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Drunk on Wine

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 9.20-29: Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years.

Meditation

 After emerging from the ark, the farmer Noah planted a vineyard. In the ancient near east, grapevines were valued. From grapevines, individuals made wine, ate fresh grapes,  and dried raisins to eat during times when food was scarce. Despite the clear value of vineyards, often the grapevine didn’t elicit positive images in the Bible.

Frequently, when Old Testament prophets referenced vine or vineyard, they spoke about judgment that God would bring. Noah made wine from the grapes. He drank the wine and became drunk. This  Bible story as old as 5000 years recounts the effect of over-indulgence in alcohol.

My discomfort with this Bible narrative in which Noah became drunk and his offspring ridiculed his nakedness,  is that the righteous Noah took no responsibility for his own actions, i.e., over-indulging in alcohol to the point of drunkenness. Instead, Noah cursed his grandson, Canaan, for displaying and ridiculing Noah’s nakedness. True, Canaan’s actions weren’t admirable; but, neither were Noah’s in the matter of drinking wine to the point of drunkenness.

So many things in our world are intoxicating, even addicting,  besides alcohol. It is possible to be addicted to things that we don’t eat or drink. We can become addicted to television programs, pornography, romance novels, praise, money, shopping, etc. I wonder if an accountability partner can assist us to be free of addictions.

Reflection: Have you ever over-indulged in alcohol (or something else)? What happened? Did you harm yourself? Do you have regrets? Where does blame lie?

Copyright: 7/17/2020

Good News in Nature Book Trailer

Are you malicious?

Zilla spinosa plant

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 4.17-24: Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Meditation

In Genesis, individuals are named after plants and plants are named after individuals. Zillah, the second wife of Lamech, was named for a relatively ugly, spiny plant with beautiful lavender flowers. We know little about Zillah; perhaps she was ugly in words and actions. Alternatively, she may have been like a lovely flower.

We are told that Zillah’s husband, Lamech, was a murderer. He admitted to his wives that he murdered a young man because the young man injured him.

A brier that Ezekiel identified is associated with the zilla plant. Briers are ugly with sharp spines that can tear skin. Ezekiel wrote, “No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns (Ezekiel 24.28).

The maliciousness that Ezekiel referenced means a desire to cause pain, distress, or injury to another. Malicious isn’t an inadvertent causing of pain, distress, or injury; it is intentional. When Lamech murdered a young man, he acted with purpose and was malicious. Equally true, adjacent countries’ peoples treated Israelites maliciously, that is, intentionally ugly.

Recently, a dear friend told me that a mutual friend’s words hurt, i.e., she believed the friend was intentionally ugly to her.  At about the same time, the mutual friend shared that she was hurt by my dear friend’s malicious words.

Ponder the best response to each person’s belief that the other was malicious. Dear Abby would advise that you tell each friend to talk with the other. The question is what should be a loving Christian response?

Reflection: Let’s each look at our own behaviour. Do you ever act in a malicious way to another individual? Think about those comments you post on social media.

Eternal God, you do not change. You have revealed yourself to me in your Word. You call me to worship you in spirit and in truth. But I confess that I often worship not your true self but who I wish you to be. I too often ask you to bless what I do rather than seeking to do what you bless. Forgive me for seeking concessions when I should be seeking guidance. Forgive me when my worship shapes you into what I want instead of shaping myself into what you want. Help me to meet you here, that I might bow before your unspeakable majesty and so live for you now and ever, in Christ. Amen.

Copyright 6/16/2020

Fruit of the Soil

 The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 4.1-7: Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

 Meditation

Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was a farmer and Abel herded sheep and goats. Both Cain and Abel brought thanks offerings to God. Each set of gifts reflected their vocation. As a farmer, Cain offered fruit from labour in his fields.  As a herder, Abel offered the fat portion of the first born of his flocks. God rejected Cain’s offering, but, accepted Abel’s offering. Many of us wonder why God rejected Cain’s offering. Both offerings were from the brothers’ toil.

Some Bible scholars suggested that God rejected Cain’s offering because Cain didn’t shed blood, i.e., sacrifice an animal, to make the offering. Others identified that the discord was an allegory for the conflict that occurred in early times between farmers and herders.

Careful reading of this Genesis story suggests a different perspective. Notice, Cain offered God some, but not necessarily his best, crops. In contrast, God accepted Abel’s sacrifice because Abel gave the best from his flocks, i.e., fat portions of the first born of his flock. Perhaps, God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice because he didn’t give his best to God.

