Origin of the Christmas Tree

Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas tree wasn’t adapted from ancient European pagan beliefs. The Christmas tree had a more recent history than pagan practices of first-through-third centuries when pagan Germanic and Scandinavian tribes used the hawthorn or cherry trees or branches in their celebrations. Varieties of both hawthorn and cherry trees common to northern Europe were often deciduous, not evergreen, trees.

Most likely, use of Christmas trees started with medieval plays, popular from the early middle ages (476 AD) to the beginning of the Renaissance (c 1400 AD).  Initially called morality, miracle, and mystery plays, these plays began in churches and taught Bible lessons for everyday life; that is, the plays had a moral. Plays that celebrated Jesus’ birth were linked to the creation story, primarily because Christmas eve was the feast day of Adam and Eve.

In nativity plays, the Garden of Eden was symbolized by a Paradise tree. Paradise trees represented both the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life (Holy Trinity Church). Paradise trees that symbolized the Tree of Knowledge were apple trees or decorated with apples to represent the forbidden fruit. While a Paradise tree that symbolized the Tree of Life was decorated with sweets; sweets round pastry wafers (cookies) symbolized the bread of the Eucharist. Because apple trees were deciduous trees and lost their leaves in winter, the tree evolved into being an evergreen tree.

Over time, the plays became raucous and were moved out of churches into public squares or town centers. Finally, when morality plays were suppressed altogether in the 15th-16th centuries, Paradise trees were moved into homes. Over time red balls substituted for apples, lights were added, and a Star of Bethlehem placed on the tree top.

Traditionally, the Christmas tree was set up on Christmas Eve and taken down on Twelfth Night, the Vigil of the Epiphany. Part of the reason keeping the Christmas tree up for only 12 days was to differentiate the Christmas tree from pagan trees, which often were planted in boxes and remained inside the home the entire winter months.

Christian scholars and historians aren’t sure when evergreen trees were first used as Christmas trees. Evergreen trees retain their green or blue-green color throughout the year, rather than changing color according to the seasons. In cold, snowy, dark winters in Europe, evergreen trees were a sign of everlasting life with God. By the end of the Middle ages, a common legend some Christian’s believed was that when Christ was born, near the shortest day of the year (December 25), every tree on earth produced new green shoots despite their ice and snow coverings.4

In 21st century United States, popular choices for Christmas trees are fir, pine, spruce, cypress, and cedar. Churches that understand that Christmas trees are distinct from pagan worship often include a 15–20 foot tree in their sanctuary. Below the evergreen tree are placed red poinsettia. What we think of as flaming red petals are poinsettia leaves. Poinsettias are a recent addition to Christmas decorations; but, perhaps, 100 years from now they will be part of Christmas traditions.

Reflection: Are you okay with having a Christmas tree in your home during Christmastide? What about having one in your church sanctuary?

Copyright 11/15/17: Carolyn A. Roth

http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Christmas Aglaonema = Luck

Top aglaonema

At Christmas, aglaonema (Chinese evergreen, Firecracker) is an alternative to the poinsettia. It is less woody than the poinsettia and doesn’t have flowers; however, it is almost as colorful. Although there are over 40 types of aglaonema, red aglaonema is seen during the Christmas season. Red aglaonema’s foliage lasts longer than the typical poinsettia. 2014 was the first time, I saw aglaonema being sold in nurseries in the Roanoke area. It was even sold in K-mart and Lowes.

Meaning of Aglaonema

Traditionally, aglaonema has been associated with good luck or something auspicious. The whole idea of luck troubles me. I couldn’t find the word “luck’ in the Bible, in Strong’s (2010) Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, or in Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (2011). Luck is ancient pagan concept. For me to say “Good Luck” to someone is denying that God is in control of their lives and they have to rely on capricious Lady Luck, whoever that is.

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Care for Aglaonema

Don’t refuse to purchase and enjoy a plant because superstitious individuals associate the plant with some idea or concept, e.g., luck, triumph, love. Buy it, and praise the Creator for the plant’s beauty. If you purchase an aglaonema, you do not want it to have direct sunlight. Rather, place it 6-10 feet from a window or glass door. It needs only 1-3 hours of indirect sunlight a day. Some nurseries identified that aglaonema were a good plant to place in an internal room, e.g., a bathroom or study because of the plants perchent for low-level lighting.

