Winnowing Wheat, Winnowing Us

Girl winnowing wheat

Bible Reference: Matthew 3:12

John the Baptist parable on winnowing described separating chaff from wheat:

His winnowing fan (shovel, fork) is in His hand, and He will thoroughly     clear out and clean His threshing floor and gather and store His wheat in His barn, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out. Matthew 3:13 The Amplified Bible.

John spoke this parable to foretell actions of the coming Messiah (Christ). John preached personal acknowledgement and repentance of sins followed by baptism—full body emersion—in water as an outward sign of repentance. The water of baptism washed sins away. John didn’t stop with his message of repentance and physical act of baptism. John exhorted those baptized to change their behavior and bear fruit consistence with repentance (Luke 3:8-14). When the baptized asked him what they should do, John’s answer wasn’t that they quit their jobs; rather in their lives and jobs, they should act honorably, treat others fairly, and share with the less fortunate. For example, John told men with two tunics to give one to the man who had none. Soldiers should stop accusing people falsely and extorting money from them.

John the Baptist spoke bluntly to the multitudes that came to him for baptism; but reserved his worst denunciations for the Jerusalem’s elite, i.e., Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests. He called them vipers (Luke 3:7). The fierceness of his words, suggests firsthand knowledge of their behavior. Perhaps, when he rotated through the Jerusalem temple as a priest, John saw the excesses, insincerity, and, yes, even corruption that infected the leaders of the Herodian-style Jerusalem temple.

Separating Wheat from Chaff

In ancient Judea, wheat kernels (seed, grain) were separated from the chaff (stalks, straw) on threshing floors. Generally, chaff was unusable except as fodder for livestock. The farmer separated the wheat kernels from the chaff using a process called winnowing. Winnowing consisted of throwing the threshed material (chaff and grain) into the air with a fork or a winnowing basket. The wind separated the valuable grains of wheat from the chaff. Because wheat kernels were heavier than chaff, they fell to the ground. The lighter chaff, dirt, etc., were blown away by the wind. At times, farmers used fans to create air currents to blow chaff and other impurities away from the valuable wheat kernels.

Application

When John the Baptists told the parable of winnowing wheat and chaff, the spiritual reality was that the coming Messiah (Christ) would distinguish or separate the righteous from the unrighteous. Christ would critically analyze peoples’ hearts, not pious actions that were outward displays for show. John said that sincere, righteous individuals – the wheat kernels—would be taken and stored in the farmer’s barn, i.e., heaven. In contrast, the chaff, those with pretend piety, will be forever burned.

Reflection: God is not going to accept any dirt, chaff or straw into his barn. Where does that leave you and me?

Check out http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com books on plants.

Copyright August 11, 2016; all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Living by God’s Rules

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Bible Reference:  Isaiah 28:24-29

The parable of the plowman is a two stanza poem. The first stanza focuses on plowing the ground for planting and the second on threshing a crop. The poem ends with praise to God and the interpretation is unfolded. Although Isaiah lived most of his life in Jerusalem, the content of Isaiah’s book demonstrates a sure knowledge of ways crops were planted, cultivated, and harvested.

The immediate context for the parable of the plowman begins in Isaiah chapter 28, verse 9. The country’s leaders mocked Isaiah; but, more importantly they mocked God. The leaders asked: Who is God to try to teach us? Are we babies? Are we newly weaned children? No! They were adults and didn’t need detailed instructions from God, i.e., “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there” (Isaiah 28:10 NIV). The rulers in Jerusalem boasted they entered a covenant with death and the grave; thus, when a foreign nation invaded them, they wouldn’t be touched (Isaiah 28:14-15).

According to Isaiah, reality for both Israel and Judah will be different. Neither country is prepared militarily or spiritually for foreign invasion, an invasion that God will allow in judgment for their rejection of him and his laws. In order to achieve security for their land, citizens had to recognize and abide by God’s rules. Unfortunately, in Israel and Judah both leaders and citizens rejected God and God’s requirements for national and personal holiness. There was little, if any, justice in either Israel or Judah. Kings and leaders, insulated by their wealth, had almost no understanding of the everyday lives of the poor in their nations.

caraway-seeds

Caraway Seeds

In The parable of the plowman, two herbs were named, caraway and cumin. Caraway is highlighted in this entry. The caraway plant (Carum carvi) is an herbaceous biennial that is only about eight inches tall in year one. Foliage is carrot-like. In the second year, caraway plants triple their size, i.e., about 30 inches tall. Stems are thick and foliage is feathery.  Tiny white flowers appear on the umbels. Flowering begins in May and can last all summer. Dry flowers yield small hard brown seeds– the caraway spice.

