If you can name it, we will surely do it.
Yet, when it comes to doing great spiritual things, or obeying the commands of God, we believe we cannot do it. We sound like the ten spies, who believed they were just as grasshoppers in comparison to the giant of challenges facing them in the Land of Canaan.
Look at the adaptability of the sagebrush and then listen to our complaining. Have you truly listened to yourself? For one day, listen to everything you say, either orally or in your heart, and you might surprise yourself with your complaining and dissatisfaction. Can’t we do better than sagebrush, which neither disobeys God nor complains, but just grows to the best of its ability?
Try another day of self-listening to prod yourself to glorify God.
Numbers 13 repeats the words of Caleb, one of two faithful spies, who believed that if they were God’s people, they could do anything. Should not this be our attitude? “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it’” (Num 13.30).
What good thing do you need to do in your life that you believe you have not been able to do? Do not let the sagebrush outdo you!
Gives Glory to Its Provider
One thing that I like about sagebrush country is that you can see the earth. If there are interesting
- rock formations
- unusual valleys
- brilliantly colored land
sagebrush does not hide it, but helps preserve it. When you are deep in a forest, it hides the earth, which supports the forest. What would Arches National Park in Utah be like, if it was all covered in a Redwood forest? We could not stand in awe of the fantastic designs of the land. Get into sagebrush country and the glories of the earth stand out.
Shall we show the world ourselves or Christ? Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 4 that our emphasis cannot be us, but someone else, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2Co 4.5).
He had just written in the previous chapter that the people of the world read us, but they should be reading of Christ when they read us (2Co 3.1–3).
Matthew 5 records the words of our Teacher on how we ought to live, that we do not hide what we do, even as the sagebrush cannot hide, but we let something or someone else get the glory, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5.14–16).
There are ways we can be like the Redwood, but there are ways we can be like the sagebrush.
The unappealing sagebrush does not attract birds or insects for pollination. It depends upon the wind. Without the wind, sagebrush would be fruitless.
In John 3, Jesus used wind to illustrate the Holy Spirit working in our lives. You cannot see the wind pollinating sagebrush, but you can see the effects. We cannot see the Holy Spirit working, but we should see the effects, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3.8).
Paul argued in Galatians 5, that if we follow the lead of the Spirit, it will show in our lives, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal 5.18, 22, 23).
A mature sagebrush may produce one million seeds. Yet, the seeds are so small that you would need 2.5 million seeds to make one pound. Although small, they are effective, growing all over the American West.
Likewise, we do small things that we never notice, but someone notices, causing there to be Christians all over the planet.
Both people and God see the little things we do. You have planted a little seed of kindness that someone needed at that moment, and you did not think a thing of it. They did and God did (Matt 10.42; 25.34–39). Perhaps you greeted someone. You let another go first. You were patient with a new checker, teller, waitress, and it spoke volumes. You forgot about it 60 seconds later, but that person did not forget.
However, even as every sagebrush seed does not produce a plant, so not everything we do bears fruit in a conversion or something else.
However, the sagebrush seed can lay dormant for years, and later with the right conditions it springs to life.
We plant seeds in people all the time, and later it shows up, such as the husband converted after years, perhaps decades, of watching his wife. We plant seeds in ourselves, but we wonder at the time what good it did, until something happens later in life, then we see the benefit. Remember Joseph in Egypt.
Remember that we are often like the tree of Psalm 92, not producing fruit until later in life.
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Sagebrush is like the palm tree, flourishing when you do not expect it to do so. You are like the sagebrush, flourishing when others, and perhaps you, did not expect to do so. Do not give up living and growing until like the sagebrush you give up your body to the earth.
Do You Want “Sage Advice”?
Go to the sagebrush, you fool! Consider its endurance and be wise! Even as the sagebrush stays connected to its provider, the earth, make sure you stay connected to your heavenly Father through faithful obedience to His Son.
*The impetus for this article was, “Sage Advice,” Creation Illustrated, Fall 2006, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 12–18