Water aglaonema when the soil is dry when you touch it with your finger. Never let aglaonema stand in water or dry out completely. Feed the plant about every two weeks to keep it looking optimal. Aglaonema doesn’t tolerate a temperature of less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set it out in a shaded area in the summer and in very warm climates plant it outdoors. USDA shows the plant as growing year around only in Florida.

Reflection: Consciously, I have tried to omit the words “good luck” from my vocabulary. Words that I substituted are “best wishes,” and “blessed.” Think about and respond to this blog with Godly hope/wishes to substitute in place of “good luck.”

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: December 27, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth, All rights reserved.

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Squill in Israeli Culture

This article was adapted from one written by the noted Israeli botanist: Prof. Avinoam Danin Published: January 17th, 2010 | Updated: 17/01/15

Squill should be regarded as a “regular” plant and not a “special” one because it is widespread and prominent in various seasons. It is found in all the 31 geographical districts of Israel and Jordan. It has many special “personal” features. It is one of the most prominent flowering plants in Israel and appears in many poems.

The plant was studied by Efrayim and Hanna HaReubeni, who saw in the plant many natural phenomena and close cultural links with the entire Middle East. In autumn, the sea-squill (Urginea maritima) terminates the growth cycle of a stem that started its development and leaf activity at the beginning of last year’s winter. It invites and hosts many insect pollinators in a season poor in flowers.

The plant’s name in Hebrew (HATSAV) is derived, according to HaReubeni (1941), from the similarity of the developing leaves as they sprout from the bulb at the beginning of winter, to the stone-cutters’ chisel. The word HATSAV in a Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary may surprise the reader (many are surprised at this): in addition to a plant, this word means a big jug or pitcher for storing oil or water. Think of the farmer plowing his field and uprooting a squill bulb with its leaves. He may hold the narrow part between the bulb and the leaves. The similarity between this and holding a jug by its “neck” is strong. The squill excels at developing large groups of bulbs (which will be called here “squill families”) and the development process of these “families” is poorly known to most people. Q

According to the Reubenis, the Hebrew name of the sea squill (HATSAV) derives from the sprouting leaves (left) which look like the chisel of the stone-cutter. In Hebrew-Hebrew dictionaries HATSAV is also a big jug or pitcher used for storing oil or water.

Squill sprouts after the summer drought dormancy. A few of the leaves are at the chisel stage, while others are already at the jug stage.

Symbolism:

Before I discovered the Israeli squill, I was ignorant (unknowing) of its existence and its characteristics. My ignorance didn’t harm or hurt the squill; it was still there and with the same characteristics. Many individuals in the world are ignorant about the Triune God. Their ignorance doesn’t mean He is not there or does not exist.  In this scheme of things, my being ignorant about squill has little impact on me or the plant. In contrast to the squill, if individuals are ignorant about God, their eternal destiny will be impacted. In reality, each of us has a responsibility to tell others of Christ as our Savior.

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, November 10, 2017

Please check my website for books about Bible plants to include parables illustrated by plants.

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Oleander, A Bible Rose

References: Sirach 24:18; Sirach 39:13; Esdras 9:26

The Plant:

The website “Flowers in Israel” noted the following references:

  1. 2 Esdras 9:26: So I went my way into the field which is called Ardath, like as he commanded me; and there I sat among the flowers, and did eat of the herbs of the field, and the meat of the same satisfied me.
  2. Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 24:18: I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho.
  3. Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 39:17: By a voice he saith: Hear me, ye divine offspring, and bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters.

These references are from the Apocraypha, an addendum to the Bible which most Protestants don’t adhere to, but Catholics fully embrace. In these books the plant named is the “rose;” botanists translated rose as oleander. In Sirach 39:14 the section is identified “In Praise of Creation.”  Indeed, many individuals perceive the oleander as one of the more beautiful blooms in nature. H.B.Tristram in The Natural History of the Bible ” wrote that the oleander is unequalled for the gorgeous beauty of its flowers, which shed a glowing sheet of pink over the fringe of every lake and water-course for several weeks in the early summer.”

The oleander (Nerium olander) is a broadleaf evergreen plant that grows well in Plant Zones 8–10. I live in Zone 7. After two years of vegetative growth each summer, my oleander has yet to produce flowers. Perhaps the climate is just too cold here in Roanoke. The oleander received its name from the leaves looking like olive leaves.

