Tag Archives: Bible Study

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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Ezekiel’s Bread

Millet berries, flourThe story of Ezekiel making bread from legumes and grains is told in Ezekiel chapter 4.

Ezekiel was a prophet and priest. About five years after he was deported from Jerusalem, God called Ezekiel to proclaim a message of judgment against the Jewish nation.  Much of the judgment focused on Jerusalem as the political, religious, and social hub of the nation. Ezekiel acted out the siege of Jerusalem in a series of symbolic acts. In the first, Ezekiel drew besieged Jerusalem on a clay tablet. In the second symbolic act, Ezekiel laid bound on his sides for 430 days representing the years of Israel’s and Judah’s sin.

Ezekiel’s third symbolic act about God’s judgment on Jerusalem represented famine. God told Ezekiel to bake a single cake of bread to eat every day. The bread was to be made from wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. Taken together the grains and legumes were to weigh 20 shekels, equivalent to about 8 ounces. With the bread Ezekiel should drink about 22 ounces (1.4 pints) of water.

While some of these legumes and grains were mixed together to make bread, it was unusual to make bread from all six of them. Several Old Testament scholars reported that the poorest people of the land combined the grains and beans with camel’s milk and oil to make bread; but poverty was not the issue in besieged Jerusalem  (Ezekiel 7:18-21). The problem was that basic foods were so scarce in Jerusalem that people did not have enough of one type of grain, e.g. barley, to make bread. People scoured for any grain or legumes available to make a loaf of bread.

God ended his instructions to Ezekiel on how to prepare the bread by explaining the symbolic meaning of Ezekiel’s activity.  God would break the supply of bread and water to Jerusalem. He would do this so that the Jewish people in Jerusalem would “waste away because of their sin” (Ezekiel 4:17, NIV-SB, 2002). The famine stricken Jerusalemites would be appalled at the sight of each other.

Millet

Most likely the Biblical millet was Panicum miliaceum. Supposedly a head of millet produces about 1000 seeds, thus the name miliaceum. Other names include the common millet and in the United States, the broom corn millet. Millet was one of the earliest cereal grains domesticated.  In Mesopotamia, millet dated back to 3000 B.C. No early traces of millet were found in Israel; millet was listed in only one of three Israeli plant databases studied.  Millet is the 6th most important gain in the world and helps feed 1/3 of the world’s population. The fruit is the millet seed. Each ripe cluster contains a multitude of seeds enclosed in a round, hard hull. Hulls are various colors from white through black and are removed via threshing.  The bran or seed coat is always creamy white. Millet is a gluten-free seed that has been described as tasting mildly sweet with a nut-like flavor.  Besides being cultivated for human food, millet is also used for bird and poultry seed.

Symbolism: Famine

Millet occurs once in the Bible, as one grain that Ezekiel used to make bread (Ezekiel 4:9).  P. miliaceum, the smallest of all cereal grains, symbolizes famine which kills millions of people.  Almost every time famine was seen in the Promised Land, it was God’s punishment for Israel’s sins. Often famine resulted from God withholding rains; but sometimes there were other causes of famine. For example, during the time of the prophet Joel, God used locust to create famine in Judah.The famine that God showed to Ezekiel occurred when the Babylonian army encircled Jerusalem, destroyed the produce of the land, and ensured that no one could get in or out of the city.

Although the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, the famine was God’s punishment on the Jews because they rejected him and worshipped idols. God told Ezekiel that 1/3 third of Jerusalem’s population would die of pestilence or famine, 1/3 would be killed by the sword, and 1/3 would be scattered to the winds with the sword pursuing them (Ezekiel 5:12). God foretold cannibalism in Jerusalem saying that fathers would eat their sons and sons eat their fathers (Ezekiel, 5:10).

Most of us don’t have experience with famine to the point of cannibalism. In fact, most of us have never been seriously hungry. Looking ahead, however, this scenario may be different.   Christ warned his disciple that near the end of the ages, famines and earthquakes would occur in various places (Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8). Even though we live in the United States with an abundance of food, we should not assume that our country will be exempt from the famine that Christ foretold. At the end of the ages, famine will not be restricted to sub-Saharan Africa or parts of southwest Asia.

