Type of cassia

This plant is not found in the Bible per se but is similar to the cassia plant used in the Tabernacle

Mortal Tree

PCD3527_IMG0071 One of the few hardy Cassia/Senna’s, Senna hebecarpa. Photo credit: George H. Bruso found on Ladybird Johnson institute

The method of finding hardy nitrogen fixers I used to comprise my list is pretty simple: choose a genus of nitrogen fixers (I say genus because there are some weirdos that can’t be found from the higher orders and phylum) and look through the whole genus. Often, there will be some member that is hardy in your area.

I consider one of the greatest prizes I found this way to be Senna/Cassia hebecarpa.

Cassia is a genus almost exclusively tropical, and mostly trees, which are gorgeous.

3704761723380copyImage Cassia alota, commonly called “Candlstick Cassia” for its looks. Can’t grow it. Click for source.

Like a lot of the non-hardy N fixers cassia are woody yet legumes and utilize Rhizobium to fix their usually medium level nitrogen.

S. hebecarpa, on the other hand, is herbaceous, and…

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Shaking in Fear

God using the balsam tree to give David victory over the Philistines is described in 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-18.

When the Philistines discovered that DaPopulus euphraticavid was anointed king over Israel as well as over Judah, they went out in force to search for him.  During the seven years David was king over Judah at Hebron, the Philistines were not too concerned about his kingship.  For them the problem occurred when Israel (northern tribes) asked David to be their king.  The Philistines cities were in the lands of the northern tribes; they feared David would wage war against their cities.  The Philistines entered the Valley of the Rephaim, located on the border between Judah and Benjamin on the west and southwest sides of Jerusalem.  There they raided and plundered the inhabitants who were mainly Israelites.  David responded to the Philistine’s raids and at Baal Parazim David and the Israelites fought a battle with the Philistines.  The Philistines were routed.  When they fled, the Philistines abandoned their idols.  Following Mosaic law, David burnt the idols (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25).

Perhaps outraged by the previous defeat and David’s destruction of their idols, the Philistines raided the Rephiam Valley a second time.  David asked God if he should attack the Philistines.  God’s answer was “yes;” but David’s army should not go straight at the Philistines. Instead, the Israelite army should circle around the Philistines and attack them in front of the balsam trees.  The signal for the Israelite army to attack was the sound of God marching in the tops of the balsam trees.  The marching sound meant that the Lord went in front of the Israelites to strike the Philistines.

In the Rephiam Valley balsam trees grew in groves.  God made the wind blow through the tops of the balsam tree so that leaves rustling and branches rubbing against each other and created a sound like men marching.  The sound was so loud that the Philistine army thought that a huge Israelite army was advancing toward them.  Terrified they fled the valley.  David’ army pursued and struck down the Philistines from Gibeon to Gezar, a range of about 15 miles.  At the time of this battle, Gezar was not a Philistine city; it was held by the Egyptians (Joshua 10:33).  Apparently, the Philistine soldiers were so frightened that they fled to the powerful Egyptians for safety.  The episode concludes with, “so David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him” (1 Chronicles 14:17).

Populus euphratica leavesThe Balsam Tree

The balsam tree is a species of aspen, most likely the Populus euphratica, which is believed to be native to Israel and Middle Eastern countries. The balsaam is also called the  Euphrates popular and salt poplar.  In Israel the tree grows throughout the country; it grows well in rocky and hilly soils and in brackish water. The balsaam tree grows as tall as 45 feet and has spreading branches.  On older branches bark is thick, olive green to gray-brown, and roughly striated.  Branches are bent and almost always forked.  The balsaam’s flower is called a catkin because it resembles a cat’s tail and droops from the stem.  In mid-summer, the P. euphratica produces a green to reddish brown fruit which is a 2-4 valve capsule.  Seeds are minute and enveloped in silky hairs which aid wind dispersal.

Symbolism: God’s people

Balsam trees are associated with the word “people.”  The word Populus in the name Populus euphratica is derived from the trees ancient Latin name arbor populi which means “the people’s tree.”  When God identified the Israelites as his chosen people, God told them that he would dwell with them, walk with them, and protect them (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 11:22-25).  In the Valley of Rephiam, God gave his chosen people victory through the sound of an army (people) marching in the tops of balsam trees.  Israel’s victory was so decisive that David’s fame spread to people of every land; the Lord made people of every nation fear David.