The Oleander grows up to eight feet tall and horizontally to five feet. Supposedly it is a seasonal bloomer with blooms pink, purple, or white. Blooms have five petals and the flower is funnel-shaped. The oleander should grow and bloom in full sun to part shade. It requires little maintenance and is drought tolerant. Supposedly, oleander grow well in tubs which are taken indoors in winter. Promptly deadhead spent blooms to prevent seed pods (very unattractive) from forming.

Symbolism: Sin

All parts of the oleander plant are poisonous if ingested. Plant saps can cause allergic skin reactions in some people. Smoke from burning plant material can be toxic. Ponder that something (the oleander plant) this beautiful to the eye is toxic to mankind. The oleander plant reminds me of many types of sin in our world. So many sins, i.e., beautiful, sleek, fast cars; seemingly glitzy life styles of the rich and famous; sumptuous banquets with an overabundance of rich foods to include desserts, are attract the eye but when consumed are poisonous.

Reflection: Just as the oleander plant is poisonous, so are certain sins that we encounter daily. The oleander plant is a lesson for Christians.

Copyright: November 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

For more information on Bible plants, visit my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Passion Flower and Fruit

Passiflora edulis commonly called passion flower, grows prolifically in Israel. It is a perennial vine with tendrils that help the vine to climb over trellis, fences, and sides of buildings. Passion flower is herbaceous and in colder climates dies to the ground. Supposedly, it grows in Plant Zones 5 – 9 in the United State. Passiflora edulis is thought to be drought tolerant and attracts butterflies therefore has the potential to be a popular plant. It grows in full sun to part shade.

In the United States, this passion flower is native in southeastern states. Although here in Virginia the Passiflora flower is purple, my friend in Missouri has a plant which looks identical and is named Passiflora incarnate and the flower is white. The fruit from the flower is named Maypops because it gives forth a popping sound when stepped on. Maypops are green in the summer and became yellowish in the fall. They are edible. When opened, the Maypop fruit is comprised of opaque, white, little balls. The little balls are juicy and taste like lemons. If used to make lemonade, the ade will taste like it has too much water. The taste of the maypops is very light.

Symbolism

Passiflora was a name given to this showy flower when it was first described by missionaries in South America (Brazil, Paraguay). These missionaries believed that they saw various aspects of the passion of Christ immediately before and after his crucifixion. The coronal threads were seen as a symbol for the crown of thorns; the curling tendrils as the cords of the whip used to scourge Jesus. The five stamen were identified with the wounds that Christ received at his crucifixion. The three large stigmas for nails on the cross (one for each of his hands and one where Christ’s feet were placed one on top of the other and a single nail hammered into both of them. The five petals and five sepals of the flower refer to the 10 “true” apostles. Neither Peter who denied Christ and Judas who betrayed him were considered “true” apostles.

Reflection

Before I read about the symbolism of the passion flower, I thought it was beautiful to look at, both in its purple and white colors. Now, I look at the plant and see the passion of Christ. Possibly, I was happier when I could just enjoy the beauty of a flower without attempting to see the various allusions to Christ’s passion in the flower’s beauty. What about you? Do you sometimes just want to enjoy the beauty of a plant and omit the deep symbolism of it?

Copyright: October 29, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

Please visit my website: www. CarolynRothMinistry.com to see books which contain plants in the Bible.

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Obtuse Maple

Scripture: Genesis 30:37

The Story:

In New International Version Study Bibles (NIV) and in the English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible, Genesis 30:37 reads: “Jacob, however, took fresh cut branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.”  In contrast to these Bible translations, the Darby Bible (DBY) recorded the same verse as “And Jacob took fresh rods of white poplar, almond-tree, and maple; and peeled off white stripes in them, uncovering the white which was on the rods.” In Darby’s translation, the plane tree was translated as maple.

The Tree:

In present day Israel, only one type of maple tree grows, the Syrian maple (Acer obtusifolium, Acer syriacum). The Syrian maple is considered a Mediterranean tree. In Israel, it is present in woodlands, shrub-lands, and around Mount Herman. Most likely, Jacob would have had access to the Syrian maple tree if he opted to use it as he attempted to control the color of flocks. At the time Jacob was living in an area which today is most likely part of Syria. Looking at the photograph of young Syrian maples, it is easy to see why Jacob could have used the Syrian maple if he wanted spotted flocks.

