In my estimation, Gary Fields of New Haven, W.Va., is a remarkable individual. He had an extraordinary association with Wahama High School for eons as a student and teacher. He was voted into the Wahama High School Hall of Fame. He continues to serve the community at large in a variety of noteworthy ways, and he is a faithful servant of God in Faith Baptist Church, Mason, W.Va.
He is also full of ideas that inspire people around him. For example, not long ago he started making walking sticks out of Sassafras harvested from certain local areas. He would hit on a reason for giving someone a walking stick, and award them openly with one. Terry and I each once got a walking stick from him, which we consider to have been a touching gift. When we walk, we take our Sassafras walking stick with us.
Recently, however, he gave a stick to our Branch family as a whole. It was particularly prepared and varnished. On it he carved the names of Terry and me, our six sons, the wives of the three older sons, and their children, as well as all our birthdates. It was stirring that he left four barky, rough places in the wood to symbolize that, though we had had certain hard times during the years, the Lord had brought us through victoriously.
It is noteworthy, by comparison, that in the past God has used sticks for significant purposes, too, such as prophecies related to His people of Israel. For a long time the nation was united, but it became divided during the reign of Rehoboam. The dividing points included the Kingdom of Israel comprised of most of Israel, and the Kingdom of Judah comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
Apparently, this was never an acceptable condition in the mind of God. Some of the prophets predicted that there would be an eventual reunification of the people. But, it was the Prophet Ezekiel that stated the prospect in the most definite of terms. At the direction of God, Ezekiel took two sticks. On the one, he wrote, “For Judah.” On the other, he wrote, “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim.”
Ezekiel then placed these two sticks in his hand end-to-end. They appeared to be one stick signifying one kingdom. Then God through Ezekiel explained, “…they shall be no more two nations…I will make them one nation in the land.” This amazing prediction has essentially come true. Israel indeed has become reunited in at least part of the land God promised to Israel. And, despite the heinous political and aggressive efforts to destroy the current nation and to take the land away, God keeps protecting Israel, and will henceforth keep Israel in tack till the end.
You cannot beat that with a stick!
For good reason, too. Israel is still God’s chosen people. He made some providential promises to them, particularly as it involved land. As one studies the Bible, it is clear that there are consequences to those providential promises to Israel that affect the Church. The Church has most definitely not replaced Israel within the context of those promises as some associated with the church promote, which, I think, is designed to diminish the overall priority of Israel in the plans and purposes of God.
Think about it, also, that, if God would ever break any of the promises He made to Israel in the Bible, it would make Him a liar. And, if God is a liar, it would not be much use in relating to Him. God not only want to be true to Israel, but He also has to be true to Israel for His Son’s sake, who died on the Cross for the redemption of the world. As said the Apostle Paul, “Let God be true, but every man a liar.”
In the mean time, Gary even left room for future additions to our family, like when the two younger boys marry their fiancées next year, or even when additional grandchildren come on the scene. Gary said he would gladly do the engraving.
You cannot beat that with a stick!
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.