In the Old Testament, God took a people for himself who were of one race.  In the New Testament, Christ directed his disciples to take the good news of the gospel to all his creation (Mark 16:15).  Over 2000 years later, people of all races believe in him.  Despite Christ’s welcome and guaranteed love of all people, the Bible cautions, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).  What does such an ominous verse mean to people?

The writer of Hebrew’s elaborated by saying if people keep on sinning after they receive the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sin is left;  only a fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10: 26-30).  The writer compared the Old Testament Jews rejection of the Law of Moses to an individual who rejects the truth of Christ after they know it.  His argument was if Old Testament Jews who rejected the Law of Moses died, then how much more will individuals who trample the Son of God deserve punishment?   The latter individuals insult the Spirit of grace because they show contempt for the blood of Christ who sanctifies them.  The Lord lives with his people, protects them, and loves them.  In addition, the Lord judges his people.

Reflection.  In the battle where God marched in the tops of the balsam trees, David counted on God rather than his army to protect the people of the Rephiam Valley and Israel.  In a later story, we learn that David took a census of eligible fighting men in Israel rather than trust God to protect the people (2 Samuel 24:10).  Do David’s actions have any parallels to our own life?  Do we believe that God will protect his people?

Mellow Mallows

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Reference: Job 30:4

I have to admit that I am confused about the mallow plant. In Zondervan’s Bible dictionary, the mallow is synonymous with Atriplex halimus, also known as the salt herb, saltwort, sea orache. Zondervan describes mallow as a robust bushy shrub eaten as a vegetable with little nutritional value.

I purchased mallow seeds (several different types of seeds). Then, planted them in my home garden and in the church garden. Some I planted in the shade and some in mostly sun. At home one lonely seed came up and gave me this beautiful plant. Somehow it doesn’t look like a bushy shrub. This may be another example of early colonial American’s naming plants incorrectly or seed companies just labeling a plant incorrectly then selling them by that name.

At church, I had a bunch of plants came up all with large leaves but no flowers. If you want to see an accurate picture of the salt plant, use the search feature on this blog. Several years ago I wrote about salt plants in relation to Job.

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The point I want to make here is that there are a lot of counterfeits in the world. Many plants and items are mislabeled, e.g., as fun, as a religion. Many of these labels are not reality. As Christians, we have to discriminate between accurate (real) and “just a name.”

Reflection: Don’t settle for less than the real thing. Christ is really the Son of God and Son of Man.

Copyright: February 2, 2016.

Mushroom Hunting

Mushroom

Fairies dance under toadstool or at least that’s what I learned as a child. I’ve never seen a fairy and the Bible doesn’t mention them, so I am not positive that they exist. In fact, the Bible doesn’t even mention toadstools or mushrooms; yet, present day Israelis are wild about mushrooms. Here’s what I learned about one kibbutz that is mushroom crazy:

Every child in Kibbutz Beit Keshet, in the Lower Galilee, knows not to pick mushrooms with a circle around the stalk. The ring indicates that the mushroom is poisonous. One of the first rules in mushroom-collecting is to know when to focus on a small number of mushrooms. You learn to recognize one or two varieties well enough to distinguish between them the way you distinguish between tomatoes and cucumbers. You must be completely certain that you’re not picking poisonous mushrooms.

It’s not only at this tranquil kibbutz that mushroom-gathering is part of the local culture – many people do it, and the past several years have seen several organized mushroom tours in Israel. The tours, run by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, teach participants where to find mushrooms and how to distinguish among the different varieties, among other things. Israel has over 400 species of mushrooms.

Mushroom hunting constitutes a kind of longing for a journey to the center of a foggy, dewy European forest, or in my mind, the damp forests of Pennsylvania. Dad was a mushroom hunter. Often after church we kids would go mushroom hunting with him. It seems like we always found some and Mom would fry them in butter; we didn’t know the word “sauté.” We mainly found mushrooms in the Morchella species.

This particular mushroom has a very fancy name–Morchella deliciosa esculenta. The species grows as a creamy yellow or gray brown.