In Latin, the word for maple is “Acer,” which means sharp, irritating, and pungent. Romans used the wood for spear shafts. The Latin word “obtusifolium” is translated as blunt, obtuse, or dull and folium as leaf.  Obtusifolium means this maple tree has a blunt leaf.

Leaves are green and in pairs on opposite sides of a stem. This tree sheds its leaves during summer months when weather is scorching hot in Israel. Flowers, which appear on the Syrian maple in April, May, and June are greenish cream. Flowers turn into seeds which are startling in their pinkish red color.

Symbolism:

 The more I learn, the more I could get confused about some of the technicalities of the Bible. For example, did Jacob use a maple or a plane tree? The answer is that the Bible was not written as a book for botanists (as much as I would have liked that). Rather, the Bible was written to disclose the Triune God. Studying God is a better use of our time than trying to figure out the exact species of tree used by Bible characters.

US Equivalent:

In the United States, the maple tree is the Acer saccharinum (Silver maple). This beautiful tree can grow to 100 feet tall. It has high wild-life value and is loved by birds, squirrels, fox, and other small mammals. In springtime, flowers appear before leaves and are a welcome harbinger of warmer days.

Reflection: When you read the Bible do you get bogged down in details such as the one in this blog, or are you able to concentrate on God and his Son’s redemptive work on the cross?

Copyright September 26, 2017; all rights reserved.

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible consider purchasing my two books on Bible plants from my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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De-LEAF

1-DSC05874Leaves drop  from trees in the autumn season. We used to call them “fall leaves” because trees dropped them mid-to-late autumn or fall.

At one time, children raked leaves; however, now leaves are blown onto a pile and vacuumed into a truck to be dumped in the land fill!

If leaves didn’t fall, then trees would have no space for new leaf buds  in the spring.

Perhaps our lives are the same way, i.e, if parts of us don’t die and fall off,  there is no room for new growth.

Reflection: Do you want new growth in your life? If so, what are you willing to let fall or give up?

Copyright December 11, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Resilient Hawthorn

 

In the Bible

The Bible mentions the hawthorn tree only once (Job 30:4). In Job, often Bible translations don’t use the word hawthorn; rather broom tree is used.  One hawthorn trees grow in the Israeli landscape:  Crataegus aronia also known as Crataegus azarolus and commonly called the spiny hawthorn. It is deciduous (not an evergreen) tree . In ancient Israel, it grew on both sides of the Jordan River. Some believe the crown of thorns worn by Christ was made from the hawthorn; but likely the crown of thorns was made from another plant.

Tree characteristics

Crataegus means strong or sharp point in Greek. The Greek name is appropriate because the tree is strong and has thorns (sharp points). In the United States, the primary hawthorn tree is the Crataegus phaenopyrum. We call it the Washington hawthorn. American gardeners love this tree because in spring it has a beautiful cream to white flowers which turn into red berries (about ¼ inch in diameter) in autumn.  

Generally, hawthorn berries remain on trees throughout the winter. Birds and squirrels eat them. If any berries are left over in the spring, migrating spring birds finish them.

Another plus for the Washington hawthorn is that in autumn leaves turn copper to scarlet. They are spectacular. Trees are small to medium size and rarely reach over 30 feet in height although the crown spreads up to 30 feet. Washington hawthorn are tough trees which survive through droughts and don’t seem to be bothered by urban pollution. Often, trees are planted closely together to give

privacy. The tree prefers full sun and grows best in an acid to neutral pH. In the U.S., the Washington hawthorns grows readily in plant hardiness zones are 4 – 8.

Thorns and Legends

The downside to the Washington hawthorn is its thorns, particularly if planted in a play area. Alternatively, thorns can assist when the tree is planted to promote privacy. Depending on the variety of hawthorn, the thorns on the tree’s branches, twigs, and even trunks can be straight or curved. Some thorns measure

up to four inches long. Not only can the thorns cause puncture wounds, there have been responsible for bacterial infections and allergic reactions. A United States legend is that Paul Bunyan used a hawthorn tree as a back scratcher because of its thorns.

In our church Bible garden, we have several redbud trees which are aged. I am considering planting the Washington hawthorn when the redbud trees finally succumb to age. The Washington hawthorn is more stable than both a redbud tree and the Bradford pear tree which is a common tree in southwestern Virginia.

