Tag Archives: Carolyn Roth Ministry

An Empty Tomb

American hymn writer Robert Lowry (1826-1899) wanted to be recognized first as a preacher and second as a hymn composer. Despite his preference, this Baptist minister is remembered first for his beautiful hymns such as “Marching to Zion” and “Up from the Grave He Rose.”

Low in the grave He lay,
Jesus, my Savior,
Waiting the coming day,
Jesus, my Lord! Refrain:

Refrain: Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch His bed,
Jesus, my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead,
Jesus, my Lord!

Refrain:

Death cannot keep his Prey,
Jesus, my Savior;
He tore the bars away,
Jesus, my Lord!

Refrain.

First Passover

Bible Reference:  Exodus chapters 11:1 – 12:36.

Moses followed God’s direction and asked to allow the Israelites to go into the desert and worship God. Pharaoh’s answer was an emphatic “no”; he was not going to allow the valuable Israelite slaves leave Egypt. As a result of Pharaoh’s pride, stubbornness, and manipulative behavior, God visited 10 plagues on Egypt.  Two plagues – the 7th and 10th plague — have direct relevance to plants. The seventh plague was a severe rain storm that involved thunder, lightning, and hail. The hail caused the barley and flax to be destroyed. The wheat and spelt were not destroyed because they ripened later. These plants – barley, flax, wheat, and spelt – will be described in later chapters of God as a Gardener.

The NIV Study Bible (2002) labeled the 10th, and final plague sent on Egypt as “The Plague of the Firstborn.”  The 10th plague was the death of the firstborn of every man and animal in Egypt with the exception of those of the Israelites. To keep the death angel from entering Israelite homes, God required the Israelites to slaughter a lamb or goat and place the animal’s blood on the sides and top of their door frames. That same night, the meat of the slaughtered animal was roasted.  Then, the meat, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread were eaten.

God told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs with their meal to remind them of the bitterness they experienced in Egypt.  Common practice was for Egyptian taskmasters to whip Israelite slaves. The Israelites must have experienced terrible bitterness when their newborn sons were taken from them and thrown into the Nile River to die. They were powerless to stop these murders. The final way bitter herbs symbolized bitterness was related directly to the death of Egyptian first born sons. The death of Egyptians’ first-born sons was the price of Israelite freedom.  Pharaoh’s resolve to keep the Israelites was not shattered until his son was killed. Individual, family, and national freedom through death of children – even children not their own — would have been a source of bitterness for the Israelites.

In Egypt bitter herbs included endive, chicory, dandelion, and wild lettuce. The type of bitter herb used in the first Passover meal may have varied among families.  Exodus 10:15 recorded that “nothing green remained on tree or plant in all of Egypt” after the eighth plague, the plague of the locust. Possible some families stored one type of bitter herb, while other families had another bitter herb available to them.

The Endive Plant

 In this chapter, endive, Cichorium endivia, is used as an example of a bitter herb. In early Greek translations of the Bible, the word “endive” was used in place of “bitter herbs.”  Although the origin of endive is lost from history, the first wild species may have grown in Turkey and Syria.  Probably, endive  was native to India, China or Egypt.  Endive produces attractive light blue flowers which grow on stems that stand above the leafy foliage. Endive is used almost exclusively in raw salads. Its slightly bitter flavor is often more appreciated by Europeans than Americans. Adding a sweet or oily salad dressing can balance the bitter taste.

Symbolism: Bitterness

The symbolism of bitter herbs including endive is clear from the name – they refer to bitterness. Bitterness is something intensely distressing or disturbing to the mind (Merriam-Webster Incorporated , 2005). Bitterness is an expression of severe pain, grief, or regret.

Writing to the Ephesians (4:31), Paul told them to get rid of all bitterness.  Yet, God wanted the Israelites to eat bitter herbs at the annual Seder meal during Passover to remind the Israelites of their bitterness in Egypt.  How are we to reconcile putting off all bitterness with God’s direction to the Israelites to remember their bitterness annually?