Reflection: I hope that children of this generation never lose the opportunity to go mushroom hunting with their Dad.

Cane and Clarity

calamus root

Reference: 2 Kings 18:1-2 and 2 Chronicles chapter 29.

King Hezekiah was 25 years of age when became king of Judah.  He reigned 29 years (715-686 B.C.).  He father was Ahaz but unlike Ahaz, Hezekiah did what was right in God’s eyes. During Hezekiah’s reign, the Northern Kingdom fell and its inhabitants were dispersed through Assyria.

Hezekiah was distinguished by his absolute confidence in God even under duress.  Immediately after being crowned, King Hezekiah began religious reform.  His made a covenant with God so that God’s fierce anger would be turned away from the kingdom of Judah.  In the first month of his kingship, Hezekiah reopened and repaired the Temple doors.  He gathered the priests and Levites and instructed them to purify and consecrate themselves.  After the priest and Levites were consecrated, they clean out the Temple.  Unclean furnishing and idolatrous items found in the temple were dumped into the Kidron Valley.  Over a 16-day period, the priests purified the Temple and consecrated its altars and furnishings.  The sacred anointing oil was used in the consecrations.

After the purification and consecrations, King Hezekiah provided bulls, rams, lambs, and goats as a sin offering for the people of Judah.  While the offerings were made, Levites played music on cymbals, harps, and lyres and sang in the manner prescribed by King David.  King Hezekiah, city officials, priest, Levites, and the entire assembly knelt down and worshiped God.  After the sin offerings, the assembly brought sacrifices and thanks offerings to God.  So many offerings were presented that the priest couldn’t skin all the animals.  They had to enlist the Levites to assist them until more priests could be re-consecrated.  Thus, Temple worship was reestablished under King Hezekiah.

When the Tabernacle was built, God prescribed ingredients to be used in the anointing (purifying and consecrating) oil.  Five ingredients were named:  myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia, and olive oil.  The anointing oil was sacred and used only for anointing the priest and the Temple furnishing and accessories.  In this chapter, fragrant cane will be described as an ingredient in the Temple anointing oil.

Acorus calamus

Fragrant Cane Plant

Most botanists and religious scholars associate the Biblical fragrant cane with the Acorus calamus variety calamus., called  sweet cane and calamus. Probably most fragrant cane used in the Temple anointing oil came from India. It is found in moist soils and shallow water in ditches, marshes, river edges and ponds, marshes and ditches.  Viewed from the top of water or moist soil, fragrant cane that looks like numerous plants may be a single interconnected rhizome (root). Although leaves and stems can be harvested, the rhizome is used to make perfumes and sacred oils.  Fragrant cane is very expensive.

Symbolism: Clarity

The fragrant cane plant is associated with many different concepts to include vigor, purification, wisdom, and clarity.  The symbolism that reflects this Bible episode is clarity which includes focused perception, to free of confusion, and to make understandable.

When Hezekiah became king, he required the priests to consecrate themselves in preparation for re-instituting worship of God in the Temple.  For the priests consecration meant that the sacred anointing oil was applied to themselves and possibly their clothes.  Then, the priests anointed each item in the Temple.  Being anointed to God’s service would have focused the priest’s thoughts on God.  Anointing the Temple furnishing and accessories over a 16-day period would have clarified the purpose and meaning of each item in the temple.  Finally, performing the sacrifices reinforced the priests’ understanding of their role in Temple worship. Use of the anointing oil promoted clarity in the priests’ perceptions.

Clarity in 21st Century

Today, people are prone to lose clarity of thought.  We become anxious and distressed by what is occurring around us.  As I write this chapter, the United States is in the process of presidential elections.  Perhaps more than any other election, United States citizens are paying attention to what candidates say and do.  This attention can be good if it clarifies our thoughts on candidates’ stands on issues important to us.  At the same time, we need not get anxious about who to vote for or the decision-making process.  God’s desire is to have us free from all anxiety and distressing care (1 Corinthians 7:32)

When we accept Christ we are anointed with the Holy Spirit.  Christ’s anointing teaches us the truth on everything we need to know about ourselves and Christ, uncontaminated by a single lie (I John 2:26-27)  Now, Christ is our safe place – the place where perceptions, understanding, and clarity abide.  As we listen to candidates and persuasive leaders in any field, we need to remember and believe that Christ knows his sheep and they know him (John 10:1-6).  Christ’s sheep will not follow a stranger’s voice.  Christ sheep not only hear his voice but listen or obey his voice and words.  St. John recorded that when Jesus used this figure of speech, his listeners did not understand what he was talking about.