Have you ever wondered where Cain’s best crops went? Would Cain have taken them to his mother, Eve,  who doted on him as her first-born son? Because of Eve and Cain’s close relationship, Cain may have wanted the  best for his mother.

Very likely, Eve never told Cain to bring his best crops to her; but, Eve praised Cain when he offered her succulent, beautiful produce. Perhaps, Eve’s influence on Cain was emotional, she appealed to his heart. Cain may have wanted recognition for his hard work. That recognition most often came from his mother.

Reflection: We shouldn’t put anyone or anything before God and surely not encourage loved ones to put us before God. What do you put before God?

Copyright 6/16/2020

Parables Illustrated By Plants

Avoiding Life

“On each side of the river stood the tree of life …. yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22.1-3 NIV).

 In Genesis chapter three, God cursed the earth to include plants. In this curse, God provided hope to Adam and Eve; that is they would be redeemed. God made no mention of restoration of plants.

When I get to heaven, I want to see flowers—flowering trees, flowering shrubs, and all manner of plants that produce flowers. When I am sad, I look at a plant and my emotions immediately lift. Inside my house, I have flower figurines. Doilies and placemats have flower designs. Even clock faces include flower illustrations. No wonder I look for evidence of plant restoration in the Bible?

At first, I concluded that of 1089 chapters in the Bible, only one (Revelation chapter twenty-two) gave specific information on the restoration of plants in contrast to the many chapters that identified redemption of people. A closer look showed that plant restoration was a theme throughout God’s word.  Plant restoration is tied to the restoration of creation. God promised that: “There will be a time for restoring of all things” (Acts 3.19-21 NIV). “All things” includes plant life. God promised mankind that he will hear them if they confess their sins, will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7.14 NIV).

Today, God waits for us to confess our sins so he can forgive us and heal the United States of America.

In the new heaven and new earth, plants in chapters two through eight (the bad/harmful plants) will no longer be present, or they will no longer have a harmful component. The Syrian thistle may have its beautiful purple flower, but not harmful spines. Poison hemlock with soft beautiful white flowers will no longer yield poison. No child or pet will become sick, and even die, if they eat lily bulbs thinking they are wild onions.

Gardening Genesis

Colleagues, this is my latest book. It contains 40 meditations on the symbolism of plants in Genesis. As always, the focus is how to live a more productive Christian life. Visit my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com to purchase.

Poison

Bible References: Amos 6.12.

Amos was a minor prophet who ministered for about a ten-year-period, 760-750 BC. When God called Amos to be a prophet, he was a herdsman and tended sycamore trees. Amos’s home was Tekoa, about twelve miles south of Jerusalem; however, Amos completed most of his ministry in the area of Bethel, the Northern Kingdom’s main sanctuary. At Bethel, Jeroboam I set up a golden calf soon after the ten Northern tribes formed an independent kingdom.  Jeroboam I told inhabitants in the Northern Kingdom that the calf was their god. All manner of pagan worship practices occurred at Bethel. At the time Amos prophesied, the Northern Kingdom was politically secure and prosperous under the rule of Jeroboam II.

Amos was a vehement spokesman for God’s justice.  He argued that true righteousness and piety were displayed through social justice for all citizens.  Although Amos didn’t identify Assyria as the means of God’s judgment on the Northern Kingdom, he warned them that God’s judgment was fast approaching.  The judgment would be more than military conquest and tribute to a foreign conqueror.  It would involve total destruction of the Northern Kingdom as a nation and dispersion of citizens to foreign lands.  Amos accused leaders and ordinary citizens of turning justice into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into a poisonous plant, hemlock.

Many plant scientists speculated that the gall offered Jesus at his crucifixion contained poisonous hemlock. If Jesus consumed the gall, he would have died of respiratory muscle paralysis, rather crucifixion. In about 399 BC, the Greek philosopher Socrates was condemned to drink poisonous hemlock and die.

The botanical name for the hemlock plant is Conium maculatum. It is indigenous to Eastern Mediterranean countries where it is classified as a toxic weed.  The poisonous hemlock shouldn’t be confused with the Canadian hemlock tree or the American water hemlock tree.