I think there is a difference between remembering a bitter occasion as a precursor to celebration of a better life, versus remembering bitterness to the point that it leads to resentment of God, situations, and people. Certainly, God did not tell the Israelites to hate or resent the Egyptians. Rather, the Seder meal which included bitter herbs was a meal celebrated the Israelite exodus from Egypt.

Remembering bitterness (of pain, grief, and regret) disturbs our minds. Bitterness supplants the peace Christ designed to rule our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).  Our bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30-31).  Can we remember bitterness as an object lesson, but not allow it to control our lives? In his book Total Forgiveness, R.T. Kendell (2007) suggested that forgiveness was the answer to bitterness. He identified four parts to this forgiveness:

Step 1, we need to forgive whomever and whatever situation caused the bitterness in us. The Israelites needed to forgive the Egyptians for enslaving them.

Step 2, we need to forgive ourselves for contributing to the situation that caused bitterness. The Israelites needed to forgive themselves for remaining in Egypt for 400 years, well after the famine in Canaan was over.

Step 3, we need to forgive God.  Saying we must forgive God seems odd and almost improper. Does the created forgive the creator?  In this situation forgiveness means we need to acknowledge our bitterness toward God for letting us get in a devastatingly painful situation.

I think that some Israelites blamed their bitterness on God. After God led them out of Egypt, probably some cried “Where were you when my son was murdered? If you would have freed us sooner, my son would be alive.”  The reality is that we do blame God for some, or even much, of our bitterness. If we want to get rid of bitterness toward God, we need to tell God our feelings, tell God we forgive him, and really mean it.

Step 4, we need to ask God’s forgiveness. Without bitterness in our hearts, we can confess our sinful feelings of bitterness toward God and ask his forgiveness.

From time to time, we may still remember the bitter situation; however, the pain of it will be gone or go away over time. For years I had bitterness in my heart over a situation. I tried a number of ways to get rid of it, to no avail. Then, I read Total Forgiveness and implemented the four steps of confession and forgiveness that Kendall recommended. Now, I am free of the bitterness of this situation. Thank you, God.

Reflection: The past cannot be changed, but the future is whatever you want it to be. Is there bitterness in your life that needs attention?

Copyright August 26, 2011; carolyn a. roth

Concieling Curtains

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Photo is of a mature cotton flower before turns in boll.

Esther chapter 1.

Esther is the last of the historical books of the Old Testament. It is the story of a beautiful Jewish girl who became wife to Ahasuerus (Xerxes), king of Persia (486-465 B.C.).

The story begins with Ahasuerus giving an elaborate banquet for his nobles and officials. The banquet was held in the palace’s enclosed garden. The garden had white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings on marble pillars (ESV). Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in another part of the palace.  Feeling merry, Ahasuerus commanded that Vashti come before him to display her beauty to his guest. Vashti refused. Because of her disobedience, Ahasuerus divorced Vashti. Subsequently, Esther became queen.

Then, the plot of the book unfolds. Haman, an enemy of the Jews and chief advisor to Ahasuerus, determined to murder all the Jews throughout Persia. Ahasuerus consented to Haman’s plans not knowing that Queen Esther was a Jew. Esther’s uncle Mordecai sent word to Esther that she must plead to Ahasuerus for the lives of the Jews. Although frightened, Esther agreed to make the plea on behalf of her people. Esther planned two private banquets for Ahasuerus and Haman. At the second banquet Esther humbly admitted she was a Jewess.  She disclosed Haman’s scheme to destroy her people. Both Ahasuerus and Haman were stunned.  They were unaware that in ordering the murder of all Jews, they ordered the Queen’s death.

Angrily Ahasuerus ordered Haman to be hung. Because Ahasuerus could not undo his previous decree, he sent out another decree enabling the Jews to destroy any armed force that might attack them and to plunder the property of their enemies.

Celebration of Purim:

Purim is celebrated on the 14 day of Adar which is usually in March. In March 2012 at the time of the Festival of Purim, the Prime Minister of Israel visited the United States President and presented him with a scroll of the book of Esther.

Cotton

Cotton Flower, leaves

Young cotton flower, before turning cream-colored.