 Reflection.  How is your clarity?  Do you understand what Jesus was talking about in John 10:1-6?

Cigar tree – really?

Catalpa spenosa flowerT

The northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa), like the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), produces a pod as its fruit. Because the pod resembles a cigar, the tree is known as the cigar tree. Other names are the Indian bean tree and western catalpa. Unlike the carob tree, the northern catalpa does not grow in the Middle East. It belongs to us in the United States.

The cigar tree was originally thought to be native in only to a small area of  midwestern United States near the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. However, in 1976, investigation of an archeological site of an island in West Virginia’s portion of the Ohio River  showed Catalpa speciosa was on the island around 1500-1700 AD. This finding suggests that the cigar tree may have experienced a decline in range some time before European settlement of the United States. Today, the tree has a broader range to include the areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

Northern catalpas are potentially large trees and can grow more than 60 feet tall. Catalpa speciosa tree

The crown is irregular or oval shaped and limbs curve upward. Flowers are spectacular! They grow in clusters, are about two inches long, and look like a trumpet. Most are white and are decorated with yellow lines. Occasionally, flowers have purple spots. The fruit is a bean size pod which can contain 8-20 seeds. Initially, pods are green but like the carob tree, pods turn brown as they mature. Unlike the carob tree, pods split when they are ripe.

Catalpa speciosa fruit (pods)

Further good news about the northern catalpa is that they can withstand occasional salt spray and other urban conditions (think smog and gas emissions). Often the tree is used in storm water retention and to clean the air.

Reflection: The earth and all that is in it belongs to God, i.e., people, trees. The catalpa tree has a role in renewing the earth. I want to renew not destroy this beautiful planet, Terra. What about you are you a re-newer of the earth and of those around you?

Copyright: January 9, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

Lost Son, Lost You

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Bible Reference: Luke 15:11-32

The parable of the lost son is one of the longer parables that Christ told. It was the last of three parables in which Jesus made the point that God searches for the lost, whether a sheep, coin, or person. Plant pods were mentioned, seemingly in passing, in the parable; however, the pods played a central role in incentivizing the lost son to return home to his father.

The context for the parable of the lost son is vital to understanding and interpreting it. At the time a large crowd was following Jesus as he traveled from Galilee southward to Jerusalem. Some in the crowd believed what Jesus taught; others wanted to see him perform a great miracle. Some Pharisees traveled with the group. Carefully, they watched Jesus’s behavior and listened to what he said learn if he did or said anything that contradicted Jewish law.

At this particular time, tax collectors and other sinners gathered around Jesus. The Pharisees and teachers of the law started to mutter that Jesus welcomed sinners and even ate with them. In response Jesus told this parable:

There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father,
“Father, give me my share of the estate.”So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

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When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”  But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

So far, so good!!! The parable sounded the same as that of the lost sheep and lost coin. Listening tax collectors and sinners, who identified with the younger son, rejoiced to hear that God forgave them unconditionally. Even the Pharisees and teachers of the law had no criticism of Jesus’s words at this point. They believed that repentant sinners could be restored to fellowship with God. If Jesus had stopped there, all would have been well. What Jesus said next offended and further alienated the Pharisees. Here are Jesus exact words as recorded by Luke:

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him whatwas going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

When Jesus finished the parable, all who listened knew that the older brother was the Pharisees. Jesus’s parable exposed the Pharisees for what they were, i.e., hard-hearted, self-righteous prigs, who believed that their life style earned them special merit before Father God. In their opinion everything they did was right. God was happy to have them as believers and would welcome them into his kingdom. As the older son looked down on the younger, Pharisees looked down on tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. Pharisees had no awareness of their need for a savior. Their opinion of themselves couldn’t let them believe that Jesus’s considered them spiritually impoverished.