In Revelations chapter 7, John recorded that the Lamb opened seven seals. Many scholars interpret the opening of seals as prophecy of what will occur on earth during the Great Tribulation. Opening the fourth seal set free a pale horse (Revelations 6:7-8) with a rider named Death. Hades followed Death. Death and Hades were given authority over ¼ of the earth. They were allowed to kill with the sword, famine, pestilence (epidemic disease), and wild beasts.  These disasters echo the punishment that God inflicted on Judah, whom he selected from all the races, nations, and tribes of the earth as his Chosen People.

Reflection. God punished Jerusalem and the Jews with famine. What does the future hold for you, our nation, and our world?

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 14, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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Rooted in God 2

Rooted in God 2 is a significant revision of my first book Rooted in God. Because my original publisher closed, I had to revise and republish the book (bah humbug). Rooted in God 2 is a Bible study but it is different from the Bible studies church members often engage in. This study is indeed rooted in God. Its focus is mankind’s interactions with plants and the symbolism of those plants in Holy Scripture. There are study questions at the end of the 15 chapters.

You can purchase Rooted in God 2 at a substantially reduced price on my website: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com. If you want to buy in bulk, contact me (carolyn.roth@ymail.com). I can reduce the cost of shipping for multiple books.

Blessings, Carolyn

 

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Job’s Tears

Reference:  Book of Job

If anyone had the right to cry it was Job. He lost his children, wealth, and health. His beloved wife advised him to curse God and die. Instead, Job tried to figure out what he did wrong that God punished him with major losses. Job and his friends, who came to console Job on his many losses, adhered to the Near East philosophy that God gave success and a good life to an individual when he/she obeyed God. When individuals suffered reversals or bad things happened to them, God was punishing them for sins, either overt or covert. In reality, Job’s circumstances were not punishment from God.

Job’s Tears

An ornamental grass, Job’s tears plants (Coix lacryma-jobi) represent the biblical Job during the challenges he faced. Job’s tears seeds are small and pea-like. They begin as grayish green orbs and then ripen to a rich tan brown or dark mocha color.

Job’s tears plants are an ancient cereal grain. Most often Job’s tears are grown as an annual, but may survive as a perennial where frosts do not occur. Job’s tears ornamental grass makes an interesting border or container specimen that may get up to six feet tall. These wide arching stems add graceful interest to the garden. Job’s tear plants produces strings of seeds that resemble beads. These seeds make excellent natural jewelry and have a hole in the center that wire or jewelry thread passes through easily.

Job’s tears are easy to cultivate and plants start quickly from seed. They self-sow and germinate readily when planted in moist loam. It is possible to save the seeds for an early spring sowing. Remove the seed in fall and dry them. Store them in a cool, dry location and then plant in early spring when all chance of frost has passed.

Application

When something bad or suboptimal happens to me, I always try to figure out why.  I ask God, “what do you want me to learn from this happening?” I apply my reason to the suboptimal event. Candidly, I am resentful on Job’s behalf. Some part of me thinks it is not fair that God allowed Satan to kill Job’s children.

The problem or challenge that Job had and that I have is that I imagine God in my image. Consequently, I impose on God my limitations to include my limited thought processes. In reality, God’s thoughts are so much higher than mine that I should not even try to figure out what He is thinking when something occurs in my life. I don’t think it ever occurred to Job, his wife, or friends that God’s power was being played out in the spiritual realm.

Reflection: Are you willing to trust God with your spouse, children, health, job, etc.? If so, what would you do differently in your life?

Copyright: August 3, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

Please check my website http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Spitfire

Crocosmia (Spitfire) is growing in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden. This plant was not identified in the Bible. I put it in the garden because I like it. The leaves are similar to those of an Iris, so I try to justify its inclusion on that basis. The flower is similar to an Israeli plant, the Chasmanthe floribunda, which is also called the African coneflower.  But, enough of my justifications for including it in this blog on Bible plants.