The white cotton curtains (Hebrew karpas) of Esther were probably Gossypium herbaceum also known as Levant cotton and Arabian cotton. G. herbaceum was domesticated in India about 3000 B.C. and present in Mesopotamia about 1000 B.C.  Ahasuerus ruled lands from India to Ethiopia; consequently, finding cotton curtains in his palace is reasonable. In the 7th century B.C. cotton was present in Horvat ʽUza located in the Arad Valley in Palestine. Certainly, the exiles would have brought cotton fabric, if not plants, back with them from exile in Persia. G. herbaceum is not the same species of cotton grown in present-day Israel, nor is it grown in the United States. When cotton plants are irrigated, most flower mid to late summer. Large, showy, solitary blooms have five petals (1-2 inches long). Flowers are yellow (occasionally white) at first, then fade to a soft red or pink. The cotton plant fruit is called a boll. When ripe, the boll splits and a mass of fine white filaments or fibers exude.  The white fibers are the cotton of commerce. Seeds are contained in the white fibers. In ancient times seeds were separated from fibers by hand.  With the invention of the cotton gin in the 18th century, seeds and fibers are separated mechanically.

Symbolism: Curtain, Conceal

In Ahasuerus’ palace, curtains were made from cotton. Curtain has several meanings to include 1) a hanging screen that can be drawn back, 2) a device that conceals or acts as a barrier, or 3) the time that a theatrical performance begins. In the first chapter of Esther, the cotton curtains were associated with all three meanings. Technically, the white cotton curtains were tied back by cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods. In inclement weather or to obscure the sun’s rays, the cotton curtains could be let down. Figuratively, the curtains symbolized Esther concealing her nationality. They symbolized Haman’s concealed desire to murder Mordecai; yet convincing Ahasuerus that all Jews should die because they disobeyed the king’s laws. Finally, the cotton-curtained plaza was the stage where the first act of the drama of Esther began.

Earlier in this blog, we studied the importance of the veil or curtain in the Tent of Meeting. That curtain was made of linen not cotton but it also concealed, e.g., the Most Holy of Holies room from the Holy of Holies room. The chief priest entered the Most Holy of Holies one time per year and then only after making blood sacrifice for his own sins and the inadvertent sins of the Israelites.

Christ death changed the curtain separating the two rooms of the Temple. When Christ died, the curtain separating the Most Holy of Holies from the Holies of Holy rooms tore from top to bottom. Similarly, Christ’s death tore the curtain separating us from God. God became open and available to us; no longer concealed by a curtain. Now through the blood of Jesus Christ we have confidence to stand before God (Hebrews 10:19).

Reflection:  We have ready access to God through Christ.  No more curtain between us and Abba, our Father.  Now the only one who can keep God concealed from us is us.

Copyright 12, 29, 2012; carolyn a. roth; updated 2,23,17

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Cleansed with Soap Plant

salsola-kali-kali-fl-fbramley

Bible References:

“Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign LORD (Jeremiah 2:22, NIV).

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” (Malachi 3:2, NIV).

The context for Malachi’s words on a launderer’s soap was prophecy about the coming Messiah begins with the coming of his messenger (John the Baptist) who would appear before Christ. Messiah’s coming was not warm, gushy and love, love, love. Malachi wrote that Messiah would put individuals on trial (3:5). He would sit as a refiner who removes impurities from precious metals. Messiah would remove impurities from his people’s thoughts and behavior. No longer would people be dirty. Messiah would be like a launder who washed clothes to remove all dirt.

Probably soap was used in some form as far back as prehistoric times. When used with water, soap, reduces the water’s surface tension to attract dirt and oil away from skin or other materials such as clothing.  How?  Soap acts as a “surfactant” which means it helps water to soak in, rather than remain in tight droplets.  Soap works by attaching itself to dirt and suspends the dirt molecule until water rinses it off, carrying away both dirt and soap away from the fabric.salsola-kali-fr-sweeds

Bible women and launders washed clothes with a strong soap, then place the clothing upon a rock and beat them with a stick to remove dirt. Intuitively, it seems to me that launders and house wives would destroy the fibers in clothes if they used strong soap, followed by a rock and a stick; however, in Bible times often cloth was coarser and perhaps more sturdy than the fine fabrics we have today.