Leaves and seeds are harvested for medicinal purposes; however, medicinal uses of hemlock are limited because between the dose between therapeutic and poisonous levels is so small. Sometimes children see the plant top, mistake it for carrots or parsley, and eat it.  Because hemlocks are rare in North America and initially hemlock signs and symptoms mimic other acute conditions, physicians may not diagnose hemlock poisoning when children are present in emergency departments

At times the hemlock plant was associated with bitterness, calamity, and sorrow.  In Amos, the Hebrew word laʽǎnâh was used for hemlock; the word laʽǎnâh comes from an unused root meaning “to curse.”  Bitterness, calamity, sorrow, and curse are all word-candidates for the symbolism of poisonous hemlock; however, the best symbolism is the simplest. That word is “poison” or “poisonous.”  A poison is a substance that kills, injures, or impairs; it is destructive, harmful, and corrupt. “Poison” described the hemlock plant and optimally depicted the words and behaviors of Northern Kingdom leaders and citizens.

When I first looked at the behavior of the Northern Kingdom people, I thought, “I’m never going to act like they did; nor say and do the things they did.”  Then, I recalled some Bible teachings on poison and the tongue.  In Psalms, we can read that evil persons make their tongues as sharp as the poison of snakes.  Similarly, James pointed out that individuals have tamed all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures; but, can’t tame the tongue. The tongue is a restless evil, full of poison. James said that the tongue is set on fire by hell, which is a figuratively way of saying by the devil.

Reflection: Some days my tongue is so sharp that I am embarrassed by words that come out my mouth. I wish I had never spoken some of them. On those days, my words aren’t from God. They do Satan’s handiwork.  I need, and maybe even you need, to resolve and pray to keep the poison from coming out my mouth. We need to pray that poison will cease spewing from the mouths of politicians.

Wormwood, A bitter herb

Bible References: Deuteronomy 29.18; Jeremiah 9.15, 23.15; Lamentations 3.15, 19; Amos 5.7; Revelation 8.1-11.

When Old Testament authors referred to wormwood, the wrote about bitterness and poison. Most illustrated punishment from God because of Israelites’ behaviors. Old Testament events are presented as lessons for those of us living today. In the New Testament, an episode that named wormwood was a prophecy and called mankind to repentance.  The prophecy described a future sign which would occur near the end of the age.

In Revelation chapter eight, John described a vision in which seven angels, each with a trumpet, stood before God. The angels were ready to sound trumpets, initiating judgments on the earth. The third trumpet signaled a blazing star to fall on  earth. This blazing star was called Wormwood (absinthŏs in  Greek).

My conjecture is that Wormwood will be a meteor from outer space. When meteors enter the earth’s atmosphere and start to burn they are called meteorites. In the United States, children call them “shooting stars.” Most meteorites disintegrate by burning before they hit the earth’s surface.  If a sufficiently-large meteorite enters the earth’s atmosphere and doesn’t disintegrate, it hits the earth’s surface. A huge cloud rises. Dust and particulates in the cloud spread around the globe moved by winds and the rotation of the earth.

According to Revelation, the meteorite Wormwood will contain a contaminate that turns one-third of the earth’s fresh water bitter; or somehow release pollutants from the earth’s crust that contaminates one-third of fresh water sources. Many people will die from the contaminated water. John’s description in Revelation sounds like a nail-biting science-fiction movie.

 

The plant wormwood is one of over 300 species of artemisia; appearance varies from plant-to-plant. The artemisia that grew in Bible Israel is Artemisia arborescens, called the tree wormwood.7 Erect branches can reach ten-feet tall. Leaves have fine hairs on their surface. These hairs are thought to cool and defend the plant. Many artemisia produce cinole which gives them a camphor-like aroma; however, don’t be surprised to find some artemisia smell acrid and unpleasant.28 Artemisia are grown for foliage.

 

With the exception of rue, artemisia is the bitterest herb. The bitter taste is due to thujone content in artemisia. Artemisia leaves flavors stew and sauces; only small quantities of dried or fresh herb is needed. Artemisia leaves are used in tarragon vinegar. A. absinthium is a flavoring in alcoholic liquors, i.e., absinthe, campari, and vermouth. Ancient medicine  used artemisia in scores of concoctions.28

In the Old Testament, often wormwood was used as a metaphor for a) idolatry of Northern Kingdom (Israel),  b) calamity and sorrow, and c) false judgments. The Wormwood star’s name in Revelation identified that its effects were judgment on mankind for idolatry and injustice. Idolatry is blind or excessive devotion to something or someone, i.e., money, prestige and degrees, charismatic individuals, and political parties and ideologies.