Reflection: Resilient, drought tolerant, grows in diverse environments. Does that describe you?

Copyright September 26, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth. All rights reserved.

Note: Please check out my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com for books on Bible plants. Much of the material for this post was from the Arbor Day Foundation and Missouri Botanical Garden.Save

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I Want Garlic!

Reference: Numbers 11:1-6

Story: After the Tabernacle was built and dedicated, the Israelites set out from the Mount Sinai area. Soon afterward, a group of individuals called “the rabble” began to complain about the hardships they encountered. Most scholars believe that the rabble were not Israelites; but opportunists who opted to leave Egypt when the Israelites slaves were allowed to leave. By this time, God was feeding the Israelites with manna.

One complaint by the rabble was that they craved food other than manna. Hearing the rabble complain, the Israelites joined their complaints. Both groups wailed and said:  If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never have anything but manna (Numbers 11:4-6).

In response, God did two things: 1) he gave the people quail to eat and 2) he killed all complainers. The Israelites buried them. The name of this place was Kibroth Hattaavah and it appears to be about 45 miles northeast of Mount Sinai.

Garlic was one of the foods that poor individuals and slaves ate in Egypt. In the United States, we use garlic as a seasoning or garnish, i.e., in stews, roasts, salads and on top of bread. Possibly garlic was more of a food staple in Egypt. I can imagine after over a year of eating manna, the rabble and some Israelites were tired of the monotony eating a relatively bland diet of manna. Thus, their complaints.

Growing Garlic: Garlic (‎Allium sativum) is easy to grow and produces numerous underground bulb. Plants are frost tolerant! Garlic can be planted early in the spring but bigger and more flavorful garlic comes from garlic planted in soil and allowed to overwinter there. Break apart cloves from bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove. Plant cloves about one month before the ground freezes. Place cloves 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, in their upright position (the wide root side facing down and pointed end facing up.

Mulch heavily with straw. In the spring remove the mulch after the last frost. Larger garlic bulbs will result if you cut off flowers that emerge in the spring. Over the summer fertilize with nitrogen especially if you see leaves turning yellow. Water every 3-5 days but do not let garlic stand in water.

Do not plant garlic cloves from the grocery store. They may be unsuited varieties for your area, and most are treated to make their shelf life longer. Obtain garlic cloves from a mail order seed company or a local nursery.

Symbolism and Application: Beyond its intense flavor and culinary uses, this “stinking rose” is an insect repellent and has been used for centuries as a home remedy. I believe that the symbolism of garlic is stink. The rabble in the desert stunk and their stink contaminated others, i.e., Israelites. Garlic acted as a bad apple that contaminated the bushel of apples because of its disease. The rabble stunk up or contaminated some true Israelites.

About 30 years ago I attended a certain church. By the time of this incident, I had been attending about 5 years. One night I received a telephone call from a relatively new church member. He began to tell me all the things that were wrong with the preacher. I listened and mentally I agreed with some things and some I disagreed with; however, I didn’t refute anything he said. At the end of his descriptions, he asked me to join a group who was trying to oust the preached. My answer was “No, thank you, I do not want to go this direction.” I always wondered why he joined the church if he disliked the pastor so much. There were plenty of other churches of that same denomination in the community.

Reflection: Garlic stinks and when eaten often causes bad breath. Christians who consume garlic-type foods can have bad breath when they witness to others.

Copyright: August 5, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my webpage (www.CarolynRothMinistry.com) and look at my blog on Bible plants to read more on plants in the Bible.

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Samuel and the Vineyard

Grapes from Gimso IsraelBible Reference:  1 Samuel chapter 8.

Samuel was a priest, a prophet, and the last judge over Israel.  Samuel’s life was at the intersection of two time points in Israel’s history: (1) when Israel was a theocracy and judges conveyed God’s will to the people and (2) when there was an earthly king over Israel.  Samuel was about 65 years old when the leaders of Israel came to his home at Ramah.  There, Israel’s leaders requested a king.  Their reasons were 1) Samuel was old; 2) his sons did not walk in his ways; i.e, Samuel’s sons’ perverted justice by accepting bribes; and 3) like other nations the Israelites wanted a king who would protect them and fight their battles for them.