The Hebrew word for soap was most often borith, properly a vegetable alkali, obtained from the ashes of certain plants, particularly the Salsola kali (saltwort), which abounds on the shores of the Dead Sea and of the Mediterranean. In early times soap-like substances were extracted from plants such as soapwort, soap root, soap bark, yucca, horsetail, fuschia leaves, and agave. These plants often found flourishing on riverbanks or near lakes.

salsola-kali-st-gmittelhauser-e

Russian Thistle

Russian Thistle (Salsola kali) is an annual plant that can grow to two feet tall. It is in flower from July to   September. Flowers are primarily pollinated by the wind. Salsola kali grows best in sandy soil and medium loam as long as soil is well drained. It grows in very alkaline and saline soils. In the United States it grows in states that abut oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. It cannot grow in the shade. The ashes of the burnt plant are used for making glass and soap. The ashes can also be used as a cleaner for fabrics. Synonyms are prickly saltwort, windwitch.

Symbolism

Logic suggests that the symbolism of Salsola kali (Russian thistle, prickly saltwort) should be clean or cleansing. When I think of cleansing my first thought goes to when I confessed my need for a Savior and was cleansed from my sins. Wow, doing that made me feel good. I was “saved” from my sins. In my childish world view, I believed that I would not sin any more. When I did sin by disobeying my parents, thinking “bad” words, or saying mean things about people, I concluded that in reality I was not “saved.”  Being saved didn’t take with me. Perhaps I needed to do it again. Maybe I was just too awful to be saved once for all times and I needed to be saved every year or even every couple of months.

Thank God, little girls read their Bible, mature, learn.  Now, I know that I am once and for all “saved.” But this side of heaven, I am going to continue to sin. I am made up of a spiritual self that I received in the form of the Holy Spirit when I was saved. I also still have my physical or old self so I continue to sin.

God gave me a way to get rid of my continued sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV). Look! Look! God is going to wash and purify us from our sins.

Reflection: Do you feel clean after a shower or bath? Do you feel clean after confessing your sins to Christ?

Copyright January 20, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible, visit www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Spiritual Adultery

An Old Testament parable of a green tree is one of the Bible’s miniature parables (Hoses 14:8). It is brief, and some would say obscure. Hosea spoke the parable of the evergreen tree to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Today, we read the parable and visualize the majesty of a green tree, similar to the beloved Christmas tree in our churches and homes.

The prophet Hosea implored the Northern Kingdom to repent so that God could heal their waywardness. Hosea averred that Israel’s disloyalty to God and idol worship was spiritual adultery. Because Hosea came from the Northern Kingdom, he knew every pride and perversion of royalty and common citizen alike. Yet, Hosea spoke of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. On Jesus’ birth-day, he came with love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Hosea assured Israel that foreign countries, despite their earthy powers, couldn’t save them. God alone can save Israel. After assuring the Israelites that God can and will heal Israel, Hosea offered a parable:

Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?
I have answered (him) and will regard and watch over him; I am like a green fir (cypress tree); with Me is the fruit found (which is to nourish you) (Hosea 14:8 AMP)

Symbolism

The spiritual interpretation of God as an evergreen cypress tree is that man-made idols aren’t immortal; they aren’t even alive. They are statues, man’s creations. Some have ears; but, they can’t hear. Some have mouths; but, they can’t speak. Having a head isn’t the same as having a brain or a mind. Worshiping idols is spiritual adultery against God.

Immortality, including long life for an individual or a nation, comes only from God. Perhaps, nowhere in the Old Testament is God’s caring so forthrightly and succinctly presented as here in Hosea. God told Israel that he, not an idol, answers them and looks after them. He is like a green cypress tree. From God comes Israel’s fruit, i.e., both their food and their righteousness.

Hosea 14:8 is the only place (that I know of) where God compared himself to a living organism. At times, the Bible writers recorded that God is enduring like the mountains, the soil, and the ocean. In Hosea, God liken himself to something alive, as he is alive. That living organism was a tree with a lovely smell and which was disease-resistant. Although ancient people used the cypress tree to symbolize immortality, God doesn’t just symbolize immortality; he is immortal. This immortal God chose to come to earth, born in a baby and live as a man, so mankind could have immortal life with him in heaven.