Symbolism: Maturity

The result of the sins of Israel and Judah was God’s judgement on each nation and its people. Just like it takes two years for caraway to yield a crop of caraway seeds, so did it take a while for both the Northern and Southern kingdoms to mature in their sin. At any time in this process if God would have seen national repentance he would have forgiven and people and healed it.

In the United States, we will shortly elect a new president. I hear so much rhetoric about the short-comings of each candidate. I don’t hear anything about national repentance.  I don’t hear any reflection on how our country is maturing in its sinfulness; yet, year after year our personal and national sin becomes worse. At the same time, fewer and fewer voices speak out about national sin.

Reflection: Would you say that we in the United States have national sin as the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel had national sins. If you said “yes,” what should you be doing about them?

If you want to get more information on plants in the Bible, please see my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

Copyright: July 31, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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A Gardener’s Perspective

What can I say?

Destroyed Vineyards

This September 2015 photo shows the Cremisan Monastery and vineyards in Bethlehem. The winery uses local grapes to make fine wines at the site of an ancient church and also hosts tours. Local Palestinian Christians and Muslims work together in the vineyards. (Kevin Begos via AP)

Bible References: Psalm 88:8-13; Isaiah 5:1-6   

Introduction: Do you want your heart to break? Then, read these two parables about the Israelites rejection of God. The first is contained in Psalm 80. The second, in Isaiah, is called The Song of the Vineyard. Although written at two different times in Israelite history and by two different men, both parables are a cry of anguish from God directed to his chosen people. These parables identify God as the gardener and Israelite as his vineyard.

Back Story: After the death of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom divided (c. 930 BC). The Northern Kingdom, called Israel, included 10 tribes. The Southern Kingdom was known as Judah. At times Judah included both the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. At other times, Benjamin seemed more aligned with the Northern Kingdom. Levite towns were located in both Israel and Judah.

The first Northern Kingdom king introduced idol worship, which was embraced by much of the population. After 200 years (c. 722/721 BC) Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom. Most of its inhabitants were exiled throughout the Assyrian Empire. In the Southern Kingdom, Judah, descendants of King David ruled until 586 BC. Judah followed much the same path as the Northern Kingdom, albeit over a longer period of time. Judah turned from God to worship a myriad of idols. Jerusalem fell to the onslaught of the Babylonians and most of its citizens taken captive to Babylon.

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Interpreting Destroyed Vineyards: Isaiah declared, “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice; but saw bloodshed. God looked for righteousness; but heard cries of distress” (Isaiah 5:7 NIV). The spiritual interpretation for both Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5:1-6 is that there are consequences of sin. The consequence of Israel’s and Judah’s sins was that God abandoning them. God removed his protection from both kingdoms with the result that both was attack and ruined. In their pride both kingdoms forgot that God was their hedge. They believed that their armies were protection for their borders and for their populations.

In these two parables we glean another spiritual lesson: God’s judgment was proportional. After becoming a nation separate from Judah, Israel turned immediately to idol worship, e.g., Jeroboam set golden bull in Dan and Bethel and told his people that the bulls were the gods that brought them out of Egypt. Over 200 years, the nation’s population repudiated God almost completely. In response, God allowed the nation of Israel to cease to exist.

On the physical or natural level, the parables of destroyed vineyards included preparing and protecting a vineyard. Usually, ancient Israelites enclosed vineyards with fences. Often farmers dug a ditch around the vineyard. The earth from the ditch was thrown on the inner side of the ditch. Fence posts and thorny plants were placed on the berm. At other times, a wall of stones or sun-dried mud took the place of the earthen fence with its thorny plants.

God built a watch tower to protect his vineyard Israel; the watchman could see marauders coming from far away.  The vineyard was planted, “with the choicest vine” (Isaiah 5:2). Farmers traded for the best vines available or purchased the highest quality vines that they could afford.

As the vine grower devoted himself to the vineyard and grapes, God devoted himself to the Children of Israel. He did everything possible to select good vines, protect them, and promote good growth in them. When God anticipated a yield of good grapes from his vineyard, he got only bad grapes.  They produced disobedience, rebellion and idolatry. God is so disturbed that he asks: “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” (Isaiah 5:4 NIV).