The Spitfire cultivar is know for its beautiful orange flowers. They grow in plant zones 5 -8 as perennials. Spitfire prefers full sun but wet soil causes rotting of roots. I have them planted two places. One, where I rarely water and they are growing vigorously. Another place gets water regularly and the long leaves have turned brown and there are few buds. Probably, I should transplant them to a dryer garden.

Application:  Have you ever thought about a Spitfire?  In the Bible, the word spitfire is not used. According to the Webster dictionary, a spitfire is a quick tempered or highly emotional person. In the Old Testament, Samson would have qualified. By the New Testament, generally, the word most closely resembled a firebrand. Often firebrands were zealots. One of the apostles was called Simon, the Zealot. Paul was zealous in his preaching of God’s word.

Reflection: Probably, no one would ever call be a zealot, spitfire, or even firebrand. I don’t get highly emotional about much. That is not to say that being highly emotional doesn’t have its place. Can you names several things it is okay to be highly emotional about?

Copyright July 8, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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Caught in a Thicket

Photograph is Chaste tree flower in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Bible Reference: Genesis 22:1-19.

Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah – the son through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. When Isaac was about 16 years old, God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the region of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

Abraham didn’t hesitate or question God’s command. Early the next morning, Abraham, Isaac, and two servants started walking toward Mount Moriah. As Abraham and Isaac walked together, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham responded that God would provide the lamb.

When they reached Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, arranged wood on it, and bound Isaac on top of the wood. Abraham picked up his knife, prepared to slay Isaac. At the last minute, the angel of the Lord told Abraham to not kill Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for fearing God enough to sacrifice his son.

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by the horns in a nearby thicket. The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him on the altar. Just as Isaac didn’t struggle against his bindings, the Bible doesn’t indicate that the ram struggled to loosen its horns from the thicket. The ram was simply there, waiting for Abraham to see it. Abraham killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering.

What is a Thicket?

Although Abraham, Isaac, and the ram played major roles in this Bible episode, so did the thicket. A thicket is a group of wild shrubs and occasional small trees which grow together to form impenetrable branches and roots. In thickets, trees rarely grow more than 10-20 feet tall. Often shrubs have thorns and vines entangle with them. Trees and shrubs that could have composed the Mount Moriah thicket were the chaste tree, prickly juniper, and myrtle.Chaste Tree Flower

Abraham’s planned sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in approximately 2050 B.C. At that time, much of the Judean Mountains including Mount Moriah was tree covered; however, approximately 30-40 years earlier, a natural or manmade disaster (earthquake, flood, or fire) occurred. Thickets grow only in response to disturbances where large trees are destroyed.

In present day Israel, many wild trees and shrubs have been replaced by plants, e.g., flowers and domesticated trees; however, some thickets still grow where cultivated land was abandoned. An example is the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park northwest of Jerusalem. When we hiked a park trail, we didn’t see a ram; however, cattle foraged the area. It was easy to image one reaching into the thicket for succulent leaves and getting its horns tangled in branches.

For wilderness hikers, a thicket can be a difficult landscape to traverse. Often when experienced hikers encounter a thicket, they don’t enter it; they go around the thicket. Trying to go through a tangled, thorn-infested thicket can result in loss of direction and damage to skin and clothes.

My friend from Texas calls the chaste tree a “Texas lilac” Its if from the Genus,  Vitus. They are perennials and grow all over the Roanoke Valley (plant zones 6 and 7).

Symbolism

The Hebrew word for thicket comes from the word çâbak, which means to entwine in the sense of interwoven branches. In English, entanglement means to wrap or twist together and to ensnare. Often entanglements cause confusion. Imagine the confusing thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three day walk to Mount Moriah; e. g., “Surely God doesn’t mean for you to sacrifice Isaac? A God that really loved and cared about you would never require you to kill your beloved son.”

