Our sprawling family of six trampled onto the boardwalk that lead into the thick of the woods. At the very end, towered The Senator, one of the oldest Bald Cypress trees in the world.
And, by old, I mean ancient, like B.C. (before the birth of Christ) on a historical timeline . Through the process of coring, a sample of the tree's rings was taken, dating The Senator to be about 3500 years old.
When the Egyptians were building their pyramids, this tree was just a sapling.
During this time in history, the Egyptians had enslaved God's people. An Egyptian princess waded out into the Nile River. She intended on bathing and relaxing in the Nile's cool waters. In the thicket of papyrus reeds, she caught a glimpse of a floating basket, rocking gently to the rhythm of the river.
Sending a handmaiden to retrieve it , she discovered the basket held a beautiful Hebrew baby. His mother must have hidden him there to keep him safe following the issue of an edict ordering all Hebrew babies to be killed.
The princess had compassion on the child, and she decided to adopt him, naming him Moses (Exodus 2:1-10, NIV).
This same Moses fled for his life years later after killing an Egyptian who was abusive toward a fellow Hebrew. He found himself leaving palace life to become a shepherd in neighboring Midian, leading his sheep to graze along the mountainsides and in the valleys.
One day, he happened upon a bush that was set ablaze, and as he neared the bush, he heard a voice speak his name, and to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground.
"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3:6, NIV)," echoed the voice.
Moses hid his face for he did not want to look upon God.
After this, the Lord sent Moses back to Pharaoh to free the Hebrew people from slavery and bring them to a new land, a good land, flowing with "milk and honey ."
Moses obeyed God and went back to Egypt. Ten times Pharaoh refused to let his people go. Because of Pharaoh's insolence, each time, the Lord inflicted the Egyptians with a series of ten plagues...
The Nile turned to blood
The land filled with frogs
The dust of the land became lice
The land swarmed with flies
Cattle were inflicted with diseases
Men and beasts were broke out with boils
Barley was flattened by hail
The land was devastated by locusts
Darkness covered the land for three days
For the tenth and last plague, the Lord told Moses to have the Hebrews kill a lamb and spreading it's blood over the top of their doorways and one each side.
When the destroying angel saw the blood sacrifice of the lamb dripping onto the ground of the Hebrews' homes, he passed over them.
This was the first Passover.
The Egyptians had no such sacrifice and the firstborn son of each household died.
It was then that Moses was released by Pharaoh and lead his people from slavery out of Egypt, following the pillar of cloud in the day and fire by night.
The Egyptians eventually came to their senses and followed the Hebrews to the Red Sea.
The Lord parted the waters for the Moses and his people and they safely crossed to the other side.
However, when the Egyptians attempted to cross, the waters came crashing down and drowned them (Exodus 5:1-14:31).
The Lord delivered the Hebrews, whom were chosen to be a special people, from whom would come the Christ, the Son of God.
He is our Passover Lamb, whose blood poured out on the tree in the shape of a cross. Christ Jesus delivered us from the penalty of sin, slavery to sin, and from the one who tempts us to sin.
I wondered how large The Senator was at this crucial moment in history.
How many rings will my life span?
From the time of Moses on, this tree had been growing and adding new rings to its trunk. Each ring, representative of major historical events in the world over millenia.
Before Florida became a tourist's paradise, the Seminole Indians used this tree as a landmark to find their way through swamps and endless palmettos and pine trees. In the nineteenth century it became the beloved Senator of Big Tree Park.
Tragically, on January 16, 2012, the Senator's life was cut short by the careless actions of a young woman who that evening, set it ablaze. The tree burned from the outside-in, billowing smoke like a chimney.
When I heard the news, my heart sank. A tree of that size and age is not something that can just be replanted. It's gone, along with all it's rings of history. Vanished in a puff of smoke.
Life can be so short. Especially in light of eternity. Will we live by faith or by sight, in the few tree rings of the here and now?
May the short span of our lives be lived in a way pleasing to God, in light of His glory and grace, for eternity is in His hands. He makes the smallest grain of faith grow into a mighty tree, displaying His faithfulness for all to see (Isaiah 61:1-4).
"Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12, a prayer of Moses)."