Persimmon Prophecy, It could happen to us

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“The men of Rhodes traded with you, and many coastlands were your customers; they paid you with ivory tusks and ebony” (Ezekiel 27:15, NIV). Ezekiel chapter 26 is named “The Prophecy Against Tyre” and Chapter 27 “The Lament over Tyre” (Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27, NIV).

The most outstanding sailors in the ancient world, the Phoenicians built Tyre. It was an important commercial center located on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre encompassed both a mainland city and an island city one-half mile offshore. Both parts were well fortified.

Probably, you remember the name Tyre because King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel married a daughter of the king of Tyre. The princess was named Jezebel, she was a Baal worshipper. After conquering Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre. The siege lasted 13 years. Although the Babylonians captured the mainland city, they were unable to capture the island city. Alexander the Great used lumber and construction materials from the main city of Tyre to build a causeway to the island fortress about 332 BC.

Ebony Tree

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The Ebony tree is the Diospyros ebenum (or D. ebenaster). The ebony tree is a hard, heavy, durable, close-grained wood that when polished will show a glistening shine. Ancient Greeks and Roman’s loved ebony because it could be made into beautiful furniture. Ceylon ebony wood was in such high demand that this tree species was threatened with extinction. In 1994 the World Conservation Union included Ceylon (Sri Lanka) ebony tree in the Red Book so that trees could not be readily harvested. Laws in both Sri Lanka and India prohibited international trade of the wood. The tree produces a persimmon-like fruit.

As you may suspect, we don’t have a Diospyros evenum in our church Bible garden. We do have a Diospyros virginiana. It is a persimmon species commonly called the American persimmon.  In the United States, the tree grows wild. Native Americans cultivated it for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times. The American persimmon tree grows 66 feet tall in well-drained soil. In summer, this species produces fragrant flowers. To obtain fruit you need a tree that produces female flowers and tree that produces male flowers. We have only one tree at this time, but I am considering getting another. Most cultivars set fruit without pollination. Insects and wind are primary pollinators. Typically fruiting begins when the tree is about 6 years old. The fruit is round or oval and usually orange-yellow, sometimes bluish, and from 0.79 to 2.4 inches in diameter. In the U.S. South and Midwest, fruits are referred to as persimmons. Often you will see persimmon jelly in fine stores.

Application

The great general Nebuchadnezzar was able to conquer Jerusalem, but not the island city of Tyre even after 13 years of trying. This bit of history caused me to suspect that if God had not abandoned Jerusalem it wouldn’t have been captured.

Tyre fell as Ezekiel prophesied or, more accurately, as God ordained.  This world is destined for destruction; then God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:2). Just as Ezekiel’s prophecy became reality, so will John’s revelation.

Reflection: No individual, city, or country can stand against God. I am okay with that fact. Are you?

If you are interested in learning more about Bible plants, see my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright September 13, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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God as a Gardener

Colleagues,

Here is my newest book; it focuses on parables in the Bible illustrated by plants. The publisher is selling the book for $27.99 (gasp); however, I have a few copies that can be purchased directly from my website at $15.00 plus shipping, handling, and tax.  Website is http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

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Beautifully Ugly

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Isaiah chapter 34 is titled “Judgment Against the Nations” in the NIV Bible.  In God’s description of judgement against Edom, he says, “Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strong holds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls” (Isaiah 34:13). The point that God is making is that Israel (and Judah) who trusted other nations for their defense rather than God would be overrun and destroyed. Equally true, the nations in which Israel put her trust would be overrun. Having thorns, nettles, and brambles overrun strongholds implies that people no longer living in these citadels and strongholds. If an individual were to enter these once well-populated, supposed secure areas, they would see jackals slinking around. At night owls that lived on rats and other rodents would hunt there.

Cotoneaster Bramble

Often the Bible bramble is a fast-growing, rough, and prickly shrub of the Rubus Family of plants. This Family contains blackberries and raspberries. Although both are good to eat, the bramble identified in Isaiah most likely was not one that produced any human food. They were just that – brambles that would have to be removed for people to live in the area.

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This photograph of a bramble it one that grows here in the mountains of Roanoke. It is called the cotoneaster (Cotoneaster frigidus) and in the Rosaceae (think rose) Family. I first remember seeing it when I was fishing in the Appalachian Mountains near Paint Bank, Virginia. It grew as a very thick hedge 3-4 feet tall. However, my neighbor has two cotoneaster bushes in his front yard that are about 12 feet tall. He planted them both sides of his front walk.  We live here in the Roanoke Valley (Plant Zone 7 a).  Cotoneaster had its origins in China.