In contrast to the ram entangled in the thicket, Abraham didn’t become entangled in Satan’s lies or become confused by his limited understanding of God and the situation. Abraham obeyed God, believing that God would keep his promise and Isaac would be the father of all nations.

Reflection: Think about a time when you were wrapped up, twisted, or entangled in a problem. Did God fit in anywhere? Knowing what you know now, how could you have involved God more?

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

Copyright July 21, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

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Tree of Life

Read Genesis chapter 3 in an Amplified or New International Version Study Bible.

The Tree of Life was located near the center of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2: 9) along with the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Although God told Adam that he could not eat from the Tree of Knowledge, God gave no prohibition against eating fruit from the Tree of Life (Genesis 2: 16). All trees in the Garden were attractive to the eye and/or good for food, so it is likely that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Life while they lived in the Garden. After Adam and Eve disobeyed, God reflected on their new found knowledge and its implication. God said: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever (Genesis 3: 22).” Adam and Eve’s access to the Tree of Life was based on a proper relationship with God.

To prevent Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden. God placed cherubim (more than one) on the east side of the Garden to keep Adam and Eve from reentering Eden. The cherubim had a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to block the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).

The Garden of Eden was destroyed before or during the great flood of Noah’s time when the topography of the land was changed; however, the Tree of Life was not destroyed. Rather, the Tree of Life was moved.  In the New Testament book of Revelation, John wrote about the Tree of Life in two different chapters. When speaking to the Church of Ephesus, Christ said, “to him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). At that time the Tree of Life was located in paradise. Christ testified that paradise was an existent place when He said to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43. Paradise is the place of happiness and rest between death and resurrection (NIV Study Bible notes, 2002, p. 1618).

The Tree of Life is destined to return to earth. In the new Jerusalem a river of water will flow from the throne of God down the middle of a great street (Revelation 22:1). The Tree of Life is located on both sides of the river that flows from God’s throne. The Tree of Life will produce a different variety of fruit each month (Rev. 22:3). Christians who are victorious in overcoming evil (Rev. 7: 14) will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life (Rev. 7:14, 22:14). The leaves of the Tree of Life will be used for healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

Symbolism: Life

In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word associated with Life in the Tree of Life is “chay.”  “Chay” means alive, living thing, and life that lives and is contrasted with death. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they forfeited eternal life on earth. Even though God banished them from the Garden of Eden, He remained their Father. He continued to interact with them and their children. God made a way for Adam and Eve’s offspring to be reconciled to Him and have a life that lives forever. The way is through His son, Christ, who died once for all mankind.

Just as God wanted a relationship with Adam and Eve, He desires a relationship with each of us. The question is whether or not we are willing to symbolically eat from the Tree of Life here and now. In the New Testament book of John, Christ told Nicodemus that, “flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3: 5) and “whoever believes in him (Christ) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18. The birth and death of Christ was the victory over Satan predicted in Genesis 3:15 which Christ explained, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him (Christ) shall not perish but have eternal life (John, 3:16)

My earthly parents (Adam and Eve) were condemned to an earthly death, expelled from Eden, and barred from eating fruit from the Tree of Life, however, I am assured of eternal life. By accepting a relationship with Christ, I am no longer condemned to death; but will live in eternity.

Reflection. What about you? Where are you in the process and progress of your life? Is your future eternal death or eternal life?

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 19, 2010, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

Ark of Cypress Wood

Read Genesis 6:9-8:22 for the story of Noah and the cypress wood ark.

Noah was oveCypress, Jezreel Valleyr 500 years-of-age when God directed him to build an ark (type of boat). The purpose of the ark was to save Noah, his family, and animals from a pending deluge that would sweep over the known world (Genesis 6: 9 – 8:22). Noah was chosen because he was a righteous man, blameless among the corrupt and violent people of his time. Noah had three sons — Shem, Ham and Japheth — who helped him build the ark. The Bible does not identify where Noah lived while building the ark; however, after the deluge the ark landed on Mount Ararat. Today the state of Ararat is in the Republic of Armenia in Asia Minor.