The calamity and sorrow associated with contamination of one-third of the world’s freshwater supply will be a consequence of mankind turning from God to idol worship. It is so easy for me to look at others and identify their idols. It is less easy for me to identify my own. Yet, God expects me to continually assess myself and to make adjustments in my thinking and behavior so they are more in line with his.

Reflection: Several times previously in this book, you read how harmful plants were symbols of idolatry. Given the number of times that idolatry appears in the Bible, God takes it seriously. Do you? When did you last assess your thoughts and behaviors to identify man-made idols in your life?

Aloe can be poisonous

Bible Reference: John 19.38-42.

When I contemplated writing about the aloe plant, I felt warm and comfortable because it is such a familiar plant. Since getting my first job, I’ve kept an aloe plant on the porch in summer and in front of a sunny window in winter. If I burned a finger when cooking or burned my forehead when using my curling iron, I rubbed aloe gel on the burn to take away the sting. Only recently, did I learn that aloe had a poisonous component.

In the Old Testament, aloe (called agarwood) developed from a fungal infection in the eaglewood tree. Agarwood was cut in small pieces and used as a perfume. In the New Testament, most likely the source of aloe was  different than Old Testament agarwood.

After Jesus died by crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped his body in stripes of linen and seventy-five pounds of mixed aloe and myrrh. Jews used myrrh to cover the smell of the decaying body.  Scholars suggested that because aloes have little odor, aloes were used to “fix,” or hold the scent of myrrh. Aloe gel is moist and slightly sticky. Perhaps, aloe gel “fixed” myrrh crystals in linen cloths and held cloths together and to the deceased’s body.

The New Testament aloe is Aloe vera (A. barbadensis, A. vulgaris, and medicinal aloe). A. vera is a perennial in Israel; however, in my area of the Appalachian Mountains it grows as an annual. When A. vera  is harvested for its medicinal gel, older leaves are harvested because they contain more gel.  The out layers of the leaf feels rubbery and have soft spines on edges.

Aloe has been used in medicine for 3500 years. The first detailed description of aloes is in The Papyrus Ebers, c. 1550 BC. A. vera was used to treat worms and allergies, relieve headaches, soothe chest pains, burns, and skin ulcers, and treat the common cold. Dr. James Duke, head of the US Department of Agriculture, reported than many individuals wrote to him lauding aloe as a remedy for skin cancer.26 Currently, cosmetic companies use aloe in makeup, tissues, moisturizers, soaps, sunscreens, incense, shaving cream, and shampoos. Most cosmetic companies label all products that contain A. vera.

Despite the popularity of aloe, A. vera  has a dark side.  It isn’t widely known that both plants and gel can be poisonous. The poisonous compounds are aloin and anthraquinone c-glycoside. These compounds occur mostly on the inside layer of leaves. When harvesting A. vera gel, cut away the plant skin and retain only the actual gel. Although older plant leaves contain more gel, the inside layer of older plant leaves can be more irritating. This layer causes  contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. If the aloe plant is eaten, it can cause abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and red urine. Thankfully, red urine isn’t due to blood in the urine, but a compound in the aloe. Ensure children and pet companions don’t eat aloe leaves.

Jesus’s body was dead when Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped it in linen-infused myrrh and aloes. Aloes couldn’t heal him or take away the sting of his wounds. The healing aloes in Jesus’s burial cloths exemplified Jesus’s healing of mankind, not himself.

After Jesus’s resurrection some individuals in Judea and throughout the Roman Empire accepted healing from him. They accepted Jesus  as the promised Savior of the world. Many other individuals weren’t willing to be healed by Jesus. Some couldn’t comprehend that a man would die for their sins. Others simply didn’t believe that they were all that bad. Why would someone have to die for their few sins? For still others, it was easier to continue their same religious practices, i.e., make an animal sacrifice or give a little money into an offering box/plate, than to accept a new way of thinking. These individuals wanted to cover over the smell of their sins rather than be healed of those sins. The rationale and rationalizations that individuals used 2000 years ago for not accepting healing from Jesus are the same ones that individuals use today.

Reflection: Do you tend to rationalize your sins? Try to cover them over? Decide that they aren’t too bad? Ignore them? What could you do decrease those sins or better yet eradicate them completely? Contemplate/discuss how sin and obedience to national laws are the same and different to God’s laws.