Cotoneaster flowers are light white or light pink and bloom in May in the mountains. It is September, and my neighbor’s cotoneaster still has beautiful flowers. I purchased two cotoneasters and Bruce planted them at church in our Bible garden. They will get afternoon sun. Hopefully, they will make it through our winter.

What we can learn

I didn’t receive any consolation or encouragement from Isaiah’s words. My thoughts were that the United States has put her confidence in politics, money, military; rather than God. We have even built strategic alliances with other nations, NATO, OAS, etc. Yet, look what happened to ancient Israel when she did that. Where are our heads both as individuals and as a nation?

If I allowed myself, I could get depressed; however, I must always remember two things: 1) God is sovereign and 2) God  expects me to do my part to promote him and his kingdom. In the Fellowship of the Ring, an elf says something to the effect, “we fight the long defeat” (Tolkein). Like the elf character, I must continue to fight; but ultimately, I fight the long victory.

Reflection: Why did Isaiah write this Chapter? How can we see it as victory?

If you want to learn more about Bible plants, visit my website: CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright September 12, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Sunflowers

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My beautiful niece (Andrea Adams) took this photograph of sunflowers in the evening. To my knowledge sunflowers don’t grow in Israel, I least I never saw them there. Doesn’t really matter; what is important is that God made this flower for us to marvel at its beauty. Have you ever wondered as you look at the beauty of creation, how individuals can disbelieve in God?

In the context of this beautiful photograph, I want to share something that makes me very sad: For years I was a college professor. One place where I taught for 10 years was filled with intelligent, articulate women. Yet, so many of them didn’t believe in God; some were actively hostile toward Him. Currently, I follow their lives and thoughts on Facebook. There is a popular Christian song that asks, “what if you are wrong?”

Reflection: When Christ comes again, he will separate sheep from goats, those who believe in him from those who do not. We are all going to live forever; the question is where?

Copyright September 8, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Flowing River

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This beautiful photograph of a flowing stream was taken by Jim Forney, a friend at SJLC. What a talented, God-fearing man he is.

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Parable of Famine Bread

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Bible Reference: Ezekiel chapter 45

Heart of the Story: Ezekiel offered a parable of the famine that would come on Jerusalem

Back Story: Ezekiel was both a prophet and priest. He was taken to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar took Judah’s King, Jehoiachin, and 10,000 captive from Jerusalem to Babylon (597 BC). At that time, Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah as puppet king over Judah. After ruling for about five of six years, King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He ceased paying tribute and turned to Egypt for military assistance to throw off Babylonian rule. Subsequently, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. After about 18 months, the wall around Jerusalem was breached.

When Nebuchadnezzar and his army started for Judah, Jerusalem was flooded with refugees fleeing the countryside. The influx was so great that private homes, inns, and the temple courtyard were crammed with people. The poor set up tents in the streets or lay down wherever they found an empty space at night. People and noise were everywhere; smoke billowed from cooking fires. Although the situation was dire, it got worse after the Babylonians arrived. No additional food supplies entered Jerusalem. Human and animal refuse couldn’t be removed. Filth and stench were everywhere.

In Babylon beside Chebar River, God instructed Ezekiel to act out the siege of Jerusalem. The first action parable used a clay tablet to depict the Babylonians besieging Jerusalem. The second had Ezekiel lying on his left followed by lying on his right side. The third parable encompassed grains and legumes to make bread and to bake the bread.

Parable of Famine Bread: Some scholars advocated that Ezekiel 4:9-16 were two separate parables rather than one. I am describing them as one parable because they encompassed preparing and eating bread.

Here’s is God’s direction to Ezekiel: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side.”

Verse 9 describes substances that Jerusalemites will use to make bread during the siege of Jerusalem. Normally, bread was made from one type of flour, i.e., wheat, barley, millet or spelt. Legume flour was not common made into bread, however, when individuals lived in extreme poverty, beans in particular and occasionally lentils could be made into flour and used to prepare bread. Mixing flour from several sources demonstrated the extreme scarcity of flour that would occur during the siege. Scholars disagree whether the mixing of different flour sources in one vessel was a defilement (Deuteronomy 22:9), but all agree that dietary laws were compromised for the Jerusalemites.