God directed Noah to build the ark from cypress wood and to coat it with pitch inside and out. The ark was rectangular: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Although the roof was not described in Genesis, most likely it was flat as was the floor of the ark. Many scholars believe the roof extended outward over the sides of the ark. The sides of the ark were finished up to 18 inches of the top. The 18 inch opening was for ventilation and light. At one side of the ark, there was a door for entry and exit. (Click the link at the top of the page to see a probable image of the ark).

Most of us can remember seeing pictures of the ark from Bible story books that we read as children. In those books, the front (bow or prow) of the ark was always pointed and often the back (stern) was narrowed. In actuality, the ark had no need for a bow or stern because the ark did not plow through the water nor was it steered by a rudder. Instead, the ark was designed to float on the top of the water and to withstand the impact of rain and flood waters.

After the ark was constructed, Noah, his family, and animals entered the ark. Then God closed the door. After seven days the rain started and “all the springs of the great deep burst forth” (Genesis 7: 11). Many Christian scholars assert that the deluge was turbulent and included movement of the earth’s tectonic plates resulting in massive tsunami floods. The ark’s occupants remained safely in the ark almost a year: they entered the 10th day of the second month and exited the 27th day of the second month of the following year.

Cypress Tree

Today’s scholars are not 100% sure which tree was used on construction of the ark. The landscape of the earth was destroyed by the great deluge and some former plants were destroyed. Several translations of the Bible identify that Noah used cypress wood (AKA gopher wood).  The cypress tree is large, strong and full of resin that acted as a barrier against water seeping into wood and sinking the ark. The wild Cupressus sempervirens var. horizontalis (Mediterranean cypress) is most commonly associated with the cypress tree used in construction of the ark. The Latin word semper means always or ever, while the word virens means green; thus the translation is evergreen. Archeological evidence revealed that cypress trees grew abundantly in Ararat in the post-deluge period. Frequently, the cypress tree is  columnar in shape and grows to a height of 115 feet. The tree top is cone shaped. Cypress wood is known for its durability; it was a favorite tree of early Phoenician ship builders. Oil produced from the tree has a woody, slightly spicy smell.

Symbolism:  Immortality

AlthouCypress trees outside mausoleum in Jerusalemgh today the cypress tree is associated with sadness and mourning e.g., it is called the Funeral or Graveyard Cypress because it is planted in Mediterranean cemeteries, in ancient times the cypress was a symbol of immortality. In 1888, John Worcester published Correspondences of the Bible: the Plants. Correspondences refer to the spiritual meaning behind the plants found in the Bible. Worcester wrote that in the upward tip of the columnar-shaped cypress tree and in every shoot and leaf, the cypress points to immortal life with God in heaven (Worcester, 1888, reprint 2009). The cypress-wood ark carried eight individuals through the raging deluge that destroyed life in the then known world. Not surprisingly the tree was associated with immortality through God’s providence.

When I looked up “immortality” in several Bibles, I found only one Old Testament reference.  Proverbs 12: 28 reads, “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” Through Noah’s righteousness the human race continued on earth, yet Noah’s righteousness and obedience did not guarantee immortality for the human race. Only by accepting the gospel of Christ are men and women guaranteed spirituality immortality (2 Timothy 1:11). Accepting the good news of salvation from Christ is not dependent on our righteousness; rather it is a gift from Christ. This gift came with a cost which Christ paid through His life, death, and resurrection.

Receiving the gift of spiritual immortality from Christ does not absolve men and women from acting right (or righteous). Instead Christ calls us to a new life which includes a new way of behaving. We can no longer ignore the Bible and its guidelines for our new life. Rather, the Bible is our, “How to Live” book.

Thought: Does gratitude for you new life and spiritual immortality result in more than a quick “thank you” to God every now and then?

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 March 10, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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Abraham’s symbol of commitment

Tamarisk (2)When I looked back over my blog entries, this one was the most read. So I am re-posting it with a few changes.