Samuel was not pleased that Israel’s leaders asked for a king.  Most likely, Samuel was hurt, perceiving that the Israelites were rejecting his judgeship.  For approximately 350 years, Israel was ruled by God through judges.  Now, during Samuel’s tenure as judge, they asked for a king.  Despite his feelings, Samuel took the elders’ request to God. Possibly, Samuel thought God would be jealous of his divine rule and reject the Israelite’s request.  God’s response was to assure Samuel that the tribal elders were not rejecting Samuel, but that they were rejecting him (God).  God told Samuel to accede to the Israelites request for a king; but to first warn the Israelites what a king who ruled over them would do.  Acting on God’s direction, Samuel told the Israelites that a king would:

  • Take their sons to man and equip his chariots and horses, serve as warriors, make weapons of war, plow the kings ground, and reap the king’s harvest.
  • Take their daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.
  • Give to his officials and attendants the best of their fields, vineyards (grapes), and olive groves and 1/10th of their grain and vintage (wine).
  • Take the best or their cattle and donkeys and 1/10 of their flocks.
  • Take for his use their menservants and maidservants

Samuel warned the Israelites that they would become the king’s slaves. When this happened, the Israelites would cry out to God, but God would not answer them. The Israelites refused to listen to Samuel’s warnings; emphatically, they asked for a king.  Once again Samuel took their demands to God.  God’s response was, “Listen to them and give them a king” (1 Samuel 8:22). Chapter 8 ends with Samuel telling the men of Israel to go back to their own town.  Chapter 9 begins with the story of the first king of Israel.

The Grape Vine

The plant that illustrates Samuel’s message to the Israelites is the grapevine. The grapevine is one of the seven plants that God told the Israelites would be available to them in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:8).  In ancient Israel, grape vines were a principle crop because grapes were used fresh or dried or made into wine. Taking the best of an Israelite’s vineyards could deprive a family of food and/or affect their income. Vitis vinifera is the botanical name for the grape that grows in Israel.  In ancient Israel when a family had only a few vines in the yard, often the vines remained laying on the ground.  The V. vineifera fruit is the grape.  The best grapes  are obtained when vines are pruned.  Wine is fermented grape juice.  Although the Negev was a popular area for wine growing in ancient times, today there are wine regions all over Israel.

Symbolism: Destiny

The grape vine and vineyards are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible.  At times the vine referred to peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4, and Zechariah 3:10).  At other times, the vine was associated with the Israelites and their destiny as God’s chosen Old Testament people (Psalms 80:8-16 and Isaiah 1:5-8).  Destiny means a predetermine course of events. Israel’s destiny was that God be their king; he was to be the watchman over the vineyard Israel (Psalm 121:3-4).  In Old Testament Israel, large vineyards were surrounded by a thorny hedge or stone wall.  A tower was placed in the vineyard for a watchman to guard the vineyard from thieves and/or destroyers.

Psalm 80 provides a succinct description of Israel as a vine and Israel’s destiny.  God brought a vine out of Egypt and drove out the nations and planted the vine in Canaan/Israel.  Initially the vine grew and flourished.  Then, the Psalmist laments, “why have you broken down its wall so that all who pass by pick its grapes?” (Psalm 80:12).  Regardless of the Psalmists lament, we must remember that the Israelites, not God, changed their destiny.  Had they continued in obedience and trust, God would have remained their watchman.  Certainly, Samuel’s warned the Israelites what their destiny would look like under an earthly king and numerous prophets warned them against rejecting God and turning to idolatry.

Despite Israel rejecting their God-given destiny, God did not leave the Israelites without hope.  In Zachariah, God told the Israelites that he would send them his servant, the Branch and remove the sin of the land in a single day (Zechariah 3:8–10). The branch is a title for the Messiah.  On the day Christ was crucified a way was opened to removed sin from Israel and the world.

What this story means for the 21st century

God has appointed a destiny for Christians, unbelievers, men, and women. This life or death destiny applies to all people.  Jews and Gentiles no longer have separate pathways to everlasting life (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Saint Paul described that destiny as, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  The true and absolute pathway to life is through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Reflection.   Spend some time reflecting on your final destiny. Are you sure about it or do you have some doubts?  If so, read Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and John 3:16.  Then, talk to God about your life. Ask God to forgive your sins through belief in his son, Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of every man and woman

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/.

Copyright November 4, 2011; carolyn a. roth

 

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