1-Carob Pod

The Carob Tree

The pods that the unrepentant son longed to eat were carob pods, the fruit of the Ceratonia siliqua tree. Likely, carob trees were brought from Babylon by Jewish exiles who returned to Judea. In ancient Israel, carob trees were also called John’s bread and the locust tree. When John the Baptists lived in the wilderness, he ate locust and wild honey. Possibly, he ate carob pods rather than the locust insect. Carob trees grew wild throughout Palestine to include in desert areas. In Bible time pods were used to feed livestock. Carob trees produced pods even in time of drought and famine.

Reflection: How would you feel if your son or daughter said, “I wish you were dead?” This is what the younger son said to his father. Are you living as if you wished or declared that God is dead?

Copyright: January 6, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

Friendship and the Treaty Oak

Lisa under Treaty Oak

The Jacksonville, Florida Treaty Oak is one of the oldest and most significant trees (Quercus virginiana) in United States history. The tree is estimated to be 250-300 years old and predates the finding of Jacksonville. The origin of the name “Treaty Oak” is related to a local story of a peace accord between Native Americans and early Spanish or American settlers.

The tree’s trunk is over 25 feet in circumference and its crown or canopy spreads over 145 feet ; however, the tree is only about 75 feet tall. Recently, the city of Jacksonville started to make seedlings from the Treaty Oak available for Jacksonville residence to plant all over their city.

Several oak trees were mentioned in the Bible. For example Abraham camped under an oak tree. Saul was given bread from a traveler under the Tabor oak. Finally, most of us have read about the mighty oaks of Bashan.  In the Bible oak is often a symbol of longevity and stability. I think of the oak in this photograph as a symbol friendship.

In the photograph, the beautiful woman sitting below the Treaty Oak is Lisa McClendon-Brailsford. Lisa is a follower of God as a Gardener and sent the photograph to me.

The Treaty Oak is old and massive. It has historical significance. My budding friendship with Lisa is young, but important to me. In the Bible, God spoke about friendship:

  • A friend loves at all times
  • Wounds from a friend can be trusted
  • Do not foresake your friendships

Reflection: Are you taking the time to value your friendships, whether young or old?

Copyright: December 30, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

Saggy Cedar

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This is a Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Compressus nootkatensis, Pendula). I took the picture at the Botanic Garden in Washington, DC last summer. The branches and needles appear to be sagging, but, this is the trees actual shape. It is receiving the right amount of water.

Some days I just don’t look like I’m sagging, I am sagging! I’m tired and if one more person asks me to do something, I am going to explode. Repeatedly, I ask God if He gets tired. I always get the same answer back, “No, I am not tired; I am God.” Can you imagine a being that never gets tired? Who sees and hears all of us, all the time?

God doesn’t get tired of me talking to him, nor even asking him for things. God wants me to depend on him.

Reflection: It is okay to need God.

Copyright December 16, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

Firmness of a Cedar

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This tiny deodor cedar grows in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Reference: Descriptions of cedar wood in the Temple are found in 1 Kings Chapter 5-7 and 2 Chronicles chapter 2-4.

In the fourth year (960 B.C.) of Solomon’s reign as king over a combined Israel and Judah, he started to build a Temple to God. Solomon’s father David averred that God gave him specific plans for construction of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). David relayed the construction plans to Solomon.

Several types of wood were used in the temple construction, e.g., cedar, pine, algum, and olive. The temple was decorated with plant motifs, e.g., pomegranates, lilies, palm trees, and gourds. The cedar tree and cedar will be described in this section. The temple was for worshiping God and to house the Ark of the Covenant (Testimony) and other holy furnishings. It was built in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, the site of the threshing floor that David bought from Ornan the Jebusite. The basic structure of the temple was approximately two times the size of the Tabernacle, 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. A 30 feet wide and 15 feet long vestibule or porch was attached to the front of the temple. As with the Tabernacle, the entrance faced east.  The outside of the Temple was made of stone; however, the interior walls were made of cedar board covered with gold. The Temple was completed in 7 years.