Abraham  planted tamarisk trees at Beersheba. Read Genesis 21:22-34.

In about 2091 B.C., God directed Abraham to leave Haran and travel to Canaan. God told Abraham that in Canaan, the Promised Land, He would make Abraham the father of a great nation (Genesis chapters 12–17). When Abraham left Haran he was about 75 years old. He traveled with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot.  After entering Canaan, Abraham pitched his tents between Bethel (on the west) and Ai (on the east).  With the exception of a brief time in Egypt, Abraham lived in this region for the next 14 – 15 years.

When Abraham was 99 years old, he had a visit from three angels (Genesis chapter 18). The angels announced that Sarah would give birth to Abraham’s son and that they planned to destroy Sodom for the depraved sinfulness of its people. Shortly after Sodom’s destruction, Abraham left the Bethel-Ai region and traveled south into the Negev Desert (Genesis chapter 20). He spent a short time near the city of Gerar (western Negev) where he met Abimelech, king of Gerar.  After Abimelech caught Abraham in a misrepresentation, Abraham left Gerar traveling south-east-east in the Negev Desert area.  After some days journey, Abraham camped. In this area Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, was born (2066 B.C.) when Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21: 1 – 7).

With these events in mind, the Bible tells a short but important story called “The Treaty at Beersheba” in which Abraham plants tamarisk trees. The story begins with Abimelech, King of Gerar and his military commander’s arrival at Abraham’s campsite.  The purpose of Abimelech’s visit was to elicit an oath from Abraham that he would not “deal falsely,” but with kindness (friendship) toward Abimelech and his descendents. Willingly, Abraham gave Abimelech his oath. Then Abraham complains to Abimelech about a well that Abraham’s men dug and Abimelech’s servants seized. Abimelech expressed surprise – he did not know his servants had seized the well. Because Abraham wanted the well, he gave Abimelech seven ewe lambs in return for Abimelech’s oath that the well belonged to Abraham. The site became known as Beersheba, “the well of the oath.” After Abimelech returned to Gerar, Abraham planted a tamarisk, or a grove of tamarisk trees, at Beersheba. There Abraham called on El Ôlām, naming God the Eternal (forever, everlasting) God. The Bible recorded that Abraham stayed in the area a “long time” (Genesis 21:34).

Beersheba is the only place that the Bible recorded Abraham planting trees. Today there is still an ancient well located at, or near, this site called Abraham’s well and tamarisk trees grow in the area.

The Tamarisk Tree

Most botanists and Christian scholars are unanimous in their agreement that the trees that Abraham planted were the Tamarix aphylla. It is also called the athel pine, and athel tree.  The tamarisk is a commonly occurring tree in the Middle East and probably originated in semi-arid to arid northern Africa and western Asia. It is evergreen tree and can reach a height of 50 feet. The tree grows needles rather than leaves; Aphylla means “without leaves.” Often needles excrete salt on their surfaces which give the needles a white color. Because the T. aphylla excretes salt, it is sometimes called a “salt cedar.” The tamarisk tree provides shade and a pleasant coolness.  At night, moisture increases in the cool air. Water vapor adheres to the salt particles excreted on branches and needles and forms droplets. In the morning tiny droplets of water appear on the thin branches. As the morning sun warms the air, the water droplets evaporate and cool the tree and the shade below it. The water droplets are most plentiful after a humid night and generally evaporate before noon.

Symbolism: Commitment

Why did Abraham plant a Tamarix aphylla or a grove of T. aphylla at Beersheba? The answer could be as simple as Abraham was familiar with living in the high country of Canaan between Bethel and Ai where there were tall trees for shade, coolness and beauty. He wanted to reproduce this environment in his new home.  Another answer is that the tree was a memorial to the oath between himself and Abimelech. This reason doesn’t seem as likely because Abraham named the place Beersheba, meaning the well of the oath. This name Beersheba was a reminder or memorial to the oath between Abraham and Abimelech.

