All I ever wanted to do was lift my hands to the clouds and clap for sheer joy. To feel the wind, the rain, the sun and say ‘Praise You.’ To let my roots grow deep, gripping when the storms railed around me, confident that my footing was firm. That’s all I ever wanted to do.
My family and I watched from the hill top as the children of God swarmed into Canaan and took possession of the land. We rejoiced as images of the gods Baal and Asherah were destroyed. Then we witnessed generation after generation turn from their worship of the one true God to the false gods of the Canaanite people. The very ones their ancestors had destroyed.
Asherah! Her name made my sap boil. The stones on the hillside cried out in anguish. The lions lay at my feet groaning.
The people called her the Tree of Life. What did they know about life when they walked in perpetual darkness?
Men didn’t come to the forest very often. I stood tall and proud as they walked around us; circling us with outstretched arms. I had the widest girth. It took three of them to encompass me.
My family tried to comfort me as I was chopped down.
Perhaps you will be made into something useful.
I clung to those words of comfort. Please, Master, something useful.
In the field of Joash the Abiezrite I was elevated on blocks, stripped of my bark and left for a year. The oak nearby was my only companion.
I have seen this before. You are being aged. When they think you are ready you will be made into a….
His leaves rustled in agitation. He swayed as if a mighty wind poured over the plains.
I could not persuade him to divulge my fate.
Four seasons passed before the men returned. With sharp chisels that dug into my flesh, hammering out the ugly, evil forms of two intertwining snakes.
You belong to ussss now.
When the desecration was complete, they dropped me into a deep hole. Men and women built an altar to Baal, made sacrifices to him and danced around me singing:
‘Praise Asherah! Mistress of all gods.
Grant us a bountiful harvest.
May our wombs be fruitful.’
How could they be so ignorant? Didn’t they know that the Master of the Universe was the One who gave their crops increase? Who caused the life to leap in the womb? Did they not know that it was their worship of the very idol they had made me into that caused the Master to withdraw his hand of blessing?
I begged the Master to send a fire to sweep through the field and consume me. Only then would I be set free. A thing of wood fashioned by the hands of men; I could not bear to be worshipped. Could they not see how illogical that was? The snakes laughed at me. When no fire came I withdrew into my innermost core, even abandoning my friend the oak tree.
I feel the oak’s roots squeezing around my deeply dug base.
Asherah pole, wake up!
I ignore him.
There’s an angel talking to Gideon.
That gets my attention.
He’s been here before. If you’d listened to me sooner you would have seen the whole thing. Imagine that! An angel.
It is night.
Shh. I can’t hear what the angel is saying.
‘Tear down your father’s Baal altar and chop down the Asherah fertility pole beside it.’ (1)
I rejoice as the spirits of the snakes, carved into my flesh so many years before, writhe in distress and call out to their goddess to save them.
My dried out wood quivers in anticipation. Gideon’s axe bites deeply into my flesh. The Snakes cry out in agony. I cry out in exaltation.
Soon, soon I will be released from this idolatrous form.
I lay prone, watching in the wan moonlight as Gideon, brave Gideon, the runt of the family, tears down the altar of Baal and builds another altar. A bull is tethered nearby. Usually, when there is a sacrifice the people bring wood. He casts around for twigs and branches.
Gideon! Use me! Release me from the abomination that I have become. It is not enough that you chop me down. Burn me.
The flames lick around me. The bull’s flesh is burnt. The last of my wood is consumed.
Praise you, Master, I am coming.
(1) Judges 6:25. The Message
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