“Weigh out twenty shekels of food to eat each day and eat it at set times. Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” The LORD said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”

Then Ezekiel responded to God: “Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has ever entered my mouth.”

“Very well,” God said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.” 

These three verses identified how Ezekiel was to bake the multi-flour bread. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, inhabitants would have to bake their bread over human excrement; therefore, God told Ezekiel to do the same. When Ezekiel objected God allowed him to bake his bread over cow manure. Jerusalemites didn’t have the luxury of using animal dung for baking. Near the end Jerusalem siege, no animals were alive in the city. All had been slaughtered and eaten. Human excrement was the primary source of cooking fuel.

Then, God  said to Ezekiel “Son of man, I will cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem. The people will eat rationed food in anxiety and drink rationed water in despair,”    Ezekiel 4:9-16, NIV Online

Interpretation of Parable of Famine Bread: God interpreted the action parable for Ezekiel and for us. The interpretation was that God would cut off the food supply for Jerusalem. Once the Babylonians arrived no food or refuse passed in and out of the city walls. Many people inside Jerusalem starved to death or died from disease. Often the dead could not be buried and remained where they died. Mothers killed and ate their children. Ezekiel’s action shouldn’t be interpreted as sympathetic magic where something done to a model or person has a similar act in reality. True, Ezekiel’s famine bread foreshadowed the starvation behavior of the Jerusalemites; but God, not Ezekiel, caused both the prophet’s actions and of people living in Jerusalem during the siege.

In a larger context, the siege of Jerusalem was a prophecy about judgment. The people of Judah sinned so long and to such a degree that God removed his protect around Jerusalem. When Ezekiel acted out the parables of the siege of Jerusalem, God still dwelled in Jerusalem temple. Before the Babylonian siege, Ezekiel recorded that God’s presence left both the temple and Jerusalem (Ezekiel chapters 10 and 11 NIV).

The Broad Bean

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The Book of Ezekiel is one of the most detailed and well-known references to grains in the Bible; but, we also learn, or relearn, that Israelites dried and crushed legumes (bean and lentils) into bread flour. For a plant in the parable of the famine bread, I have chosen to describe the bean. The bean was the Vicia faba, also known Vicia vulgaris, the broad bean, and the faba bean.  Beans were one of the oldest cultivated plants, at least 6000 years. Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.  The bean grows in all types of soil as long as the soil is well-drained. Although not drought-resistant, beans are hearty enough to live through mild frosts. In the Middle East, beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad beans can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight, but they do not tolerate maritime exposure.

Looking Outward and Deeper

The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 588 BC. About 18 months later the Jerusalem walls were breached. Nebuchadnezzar had no more patience with the rebellious Jews or his puppet king, Zedekiah. He had Zedekiah killed and the Jerusalem temple and major buildings destroyed. The wall around Jerusalem walls razed. Jews not killed by famine and plague were killed by the Babylonian soldiers. Only the poorest Jews were allowed to remain in Judah.

Reflection:  God said “The day is coming, when I will send a famine throughout the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11, NIV).  Do you believe this promise from God will occur in the USA?

I love studying about Bible plants. Do you? If so, please check my website for more information: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright August 23, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Blue Ridge Mountains

Calvin Mische took this photo of the BRM. I’ve named it “The Beginning of Time.”

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Something Different

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Prickly pear is a cactus-type flower that seems to grow many places. I’ve grown mine in Pennsylvania, west Texas, and now in the mountains of Virginia. The  ones I have produce yellow flowers. My sister, Julie, sent this picture from Arizona. Aren’t the magenta flowers beautiful and different?

In the winter in Pennsylvania and mountainous Virginia, prickly pear shrivels up and looks dead; however, when spring comes, pods fill up and looks healthy. Prickly pear cactus is drought tolerant. Generally, flowers bloom when it is very hot and after a rain. Mostly, flowers only last a day or two; but while they are in bloom, there is nothing more beautiful in a garden.

We are like prickly pear cactus. Although at times–especially when the environment is harsh–we shrivel up. Yet, we have the potential to produce breath-taking beauty in our lives.

Copyright: September 5 (Labor Day), 2016: Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Silence in a Garden

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Winnowing Wheat, Winnowing Us

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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.