I believe that Abraham planted the Tamarix trees as a memorial to his re-commitment to El Ôlām, the everlasting God. This interpretation is supported by events in time – Abraham now had the son that God promised, peace with his neighbors, and water for physical life in the dessert.  God kept his promises to Abraham; Abraham’s life is filled with blessings. God welcomes individuals who have sinned to turn to Him. In Ezekiel 18: 21- 22 we can read, “if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him.” Ezekiel (520 – 480 B.C.) lived 1500 years after Abraham. Abraham didn’t have the benefit of Ezekiel’s instruction; but Abraham was aware that he had sinned by not believing that God would provide a son for him through Sarah and misrepresenting to Abimelech that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. It is probably that when Abraham called on El Ôlām (Genesis 21:  33), he built an altar and offered sacrifices for his sins (Genesis 12:8). Then, Abraham memorializes his re-commitment to God by planting Tamarix trees.

We should not have to think deeply about committing our lives to God. There is ample evidence in the scriptures that God wants His people to be fully committed to Him; and God blesses both nations and individuals who commit to him. Samuel told the Israelites that they must first returned to the Lord and commit themselves to Him, and then God would deliver them from the hand of the Philistines (I Samuel 7:3). Psalm 37:5 reads, “commit your ways to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”   Finally, Proverbs 16:3 instructs us to “commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.”  The preceding Bible verses are conditional statements, they are If – Then statements.  If nations and individuals commit to the Lord, then God will deliver them, and He will make their righteousness shine and their plans succeed. Notice — we must take the first step by committing ourselves and our ways to God.

The question is: Why don’t we commit — seriously commit — our ways to God? Do we simply forget to make these commitments? Do we think God doesn’t care about what we do or want to do? Do we think that we can do it ourselves?  Whatever the reasons for not committing our ways to God, they are not adequate or sufficient. God is very clear: if we want our plans to succeed, we must commit them to God.  Commitment doesn’t mean half heartedly saying to God, “I am going to do_____ (you fill in the blank) and I commit it to you.” Committing ourselves and our plans to God is more than a quick e-mail prayer. Real commitment means taking time to discern with God what His will for our lives entails. Do we stay in our current job or change? Is this the right person for me to marry? Do I buy this new car or get my current one repaired? Committing our ways to God often requires that we do not go with the moment; rather we pause, seek, and reflect on Biblical precepts before making decisions; and we commit the decisions to God.

Thought: “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (II Chronicles 16:9). Do you want to be strengthened by God?  What should you change in your life to make this happen?

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 1/14

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Job and the Lotus Plant

????????????????????Read Job chapter 40.

Job was a non-Jewish man who worshiped God. He was upright in his conduct and dealings with others (Job 1: 1- 5). Job lived during the second millennium B.C. in the land of Uz, probably located in present day Jordan. When the Book begins, we see God giving Satan permission to test Job’s righteousness and loyalty to God; Satan can do anything to Job but kill him (Job 1: 6 – 2: 10). The result is that Satan kills Job’s children, destroys Job’s home, deprives Job of his wealth, and afflicts him with painful boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Shortly after these calamities, three of Job’s friends visit him to extend comfort. Most of the Book of Job consists of discourses between Job and the three friends (Job chapters 3 – 37). We read Job’s struggle to understand his losses while still maintaining his faith in God. Finally, God becomes involved in a conversation with Job (Job chapters 38 – 41). God identifies himself as the creator of all things and as such Job should be able to trust God’s wisdom, love, and power.

The plant associated with Job is the lotus. The only place the lotus is mentioned in the Bible is Job 40: 21 – 22 when God speaks to Job. In response to Job’s accusations that God has wronged him (Job 19:6), God asserts that He is able to determine and administer justice. One of the ways God makes His point is by asking Job if Job can create and control the behemoth (Job 40: 15 – 24). Behemoth in Hebrew is behêmôwth meaning a large quadruped animal. An example of the behêmôwth is the hippopotamus, a semi-aquatic, plant-eating mammal that spends time under the water. The behemoth is described as lying under the lotus and concealed in the lotus’ shadow among marsh reeds and streams (Job 40: 21 – 23).

The Lotus Plant

The Bible information on the lotus plant is sketchy: it grows in marshes and streams and the plant grows large enough to cover and conceal the behemoth. The Mid-Eastern lotus is the Nelumbo nucifera, also called the sacred lotus. The lotuses presence has been documented for some 5000 years. The N. nucifera is an aquatic perennial. Lotus roots, called rhizomes, grow up to 4 feet and spread in wet soils such as a marsh, pond, or river bottom. Lotus stalks grow as high as 5 – 6 feet with a horizontal spread of 3 ½ yards. Leaves and flowers grow several inches above the water surface.In the center of the lotus blossom, there is a head or pod. The pod contains round lotus seeds in small circular chambers on its flat surface. The circular chambers cradle the seeds until they are fully ripe. At that time the pod bends over and releases the seeds into the water. Seeds fall to the bottom of the water, takes root, and in turn produce new lotus plants. Often dried lotus pods with seeds are used in flower arrangements.

Symbolism: Vitality

Most eastern cultures and religions identify some sort of symbolism with the lotus plant, e.g., the lotus represents creative power, purity, faithfulness, divine birth, and vitality. Vitality is the ability to live, grow, and develop. Often vitality is associated with the power to endure and survive. In the dry season in Jordan, water in ponds and streams are low and lotus seeds and roots remain dormant in the mud or cracked earth. With the coming of the rains, lotus seeds and roots grow from the mud. Leaf and flower buds emerge over the top of the water and unfold into the visible beauty of the lotus leaf and blossom.

Like the lotus plant, Job’s dialogues demonstrate vitality – persistent life, endurance, and growth in extreme adversity. At times Job’s speeches indicate that he wishes he had never been born (Job 3: 3, 11, 16) and he longs for death (Job 3: 20 – 21). Repeatedly, Job cries to God for answers so he can understand how God could allow these over-whelming losses in his life (Job 7: 20; 10: 1 – 7). Yet, Job’s belief in God remains alive in spite of all his hardships. Job avers, “to God belong wisdom, and power; counsel and understanding are His” (Job 12: 13). In the midst of his anguish Job utters the words that have been a part of Judeo-Christian belief for almost 3000 years, “though he slay me, yet will I hope (trust) in him” (Job 13: 15). It is from Job that we have the promise and prophecy, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19: 25).

Near the end of the Book of Job (chapters 38 – 41) God responds to Job, not to give Job a reason for his suffering, but to remind Job that the wisdom that directs God’s ways is beyond the reach of human understanding. Finally, Job understands that God’s purposes are supreme over all creation to including Job himself (42: 1 – 6). As a result of Job’s honesty, God blesses the latter part of Job’s life more than the first part. God give Job a long life that includes seven sons and three beautiful daughters (Job 42: 10 – 17). God rewards Job with more than twice as much prosperity as Job had before his adversity.

Like the beautiful lotus plant and like Job, we have the opportunity to grow into more vital Christians when we encounter unfavorable and difficulty situations. When we encounter these situation, the way to become a more alive Christian is not to “curse God and die” (Job 2: 9), but to cling even tighter to the giver and sustainer of our lives. When we experience desolation and despair, we need to spend time in prayer and read God’s Word. Just like God judged the attitude of Jobs heart and spoke directly to Job’s situation, so does the Bible speak directly to Christians. God tells us in Hebrews 4: 12 – 13: The word of the Lord is living and active. The word of the Lord judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight (NIV). If we open our hearts to God through prayer and Bible reading, God gives us insight into our circumstance that we can use to live and grow. God provides clear perception that we can use to move beyond our present situation to a new vitality.

Thought: All women and men encounter tough times. The question is what do we do in these tough times? Do we use them to grow (vitality) in the face of adversity, or do we collapse under the weight of the circumstance and turn from God?

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 March 19, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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