Reflection:  The consequence of Israel’s and Judah’s sins was that God abandoning them. What do you think will be consequences of the United States of America’s rejection of Godly ways of living?

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible, go to my website www.CarolynRothMinistry.com and check out my two books devoted to plants in the Bible. Ascertain what God wants us to learn from them.

Copyright July 31, 2016; Carolyn Adams Roth

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Having trouble with wineberry

Reblogged from Mortal Tree posted on July 20, 2016.

Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) fruits on second year canes, this year being the third year my canes have been old enough to fruit but haven’t. The first two years late frost killed the second year canes (very frost sensitive), the later canes for that year coming up strong.

A dead cane and a live one coming from the same root.

This year frost wasn’t to blame. Leaves grew, buds grew, and I was very excited to finally get fruit. In the heat of summer, after growing some very promising looking buds, they are shriveling up and dying without handing over a single druplet. The first year canes look fine.

The same cane with buds a few months earlier.

They’re even in the really happy guild where I have had success getting fruit from the apple (fruiting again this year) and turnip rooted chervil, among others. From what I’ve read about its culture, this site should be kind to it. It’s an invasive species here in several states, although not in my area (yet). I would prefer to not wait until it intoduces itself as a weed in my area to finally get some fruit.

There is an especially good article here about the wonderful production it maintains in shade. Flavor is supposed to be very good too. I have yet to come across information about it being finicky and never making a solitary fruit.

I have very few theories what the problem could be accept some strange disease which I have yet to find the name of.

I find the canes’ furry red spines rather attractive as a winter and spring interest, and the canes’ premature deaths make more mulch for the guild without my giving any attention to pruning. So why not keep them in hopes some year they will decide they’re ready to fruit? Until then, I thought I’d start the conversation about what seems to be a rare problem.

Reblogged from Mortal Tree, June 20, 2016.

 

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Summer Interlude

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Summer Interlude

Ivy and honeysuckle climb
forbidden picket fences,
alabaster butterflies alight
upon the foxgloves,
lavender fields are fragrant
in the silver glow
of summer twilight —

I watch the seasons dance
upon your face,
feel the temperate breezes
heal
our winter-charred arms —

youth returns
if only for a fleeting moment
when amethyst and beryl,
topaz and peridot
explode
against the sapphire sky
of your smiling eyes —

I catch
diamonds and meteors
into the willow basket
of my daily bread.

D. G. Vachal © 2016

From Liliessparrowsandgrass.com

Siberian iris

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Such a “Little Devil”

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This small shrub is called a “Little Devil Ninebark”  (Physocarpus opulifolius). I bought it last year at the local Veteran’s Administration (VA) nursery because of its name and to help out the VA; I’m a veteran. I am not sure why it has the nickname Little Devil.  Nothing about it is devilish. It came through out Virginia mountains winter and is blooming again this year (Plant Zone 7). Blooms start about July and last into fall. The are a delicate pink. Little Devil is a good plant if you want fall blooms in your garden.

We have our Little Devil planted in semi-shade and it still does well. Supposedly it gets to about 4 feet tall; however, mine is about 30 inches. I have to admit I cut it back this summer because shoots appeared to be growing way taller than I desired. It was not harmed by my pruning.

I have no idea where the name “Little Devil” came from for this cute little flowering shrub.  By calling a plant a “Little Devil” or a child a “little imp” we trivialize their actions and moves the words into our common speech. When we do that, they become something common — perhaps we even give a half smile when we say the words.

Although there are perhaps demons/devils that have more power than others,  devils are devils. They are out to harm humans, particularly Christians. The Bible says our enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We are to resist the Devil and not to give him a foothold in our lives.

Reflection:  How do you resist the Devil? Do you even want to resist him or would you rather negotiate with him?

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 July 8, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Weary 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 depend on God; in fact He wants it that way.

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 16, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

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Daylilies

Mortal Tree

Daylilies (Hemerocalis fulva) are edge plants, growing on the edges of woods and roads, looking like a grass but not quite, sitting on the edge of good ground cover standards.


They grow in massive colonies along the roads, but don’t entirely exclude grass. If  they did, they are a little too tall to plant most perennial vegetables between. 

At the same time, they are a perennial vegetable themselves. In their home country of China, daylilies are prized for their buds and second day dried flowers called ‘golden needles.’


For me they’re easily available. If the roadcrew digs out the roadside ditches they are already dug for me. I just steal the big clumps to take home and divide.