Solomon contracted with King Hiram of Tyre to supply the cedar and pine logs from the forests of Lebanon. In exchange for the wood, Solomon provided Hiram’s court and servants with food during while the timber was cut and transported. In addition to the food and wine Solomon gave King Hiram for the wood, Solomon conscripted 30,000 laborers to cut and transport the wood from Lebanon (I Kings 5:13-14). These men were Israelites who were forced into labor. Every month a cadre of 10,000 men was sent to Lebanon; thus, each man was away from home one month out of three. The timber was transported by rafts from Lebanon at Joppa, the port for Jerusalem. Solomon conveyed the wood from Joppa to Jerusalem.

Cedar wood was and is used in edifices constructed to last centuries, even millennia. Cedar is durable, free from knots, and easy to work. The heart wood is a warm red and beautifully grained. Cedars exude a gum or balsam which gives the tree an aromatic scent in which people take delight. In contrast, most insects dislike the smell and taste; consequently, they do not attack the tree (Shewell-Cooper, 1988). Fungus is the most common cause of disease in plants. The cedar is resistant to fungal disease so dry and wet rot rarely occur. An expert botanist, Solomon knew the cedar’s characteristics and preferred them to trees more available to him in Israel, e.g., sycamore and box trees.

DSC00004 This cedar is growing in Israel.

The Cedar Tree

The scientific name for the Lebanon cedar is the Cedrus libani.  Cedars are an evergreen tree with trunk and older branches silvery and cracked. Leaves present as silvery-blue needles arranged in clumps on short spur-like projects from branches. The flower is a cone. Seeds germinate best in the cool temperatures of high hills and mountains. Cedars grow slowly and it takes centuries to produce a majestic cedar.

Symbolism: Firm

The Hebrew word for a cedar tree is ʾerez a word derived from the primitive root ʾâraz, meaning to be firm as in the case of a cedar tree (Strong, 2010). The cedar tree was firm because of its tenacious root structure, its long life in nature, its resistance to insect infestation, and its endurance as a building material. The adjective firm, means securely or solidly fixed in place; having a structure that resists pressure; and well-founded. The opposite of firm is weak or uncertain.

Fifty verses in the Bible address firm or firmness, 29 in the Old Testament and 21 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament two themes emerged in relation to firm. The first theme was that God is firm in his purpose (Job 36:5), plans (Psalm 33:11), love (Psalm 89:2), and statutes (Psalm 93:5). The second theme was that if God’s people stood firm, God would deliver them from their enemies, e.g., Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13), Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:17), and from wicked men (Proverbs 12:7). At the same time, God warned Old Testament Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9). If Israel succumbed to the life style and pressure of surrounding nations and their faith became weak, then they would not stand as individuals or as a nation.

In four places in the New Testament, Christ said that if followers stood firm to the end, they would be “saved” or have “life eternal” (Matthew 10:22, 24:12-13; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:19). But, in the same verses Christ warned his followers that wicked/worldly men would hate them because these wicked men hated Christ. Christ described ways hate would become visible, e.g., brothers would betray brother and fathers their children, and children would rebel against parents. Until recently, when I read the descriptions of brother betraying brother or parents betraying their children, I always thought of Nazi Germany, Communist countries during the cold war, or Christians in China. More and more, I acknowledge hate and betrayal of Christians occurs daily in the United States. The result may not be that the life of a family member or dear friend is forfeited; but mental or spiritual death and physical illness can occur through betrayal and neglect after family members or friends embrace Jesus Christ.

Several Sundays ago, our Godly minister distributed a handout that said we live in a “post-Christian” society. A post Christian society is one in which the majority of individuals are not Christians. They do not follow the moral-ethical statutes and laws of God. We see evidence of this post-Christian modernism in efforts to remove the 10 Commandments from public buildings, eliminate prayer and after school Bible study from public schools, turn college religion courses into philosophy courses, and forbid Christian prayer before public meetings. I am very uncomfortable with the disconnection between our government and God’s gracious loving principles for our lives. Moving God from in our nation’s public life and symbols, means the United States no long affirms God and Christ. That leads us back to Isaiah’s warning to the nation of Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand firm at all” (Isaiah, 7:9).

Prayer and Reflection: Help us to believe and act like we live in a Christian nation. Help us to stop being afraid to speak and write about Christ. Amen.  Ultimately, how we are forced to act can become what we believe.

Copyright December 12, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth