Tag Archives: Bible

Zestful Life in God

cinnamomum_verum_spices

Bible Reference: In Revelation chapter 18, cinnamon is mentioned as a valuable spice.

The Story:  When John wrote Revelation, he prophesied the end of Rome and the Roman Empire. At the same time, John was writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit; therefore, his writings could refer to world systems which operate today or in the future. From this perspective Revelations 18 could predict a future collapse of the commercial-economic systems of the world from the perspective of world leaders, merchants, and individual involved in commerce on the seas.

These verses demonstrated the inter-connections of politics and trade, with an immediate application to shipping. All countries are connected by shipping, e.g., the United States gets oil from the Middle East, clothing from China, and ships food to African countries and coal to Asia. The fall of naval commerce will have national and worldwide effects. Within each country, individual jobs and buying power will be cut. Taxable income will be reduced, national debt will increase, and banks will fail. Private industries, e.g., the health care industry which consumes about 15 percent of the U.S. gross national product, will be curtailed severely. Eventually, governments will collapse.

John prophesied that when commerce failed, there would be no cargoes of cinnamon and spice. Most of us could get along without spices; it is difficult to imagine why cinnamon was mentioned in a list of valuable cargo items. Yet, in the Biblical world, the cinnamon trade was huge. Tons of cinnamon used for rituals, medicine, and everyday purposes. Egyptians used cinnamon in embalming potions. Cinnamon was a key ingredient in the Tabernacle anointing oil (Exodus 30:23-25). Medically, cinnamon was used to reduce inflammation, promote menstruation, and stimulate the urinary tract. Along with other perfumes, cinnamon was used to perfume bed linens and clothing (Proverbs 7:17). Cinnamon was used to mask smells. In the first century Pliny wrote that the market price for an Egyptian pound (350 grams) of cinnamon was over 1000 denarius or about 2.5 years wage for a typical Hebrew worker.

Cinnamon 

Bark, Cheekwood Garden

The Bible cinnamon was Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also known as Cinnamomum verem. Cinnamon is an aromatic tree bark used as a spice. The cinnamon tree was native to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and the southeast coast of India. Today, all commercial cinnamon grows in plantations. The cinnamon tree does not grow naturally in Israel; however, in 2012 the Jerusalem Botanical Garden we saw small specimens in the Conservatory.

The cinnamon tree is a small, bushy, and evergreen. It grows 30-40 feet tall, often with wide spreading branches. Young branches, or shoots, are crimson often with dark green and orange spots. As bark matures, it turns pale brown (ash). Mature bark is rough to the touch because it is covered with raised dots, scales, and points. Cinnamon trees are harvested in their third year of growth. After two years, the tops of trees are pruned. The third year, small shoots appear. These shoots are stripped and the thin inner bark is peeled from the tree. During the peeling process, the inner bark curls into the “stick” shape associated with cinnamon.

Symbolism: Spice, Zest

Arguably, cinnamon is synonymous with spice; certainly cinnamon is the definitive spice. The archaic meaning of spice is a small portion or quantity, a dash; or something that gives zest, i.e., to food or life. In the end times, commerce will cease. An imported product, cinnamon will be unavailable for cookery and for perfumes that scent candles, potpourri, and individuals. This dash or bit of zest will be absent from our individual lives. Christians may or may not be in the world when the commerce-economic systems fails; however, to Christians having or not having cinnamon, luxury items, or even the basic necessities of life is not as important as having Christ. Christ is not just a small portion, or dash, of spice in Christian lives. Christ is omnipresent. For Christians, Christ is their world view.

Reflection: Is your life zestful?

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 8, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth.

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Aloe and Myrrh Wrapped Body

Today is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar.  By 9:00 a.m., Christ was crucified.

Jewish law and custom required immediate burial of Jesus’ dead body. Mosaic Law required that Jews bury the body of a man put to death by hanging on a tree the same day he died (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). The reason for this Mosaic requirement was so that the land not be desecrated by a dead body remaining un-buried. The book of Tobit (Apocrypha, 2009) described the value Jews placed on seeing that all slain Jews had a proper burial even when the Jews were in exile.

Jesus’ crucified body died about 3:00 p.m. on Friday. By Jewish custom, Friday was the Day of Preparation for the Saturday Sabbath. Preparation Day ended at about 6:00 p.m. on Friday when the Sabbath began. No work was allowed on the Sabbath to include burying a dead body. Jesus followers had about three hours between the time he died and the start of the Sabbath celebration.

Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Jewish council who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Boldly, Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. After confirming with the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate released Jesus’ body to Joseph.

Along with Nicodemus, Joseph took Jesus’ body from the cross. They wrapped the body in linen stripes and 75 pounds of mixed aloe and myrrh. The Jewish burial custom of using spices in burial linens was associated with covering the smell of the decaying body.  Because aloe had little odor, possibly the aloes were used to “fix” or hold the scent of the myrrh.

Aloe vera

Aloe

The aloe of the New Testament is the Aloe vera also known as the Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vulgaris (common aloe) and the medicinal aloe. Some sources identified the aloe as the oldest medicinal plant. The aloe is distributed in Mediterranean woodlands and shrub-lands in hard rock outcrops including maritime sands. When aloe is harvested for its medicinal gel, older leaves are harvested as they are larger and contain more gel.

Myrrh

The Israelite myrrh plant is the Commiphora abyssinic. The Hebrew word for myrrh is môr or môwr which means bitter, possibly because myrrh has a bitter taste (Strong, 2010). Around 1876-1880 B.C., Jacob described myrrh as one of the best products of Canaan and directed his sons to take myrrh to Egypt to trade for grain (Genesis 43:11-14). In present day Israel, the myrrh tree grows in the Biblical Landscape Reserve (Neot Kedumim). Although often referred to as a spice, myrrh is the dried resin from the myrrh tree. When the resin is harvested, lateral cuts are made on the trunk or branches. An aromatic gum resin exudes from the wounds. When the resin is exposed to the air, the gum hardens forming irregular shaped yellow or brown globules. The globules smell pleasant but have a bitter taste. We saw myrrh in the bazaar in the old city of Jerusalem. The myrrh was in sharp-edged, marble-size pieces. Myrrh continues to be used today as sweet smelling incense for religious celebrations.

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Symbolism: Healing

Traditionally, aloe has been associated with healing.  In the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 53:5, NIV, 2002) we read these prophetic words about Christ, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus body was dead; therefore, aloes weren’t used to heal him. The healing aloes in Jesus’ burial cloth exemplified Jesus’ continued healing of us even after his physical death.

After Jesus’ resurrection some individuals in Judea and the Roman Empire accepted healing from Jesus. Other individuals weren’t willing to be healed. 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 need to die for their few sins? For still others it was easier to continue their same religious observances, e.g., make an animal sacrifice or give a little money into a treasury, than to accept a new way of thinking.

The rationale and rationalizations that individuals used 2,000 years ago for not accepting healing from Jesus are the same ones that individuals use today. On Sunday morning in church, we pray the “Prayers of the People.” Frequently, there are prayer requests for healing – surgery, diagnostic tests, cancer – from members of the congregation. I’m always surprised that congregates don’t offer more prayers for loved ones’ spiritual healing. My dear friend isn’t a Christian; I love him so much. From time to time, I ask congregates to pray that he comes to a saving knowledge of Christ. I really should ask them to pray for him every Sunday.

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 25, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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Reeds and Revelations

Phragmites communis (2)

Bible Reference: Genesis Chapter 41.

Joseph’s (1915 BC-1805 BC) life was swayed by his dreams and the dreams of others. He alienated his brothers by telling them his dream in which they bow to him. Because of their jealousy, his brothers sold him into slavery when Joseph was 17 years old.

Joseph became a slave in a wealthy Egyptian household. Wrongly accused of molesting the owner’s wife, Joseph was sent to prison. During his imprisonment, Joseph interpreted a dream from the cup-bearer of Pharaoh.  Later when Joseph was about 30, Pharaoh had a dream that his advisers couldn’t interpret.

Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and gave God the credited for being able to do so. The interpretation was that seven years of over-abundance would be followed by seven years of famine in Egypt.  Pharaoh asked Joseph how Egypt could avoid the devastating effects of the famine.  Joseph suggested storing food during the seven years of over-abundance that could be used during the seven years of famine. The plan seemed good to Pharaoh. Pharaoh made Joseph second only to himself in power in Egypt and charged Joseph to implement the plan.

Egyptian’s belief included that after death they traveled through the underworld for 12 hours of night, eventually reaching the Field of Reeds. In the Field of Reeds the body was reanimated and rejuvenated.  The Field of Reeds was a natural extension of life in Egypt, e.g., Egyptians ate, loved, and worshiped there. Class distinctions remained, pharaoh remained pharaoh.  Pharaoh’s dream was located in reeds along the Nile River. It encompassed sleek, fat cows being eaten by ugly, lean cows.  Possibly pharaoh suspected that his dream impacted not only his country, but also his afterlife in the Field of Reeds.

The Egyptian Reed 

The reed that Pharaoh dreamed about was most likely the Phragmites australis, also known as the Phragmites communis and the Egyptian, common Reed.  Generally, reeds do not tolerate rapidly flowing water but are well adapted to both fresh and brackish water.  The Egyption reed is a tall perennial grass with central stalks called culms.  Usually culms grows to a height of 6–9 feet but have been known to grow 16 feet.  In the growing season, culms are green, but as winter emerges, stalks become dark yellow or brown. In the Middle East, flowers, called panicles, bloom at the top of the reed from July through December. Initially the flower is green or purplish, but becomes a warm sandy color as the plant matures. Flowers are large (6–16 inches) and showy  The Egyptian reed spreads by underground root (rhizome) root extension or when portions of the root or plant break from the main reed and move by water to a new location where they take root and grow.

Reeds grew along the Nile River bank and throughout the Nile delta and were a key economic asset to the ancient Egyptians.  Reed colonies were used in erosion control and provided wildlife habitats along the river and in the delta. In the warm season, the Egyptian reed provided high quality forage for both cattle and horses. The reeds upright growth made it easy for livestock to eat all of the leaves.  Reeds were used extensively for roofing materials on homes of the poor.  They provided lattices, fences, materials for weaving mats and carrying nets.  Reeds were cut and fashioned into pens; rope was made from the fiber of flower stalks.  Because they were straight, long, and durable, reeds were used as measuring devices.

Symbolism of the Egyptian reed 

According to Worcester (2009) reeds symbolized material or corporal (bodily) truth and knowledge.  Material or corporal truth is the lowest form of truth.  Corporal truths change with cultural norms, societal perspectives, and personal experiences.  In contrast to corporal truth, Divine truth is eternal and unchangeable. God is defined as the God of truth (Isaiah 61:16). Divine truth can be used as a measuring rod against which individuals in all ages and societies can evaluate personal thoughts, beliefs, and behavior.

In today’s world, God’s truth comes primarily from the Bible. As we grow spiritually, the Holy Spirit opens scripture passages in ever increasing depth.  For many years I have attended Bible studies, e.g., Genesis, The Acts of the Apostles. With each repeated study on a topic, I understood the characters and events in more detail.  I am able to comprehend more of God’s purpose in placing a story or event in the Holy Scriptures.

As individuals pray and meditate on scripture, they may receive insights and even revelations; but those insights and revelations never contradict the infallible Word of God.  We need to be very careful before we say, “God told me to do x or y.”  If we get personal revelations which we think are from God, we need to search the scripture to verify that the message is true.

As I looked through the Index in my Bible, I found 17 verses in Matthew alone in which Christ said, “I tell you the truth” and then proceeded to direct his disciples or audience toward some action, to issue a warning, or provide some insight to life. Christ did not need to say, “I tell you the truth” because Christ is Divine and by definition cannot lie.  He used the words for emphasis or to get his listener’s attention.  The entire Bible is full of Divine truth.  There is no need for us to rely only on physical or corporal truth as we walk through life.

Reflection: From where do you get your truth? CNN, FOX, your local newspaper, your pastor, or the Bible?

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 October 15, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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Candy Tufts

Candy Tufts 1

Candy tufts (Iberis sempervirens) were not mentioned in the Bible; nor do they grow in our church Bible garden or at my home. I cannot seem to grow candy tufts. Several years I planted them in containers and after an initial spurt of growth they died.

For me candy tufts is like the parable of the sower and the seed. Remember that some of the seed fell on shallow ground. The seed promptly germinated and grew, producing good looking plants. Then, when adversity came, the plant died. After the initial bloom my candy tufts died. Perhaps, they did not receive enough water or I over watered them. Maybe the  soil in the containers was too shallow or they did not get enough plant food to thrive. For whatever reason, they died.

Christ said some new Christians are like that. They receive the message of Christ gladly and seem to follow him, e.g., they sprang up over night. Because their soil had no depth, they died.Iberis sempervirens

Reflection: What kind of Christian soil do you have in your life? Are you fertilizing your soil by going to church and studying your Bible?

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 September 20, 2015, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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A Dangerous Riddle

SGT (2)

Bible Reference: 2 Kings Chapter 14 and 2 Chronicles Chapter 25.

The Story:

King Jehoash ruled the Northern Kingdom for 16 years (798-782 B.C.). He won a significant battle over King Amaziah (796-767 B.C) of Judah. The background to this Bible narrative has two distinct parts. First, when King Amaziah planned a military campaign against Edom, he recruited 100,000 mercenaries from the Israel. Warned by a prophet to not allow the mercenaries to march with him, Amaziah dismissed them. Despite being paid for their service, the soldiers were furious. They plundered and murdered in Judah while Amaziah battled the Edomites. Second, when Amaziah returned to Jerusalem after a successful campaign against the Edomites, he brought back Edomite idols. Instead of destroying the false gods as Mosaic law required (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25), Amaziah bowed down and worshipped them.

The incident between Kings Jehoash and Amaziah began when Amaziah sent a challenge to Jehoash to meet him in battle. King Jehoash sent a parable and a warning back. The parable was:

A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then, a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot (2 Chronicles 25:18). Then, Jehoash warn Amaziah that because he defeated Edom, he was haughty and proud; Amaziah was asking for trouble if he persisted in challenging Jehoash.

The interpretation of Jehoash’s parable was that he and the Israelites were the majestic cedar of Lebanon while Amaziah was an insignificant thistle. The prized possession Jehoash mentioned could have been associated with a demand from King Amaziah for the Israelite soldier’s to return plunder taken from Judah lands. Instead of giving King Amaziah a prized possession, King Jehoash said that Israel would trample Judah underfoot.

Despite King Jehoash’s warning, Amaziah moved his army against Israel. A battle ensued where Jehoash defeated Amaziah. With Amaziah prisoner, Jehoash proceeded to Jerusalem. There Jehoash seized the Temple gold, silver, and other valuables, the palace treasury, and hostages. King Jehoash had 600 feet of the Jerusalem wall destroyed. Despite Jehoash’s victory, he allowed Amaziah to remain alive and king of Judah.

King Jehoash was not a king who obeyed God; rather, he did evil in God’s eyes (2 Kings 13:10-13). Jehoash continued the idol worship started by Jeroboam I, the first king of Israel. King Jehoash would not have won the battle over Amaziah, but for Amaziah’s sin of rejecting God and worshipping Edomite idols.

The Spotted Golden Thistle

In the Bible, about 20 different words are related to some type of prickly or thorny plant. In Jehoash’s parable, the Hebrew word for thistle is choâch or hoah and is associated with the Scolymus genus of plants. When Jehoash named Amaziah a thistle, possibly he was thinking of the spotted golden thistle, Scolymus maculatus.

The spotted golden thistle was and is a common plant throughout Israel, growing everywhere except along the extreme Mediterranean seashore. Although occasionally cultivated, more often the spotted golden thistle is found in uncultivated lands, e.g., abandoned fields and ditches, and along paths and trails.

Classified as a hearty herbaceous plant, the spotted golden thistle grows well in clay soils. It can be found in semi-shade, light woodlands, and full sunlight. The thistle grows best in temperate climates; however, it will grow in both cold and hot climates. In very hot temperatures, the plant grows rapidly.

Symbolism: Reject, Rejection

In the story of Jehoash, the spotted golden thistle can be associated with several concepts, e.g., pride, insult, and insignificance; however, in this story reject or rejection are the best symbols for the plant. Examples of rejection include Amaziah’s rejection of the 100,000 Israelite Kingdom mercenaries, Amaziah rejecting God in favor of Edomite idols, Jehoash’s willingness to excuse or reject Amaziah’s challenge, and Jehoash’s rejecting the sanctity of the Temple.

Primarily, this Bible episode typifies the Northern Kingdom’s reject of God. They ejected God’s decrees, the covenant he made with their fathers, and warnings he gave them through his prophets. The Northern Kingdom rejected God by plundering his home, the Jerusalem Temple. Eventually, God rejected the Northern Kingdom tribes as they first rejected him.

How do we living in the 21st century reject God? We do it by not setting aside time to spend with God every day, e.g., failing to have daily biblical study and prayer time. We make the decision to skip Sunday church services identifying that we are just too tired after a busy work week. We reject God when we reject other persons for whatever the reason, e.g., they are just not our type of person, we have nothing in common with them, they look poor and maybe even disheveled, they are hard to understand linguistically.

Reflection

In the last paragraph, you read how I reject God. What about you? How do you reject 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: May 28, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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Beautiful Crown of Thorns

Jerusalem thorn bush (2)This beautiful flowered plant is name the Jerusalem thorn (Paliurus spina-christi).  Before the Roman soldiers led Christ away to be crucified at Golgotha, they took him into the Roman Praetorium (the soldier’s section of the governor’s palace). There, they stripped Jesus, whipped him, and placed a crown of thorns on his head. Most Israeli botanists believe the thorn crown was made from the Jerusalem thorn.

Jerusalem Thorn Jerusalem thorn flowers

The plant is native to Europe and western Asia. It grows at a slow to moderate rate and even appears to stop growing for a time. In Israel, Jerusalem thorns grow in the north around Mount Heron and in the Mediterranean wood and shrub lands in central Israel.

Jerusalem thorn plant stems and twigs are flexible and hairless.The flexibility made the Jerusalem thorn ideal to interlace into a crown of thorns. Thorns occur in pairs of unequal length thorns. The longest is about an inch long.

1-DSC07004Symbolism:

Suggested symbolism of the Jerusalem thorn is sin and grief. Perhaps a better symbol is cruelty. A cruel act is one devoid of human feelings when grief, plain, and injury are inflicted. When the Roman soldiers put the crown of thorns on Christ’s head, they were being deliberately cruel. Making him wear the crown of thorns as he attempted to carry the cross through Jerusalem streets and when he was crucified had no purpose. The act was deliberate cruelty.

Reflection: Think about the times when your behavior was cruel, deliberately or by simple neglect of something you could have done. How can you be less cruel?

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: April 1, 2015: Carolyn Adams Roth

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God’s Watching You

Dwarf flowering almond

Read about the Lampstand of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25.

The almond tree symbolizes God’s watchfulness. The almond tree was central to the Tabernacle and is described in two key situations. First, almond tree buds, blossoms and flowers are the design on the Lampstand (Exodus 25:33-34). The Lampstand and it accessories were made of 75 pounds of gold (MacDonald, 2005). In the Bible, no dimensions (height, width of the top of the Lampstand) were given for the Lampstand; however, its base and arms are described in detail in Exodus 37: 17 – 23).

Three branches extend from one side and three branches from the opposite side of the central base. On each of the six branches there were three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. The Lampstand base and central branch had four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One almond bud was under the first pair of branches, a second bud under the second pair of branches, and a third bud under the third pair of branches. The buds and seven branches were all one piece of gold with the base, hammered out of pure gold. At the top of each of the seven branches was set an oil lamp.

The Lampstand was the only source of light in the Tabernacle. It was positioned in the Holy of Holies on the south side of the room, opposite the Table of the Presence-Bread. Priests lit the seven oil lamps every evening; the lamps were to burn continually throughout the night until morning. Today, Christians and Jews refer to lamps that are similar as a “menorah.”

The second source of almonds in the Tabernacle is Aaron’s staff which sprouted overnight while in front of the Ark of the Testimony (Covenant) in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 17: 1 – 11). Unlike staffs representing the other 11 tribes of Israel, Aaron’s staff produced buds, blossoms and almonds. Aaron’s staff was not placed in the Tabernacle at its initial construction at Mt. Sinai.

After Aaron’s staff sprouted it was kept in front of the Testimony in the Most Holy of Holies during the wanderings of the Israelites. Paul avers that that Aaron’s staff was placed in the Ark of the Testimony (Hebrews 9:4); however, Aaron’s staff was not in the Ark of the Testimony when Solomon brought the Ark to the first Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 8: 9).

Almond Tree

The almond tree described in Exodus and Numbers is likely the Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis or Amygdalus (almond) communis(common). The almond tree bears sweet almonds which were used for food in the eastern Mediterranean region. Domesticated almonds were identified in the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 B.C.). Usually almond tree grow 12 – 27 feet in height. The flowering almond tree buds in Israel as early as February and is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in nature.

Amygdalus communis, NK

In Old Testament times almonds were eaten raw or roasted, pressed for almond oil, and used to flavor porridge, breads and other baked goods. In Egypt, almonds were found in Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt (around 1327 B.C.); these almonds were likely imported from Canaan. When Jacob directed his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain, he told them to take almonds as a gift to the Egyptians because almonds were “some of the best product of the land” (Genesis43:11).

Symbolism: Alert, Watchful

In the Hebrew language, name for almond tree is shâqêd (Strong, 2010). The primary root of shâqêd is shâqad which means to be watchful, alert, on the lookout, and sleepless. Almond buds and blossoms were placed on the Lampstand where the lamps burned during the night to symbolize two things: first, the constant watchfulness of God over His people and second the need for Israel to be alert to the commandments of God.

The association between the almond tree and watchfulness of God over Israel is repeated in Jeremiah 1: 11 – 12. The Lord asked Jeremiah, What do you see? Jeremiah’s response is, “I see the branch of an almond tree.” God returns, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Job (7:20) calls God a “watcher of men.” Placing Aaron’s almond rod in the Most Holy of Holies is a reminder that the priesthood must be watchful against any rebellion or turning of the Children of Israel from God’s laws.

By using the symbolism of the almond tree in the Tabernacle, God provided both reassurance and caution to the Children of Israel. He provides reassurance that He is always watching over them. At the same time God cautions His Children to remain alert to events and situations that can detract them from keeping God as the primary focus of their lives.

At this time I am teaching an on-line course to university students. When courses are offered online, faculty and students rarely meet person-to-person. Students can be in Africa as missionaries, in Guam on a military ship, or anywhere across the globe. Faculty must be watchful that students read and implement the course syllabus, content, and assignments. If a student is off track, the faculty must immediately respond to assist her/him to re-read or re-think their work. Students ask questions of the faculty on line in Discussion Boards or via university email. University policy requires faculty to respond to students within 24 hours. At the same time students have a responsibility to be alert. They need to read posted announcements, grading comments, and answers to questions posed by classmates. If students are not constantly alert to the interactions in the course, they can limit their learning and their earned grades.

Faculty-student interactions in an online course are a reflection of how God works with us. He constantly monitors our behavior and when we get off track, He sends us messages that we need to readjust our thinking and our behavior. Unlike my interaction with students, God does not take up to 24 hours to learn what I am thinking/doing and respond to me. He knows immediately. And, thanks be to God, He does not figuratively pull His hair out at some of the things I do or neglect to do.

God is continually and constantly watchful over me. That does not mean that I can float along in my relationship with God and expect Him to do all of the work. I must stay alert and track with His guidelines for a successful life. In Matthew 26:40 Christ warns Peter, “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Paul instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).

Reflection: Are you being watchful of your life and behavior so you do not drift from closeness with God? Are you watching and praying so you do not fall into temptation?

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, January 15, 2014. All rights reserved.

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David Waits for God

God using the balsam tree to give David victory over the Philistines is described in 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-18.

When the Philistines discovered that DaPopulus euphraticavid was anointed king over Israel as well as over Judah, they went out in force to search for him.  During the seven years David was king over Judah at Hebron, the Philistines were not too concerned about his kingship.  For them the problem occurred when Israel (northern tribes) asked David to be their king.  The Philistines cities were in the lands of the northern tribes; they feared David would wage war against their cities.  The Philistines entered the Valley of the Rephaim, located on the border between Judah and Benjamin on the west and southwest sides of Jerusalem.  There they raided and plundered the inhabitants who were mainly Israelites.  David responded to the Philistine’s raids and at Baal Parazim David and the Israelites fought a battle with the Philistines.  The Philistines were routed.  When they fled, the Philistines abandoned their idols.  Following Mosaic law, David burnt the idols (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25).

Perhaps outraged by the previous defeat and David’s destruction of their idols, the Philistines raided the Rephiam Valley a second time.  David asked God if he should attack the Philistines.  God’s answer was “yes;” but David’s army should not go straight at the Philistines. Instead, the Israelite army should circle around the Philistines and attack them in front of the balsam trees.  The signal for the Israelite army to attack was the sound of God marching in the tops of the balsam trees.  The marching sound meant that the Lord went in front of the Israelites to strike the Philistines.

In the Rephiam Valley balsam trees grew in groves.  God made the wind blow through the tops of the balsam tree so that leaves rustling and branches rubbing against each other and created a sound like men marching.  The sound was so loud that the Philistine army thought that a huge Israelite army was advancing toward them.  Terrified they fled the valley.  David’ army pursued and struck down the Philistines from Gibeon to Gezar, a range of about 15 miles.  At the time of this battle, Gezar was not a Philistine city; it was held by the Egyptians (Joshua 10:33).  Apparently, the Philistine soldiers were so frightened that they fled to the powerful Egyptians for safety.  The episode concludes with, “so David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him” (1 Chronicles 14:17).

Populus euphratica leavesThe Balsam Tree

The balsam tree is a species of aspen, most likely the Populus euphratica, which is believed to be native to Israel and Middle Eastern countries. The balsaam is also called the  Euphrates popular and salt poplar.  In Israel the tree grows throughout the country; it grows well in rocky and hilly soils and in brackish water. The balsaam tree grows as tall as 45 feet and has spreading branches.  On older branches bark is thick, olive green to gray-brown, and roughly striated.  Branches are bent and almost always forked.  The balsaam’s flower is called a catkin because it resembles a cat’s tail and droops from the stem.  In mid-summer, the P. euphratica produces a green to reddish brown fruit which is a 2-4 valve capsule.  Seeds are minute and enveloped in silky hairs which aid wind dispersal.

Symbolism: God’s people

Balsam trees are associated with the word “people.”  The word Populus in the name Populus euphratica is derived from the trees ancient Latin name arbor populi which means “the people’s tree.”  When God identified the Israelites as his chosen people, God told them that he would dwell with them, walk with them, and protect them (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 11:22-25).  In the Valley of Rephiam, God gave his chosen people victory through the sound of an army (people) marching in the tops of balsam trees.  Israel’s victory was so decisive that David’s fame spread to people of every land; the Lord made people of every nation fear David.

In the Old Testament, God took a people for himself who were of one race.  In the New Testament, Christ directed his disciples to take the good news of the gospel to all his creation (Mark 16:15).  Over 2000 years later, people of all races believe in him.  Despite Christ’s welcome and guaranteed love of all people, the Bible cautions, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).  What does such an ominous verse mean to people?

The writer of Hebrew’s elaborated by saying if people keep on sinning after they receive the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sin is left;  only a fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10: 26-30).  The writer compared the Old Testament Jews rejection of the Law of Moses to an individual who rejects the truth of Christ after they know it.  His argument was if Old Testament Jews who rejected the Law of Moses died, then how much more will individuals who trample the Son of God deserve punishment?   The latter individuals insult the Spirit of grace because they show contempt for the blood of Christ who sanctifies them.  The Lord lives with his people, protects them, and loves them.  In addition, the Lord judges his people.

Reflection.  In the battle where God marched in the tops of the balsam trees, David counted on God rather than his army to protect the people of the Rephiam Valley and Israel.  In a later story, we learn that David took a census of eligible fighting men in Israel rather than trust God to protect the people (2 Samuel 24:10).  Do David’s actions have any parallels to our own life?  Do we believe that God will protect his people?

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: October 4, 2014: Carolyn Adams Roth

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World’s Strongest Man

Thymelea hirsute, yitranBible Reference: Judges Chapters 13-16.

The well-known judge Samson was from the tribe of Dan; however, few Danites lived in the allocated tribal lands northwest of Judah. Most Danites had moved north to the base of Mount Hermon because they could not seize their allocated land from the Philistines.  God sent the angel of the Lord to announce Samson’s birth to his parents. The angel told them that Samson should be a Nazirite (Numbers 6: 1-21). Nazirite means “separated” or “dedicated” and included that Nazirites abstain from any product made from grapes, e.g. wine, raisins. Nazirites could not use a razor on their head or cut their hair; nor could they go near a dead body, animal or human.

When Samson was born, the Philistines had been oppressing Israel for 40 years (Judges 13:1).  From adulthood until his death, Samson achieved single-handed triumphs over the Philistines. Although Samson was a heroic figure, his personal life was a tragedy. Samson’s downfall was his preference for immoral women. First, Samson married a Philistine woman who betrayed him; this woman was killed by the Philistines. Second, he had a liaison with a prostitute. Finally, he fell in love with Delilah who betrayed him into the hands of the Philistines.

Delilah made an agreement with the Philistines that for a large sum of money she would disclose the source of Samson extraordinary strength. After much cajolery, Samson told Delilah that if he was tied with seven fresh, never dried, thongs (braided rope), he would become as weak as other men (Judges 16: 7–9).  Accessing seven fresh thongs was a significant challenge. The noted Israeli botanist, Hogah Hareuveni  (1989) proposed that the throngs or ropes that Samson identified were made from the Thymelaea hirsute plant, known in Hebrew as yitran. Yitran did not grow in the Valley of Sorek where Delilah lived. Yitran would have been available in local markets; however, it would have been dried not fresh. To make fresh yitran thongs, the Philistines had to cut and bring fresh yitran bark from the Mediterranean Sea coast.  Highest quality yitran bark was needed so the thongs would be strong.  The yitran had to be smooth, without twigs, so that it could be braided into rope.

The book of Judges tells the reader that the Philistines brought Delilah seven thongs and Delilah tied Samson with them. With Philistines hidden in an adjoining room, Delilah called to Samson, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you.” Samson snapped the yitran thongs and killed his attackers so the secret of Samson’s strength was not tied to yitran rope.

Eventually, Samson became weary of Delilah’s pleas to tell her the real source of his strength. Samson’s disclosed that his strength lay in his hair. Delilah cut Samson’s hair and the Philistines captured him. They gouged out Samson’s eyes, bound him in bronze shackles and set him to grinding grain in prison. Surprisingly the Philistines did not keep Samson’s head shaved. Over time his hair grew back.  When the Philistines assembled to celebrate the delivery of Samson into their hands, they brought Samson to exhibit to the crowds. Samson requested the servant who accompanied him to place him between two main temple pillars. There Samson prayed to God for return of his strength. God heard Samson prayer and gave him the strength to push the two pillars down. The result was that Samson razed the temple by knocking the pillars over. More than 3000 Philistines were killed that day as was Samson.

The Yitran Plant

The Thymelaea hirsute (also spelled hirsuta) is known as yitran to Hebrews and as mitran to Arabs.  Yitran is a perennial, evergreen shrub that grows profusely in the Mediterranean coastal plan and in the Sinai Peninsula. The yitran’s root penetrates deep into the soil allowing the plant to remain green throughout the year even in desert areas. Older and well watered yitran grows as tall as 6 feet.  Branches and stems can spread or trail and whip rapidly in the breeze. Branch configuration gives yitran a bow shape.  When yitran branches are rubbed or when the bark is peeled to make ropes, the yitran bush gives off a diffuse sulfurous odor. Stems are densely packed on branches. Yitran branches were and are today braided into a cable-type rope. Ropes are strong enough to haul a full-sized man out of a well, secure a tent during a sandstorm, and yoke camels.  When camel yokes are made row-upon-row of twisted inner bark of fresh yitran branches are braided. Philistines would have been aware of the strength of seven braided thongs of yitran; thus, they accepted that binding Samson with freshly braided yitran was a way of defeating his strength.

Symbolism of Yitran Rope

The yitran plant is associated with strength and no Bible character had more physical strength than Samson.  From his conception God sat Samson apart to act as a judge over Israel using his physical strength; however, Samson’s behavior suggested that he forgot the origin of his strength. In reality it was not from long hair – many individuals have long hair and they are not necessarily strong. Samson’s physical strength was from God.  When Samson placed his love for Delilah over his devotion to God, Samson lost God’s presence and strength. The Psalms recorded that God is the origin of individual strength, e.g., and no warrior escapes by his (own) great strength (Psalms 33:16), God is our strength and shield (Psalm 28:7); the Lord gives strength to his people (Psalm 29:11).

Sometimes I wonder if God gets tired of my asking him for strength to do or be something.  As I was preparing this entry, I turned to Isaiah 40 and found that I had underlined verse 27. The verse was dated about seven years ago and my note beside it was “I’ve felt that way.”  Verse 27 reads:  Why do you ….   complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?” If Isaiah was writing today, he would identify the Israelites as asking “Do you see my life, God? Do you hear me?”

God answered Israel’s plea for his attention with this assurance: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired and weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:28–29).

When Samson was tired and weak, he asked God to give him strength so that he could destroy the Philistines even if it meant his own death (Judges 16:17-30). This was the first time Samson prayed before he judged the Philistines.  It took Samson many years and much heartache before he realized that he must rely not just on his own strength, but on God’s strength.

Thought: The Bible never recorded, “God helps those who help themselves.”   It’s okay if we rely on God’s strength.  In fact He prefers 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 July, 2014: Carolyn A. Roth

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Vegetables: To eat or not to eat?

Watermelon, Luigi Rignanese
Bible Reference: Read Romans 14:1-4 for Paul’s example of vegetables; however, the entire Chapter 14 develops Paul’s persuasive argument of acting out of love for our brothers.

The apostle Paul wrote the book “Romans” in about 57 A.D. It was written as a letter to the Roman Church from Corinth, Greece. Likely Phoebe carried the letter from Corinth to Rome (Romans 16:1-2). The theme of Romans is the revelation of God’s judging and saving righteousness through Christ. In Chapter 14, Paul called for mutual acceptance between weak and strong Christians. Weak Christians felt that in order to remain close to God, they should eat some foods, e.g., vegetables, while abstaining from others, e.g. meat. In contrast, strong Christians accepted that what they ate was independent of their saving relationship with Christ.

Many of us cannot relate to how or why eating vegetables versus meat was so important to the Roman church. Today, a parallel is Christians who believe that drinking alcohol hinders their walk with Christ while other Christians believe that drinking alcohol in moderation is consistent with the Christian life.

In the first four verses of Romans 14, Paul provided three principles for Christians and Christian churches to live by:

Principle 1: We should welcome weaker Christians into our churches; but not for the purpose of disputing or arguing with them over their opinions. We should welcome them because they are fellow believers.

Principle 2: In the Christian church there must be mutual forbearance. The mature (strong) Christian must not despise his weak brother. Similarly, neither should a weak brother judge as a sinner a Christian who enjoys meat, e.g., ham, beef. God has received both groups of Christians into his family; both groups are members in good standing.

Principle 3: Each believer is a servant of the Lord; God is their master. God, the master of all Christians, will sustain those on both sides of the issue of what to eat.

Watermelon

At the beginning of the first millennium in Rome, most Christians were slaves or from the very poor class (plebeians). Their foods were simple and consisted of grains, vegetables, and fish; fish was often a luxury. Examples of vegetables included cabbage, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce, melons, onions, and pumpkins. Watermelon was a common vegetable found in both Rome and Palestine and will be used as an example of a vegetable.

The species name of watermelon is Citrullus lanatus, previously known as Citrullus vulgaris. Watermelons were indigenous to tropical Africa. Pictures of the watermelon were included in Egyptian pyramid paintings from 2000 B.C. Watermelon seeds were found in Iron Age deposits near the Dead Sea and at Arad, Israel.

Luigi Rignanese

Symbolism: Grace

What better plant to symbolize grace than the watermelon which supplied both water and food to the early Church? Grace is unmerited divine assistance that God gives humans for their regeneration or sanctification. Grace occurred through Christ giving his body and blood for the Church. The water of the melon reminds us of God’s blood and the pulp of his body given up for us. The poorest people in the early Church were sustained by watermelons.

Reflection: Christians today would all be impoverished without Christ’s grace.

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: May 2014, Carolyn A. Roth

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