Easily available and easily grown you could just throw them on the edges of the food forest and harvest the flowers not giving a care about what grows between them. They don’t…

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Parable: Trashy Thorns

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The Hebrews author inserted a short two-verse parable (Hebrews 6:7-8) to foster readers’ intuitive understanding of more difficult Christian doctrine identified in verses 4-6. He must have believed that an agricultural parable of the land producing crops versus thorns and thistles was an illustration that even the most urban reader of the first century would understand.

Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians, but had great applicability to Gentile readers. For centuries biblical scholars believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews. Within the past five hundred years other writers, i.e., Barnabas and Apollos, have been postulated. Who wrote Hebrews is not as important as its message.

Immediately prior to the parable of productive versus non-productive land, the writer reprimands readers because they were slow to learn (Hebrews 5:11-14). He wants them to become more mature in their faith, moving beyond learning or relearning elementary teachings about Jesus and Christianity to more mature doctrine (Hebrews 6:1-2).

What follows in Hebrews 6:4-6 is a series of statements that includes some of the most hotly contested beliefs among Christian scholars, not to mention among Christian denominations. The writer asked: if an individuals who has rejected Christ after he has been enlightened and shared in the blessings of the Holy Spirit be brought back to repentance?. He goes on to say, that these believers—who have fallen away—crucify Jesus all over again and subject Jesus to public disgrace.

Then, the writer provided this parable to illustrate his point:

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.                                                       —  Hebrews 6:7-8 NIV

Notice that the subject of the parable is the land – not rain, nor a farming process, not a crop, nor even a farmer, but land. The land receives rain and does something with the rain. In one instance the land responds by producing a useful crop. In other words, the land produced grains, trees, herbs, etc. that gave the farmer food for his family. Possibly, the crop was abundant enough so some could be sold and provide food security for an entire community. Other land responds to the rain by producing thorns and thistles. This land is worthless to that farmer. It is in danger of being cursed; in the end it will be burned.

Thorns Rhamnus_lycioides_branch

 Thorns were first mentioned in Genesis as a way God cursed the ground when he expelled Adam and Eve from Eden. Thorns grew on the acacia tree in the Sinai desert and on Jotham’s thorn tree in the Promised Land.  Isaiah warned Ahaz that the land around Jerusalem would become thorn infested because of his disobedience. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ asked if people can pick grapes from thorn bushes. As these exemplars show, many thorn producing trees and plants were mentioned in the Bible.

The Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus lycoides) is a slow growing thorn bush common in the Mediterranean Basin where Jewish converts lived in the first century Christian church. The buckthorn is an unattractive shrub that doesn’t normally grow in cultivated gardens or fields. It actually likes to grow in poor soil that is gritty and highly eroded. Along with the thistle, the buckthorn is the last species to disappear when livestock over-grazed an area.

Most gardeners and farmers do not view the Mediterranean buckthorn as attractive. Its form is tangled and many branched. Grayish stems are topped with thorny spikes. Small flowers are yellowish, inconspicuous, unattractive, and may appear in the winter. Fruit is small, initially green, but turns black when mature. Although birds like the fruit, humans find it bitter. It acts as a purgative and in large quantities is toxic to humans. Aphids are attracted to the Mediterranean buckthorn. If the buckthorn grows in a damp climate, it tends to develop fungal disease. Once aphids and fungus appear on plants, they often spread to more valuable plants in the area. Overall the Mediterranean buckthorn has no value for either man or livestock. Burning land that it inhabits is one strategy to get rid of it.

Symbolism – Trash

Throughout the Bible thorns don’t have a good reputation; often they symbolized desolation and devastation.  The Hebrew word for the thorn in Isaiah 7:23-25 is shayith which is translated as scrub, thorn, or trash (Strong, 2010).  Trash is debris from plant materials, something worth little or nothing, and something thrown away.  Trash is an excellent symbol for men and women who learned what Christ did for them, tasted the heavenly gift and goodness of the word of God, shared in the Holy Spirit and then turned back, or fallen away from the goodness of God. The outcome for these individuals is not the storehouse of God but a burning trash heap.

Reflection:  Consider the parable in this chapter.

  1. Will increasing the amount of rain that falls on the thorn-infested land, make the land more productive for crops?
  2. Will additional fertilizer add to the productivity of the land?
  3. What do you think God is going to do with the thorn-infested land?

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: June 20, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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