Reflection: An immortal life isn’t up to you or me. We are guaranteed immortality. The question is where will each of us spend our never-ending life.

Cypress Essential Oil

The crisp, fresh aroma of Cypress essential oil promotes vitality and energy, while topical application helps to invigorate the senses and ground the soul. Cypress works on the heart and mind, creating flexibility. These attributes make Cypress the oil of Motion & Flow. Its powerful properties include antibacterial, antiseptic, making it effective for topical application as well.

When used aromatically, Cypress livens up the spirit and mind. The aroma of this essential oil is clean, woody and herbaceous and is commonly combined with citrus oils. For example, when combined with lime the invigorating scent helps to boost the mood.  Aromatic use helps to transform feelings of being stalled into feeling of progression. Cypress is also used to reduce the appearance of oily skin and is great to incorporate into a massage.

Copyright November 11, 2017; Carolyn Adams Roth

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Parable for Gentiles

The Epiphany season reminds us that Jesus is the Savior of Gentiles as well as Jews. Initially, the church in Rome was composed of Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Almost immediately, Jewish believers evangelized Gentiles. Then, Emperor Claudius banished all Jews from Rome. For 12 years, the Christian church in Rome consisted of only Gentiles. When Nero became Emperor, he invited the Jews back to Rome, noting that they were good for business and trade. The problem was that Gentiles refused to allow Jewish Christians back into the Christian church in Rome.

Paul’s letter to the Romans (about 71 AD) included a parable using cultivated olive and wild olive trees to illustrate Gentile’s proper response to Jewish Christian brethren. Carefully, read what Paul wrote to the Romans (Romans 11:16-24). In this parable of the in-grafted wild olive branch, Paul identified:

  • A root and branches (boughs) of a cultivated olive tree. The original cultivated olive tree with its root and branches is the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their offspring, the Jews. This root was solid and sure. Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah were the original root and branches of the early Christian church. Branches broken off from the cultivated olive tree were Jews who refused to believe that Jesus was the long looked-for Messiah. These were most Jews who lived in Palestine and throughout the Roman Empire at the time.
  • A branch (bough) of a wild olive tree. The wild olive branch equated to Gentile Christians who believed that Jesus was the son of God and followed his teachings.
  • Grafting a wild olive branch onto a cultivated olive tree. Gentile believers were grafted into—became an integral, productive off shoot—of the Jewish faith.

Despite the lesser value of wild olive tree products than cultivated olive tree products, Paul’s parable didn’t mean that Jewish Christians were more valuable than Gentile Christians. Similarly, although Jewish Christians were represented by branches (more than one) and Gentile Christians by a single branch didn’t mean that there were more Jews than Gentiles in the Christian church at Rome. Probably, the opposite was true. Data aren’t available for the number of Jews who became believers in the early centuries after Christ’s death; but, by the early 21st century, most Christians are Gentiles. Globally, less than one half percent of Jews self-identified as Messianic Jews, Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah.

Although the cultivated olive tree formed the root and some branches of the olive tree in Paul’s parable, the in-grafted wild olive tree branch resonates with most of us. We, Gentiles, are the wild olive branch. The interpretation of Paul’s parable in the eleventh chapter of Romans is that the Gentile believers were grafted into—became an integral, productive off shoot—of the Jewish faith. Epiphany and the Epiphany season celebrates the extension of Jesus’ saving power to non-Jews.

In the parable of the in-grafted wild olive tree, Paul encouraged a fully integrated church. Paul wasn’t attempting to make the Christian church in Rome a sect of Judaism, nor was he advocating that Gentile Christians replaced the Jews in God’s favor.

Solomon’s Cyclamen Crown

Cyclamen persicum

The beautiful cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is often called Solomon’s crown. Although not identified in the Bible, cyclamen grow freely among rocks and on rock walls in Israel. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. During the Christmas season, cyclamens are a popular gift, possibly because they are associated with the Holy Land.

In Israel, cyclamen begin to blossom in November and continues through March-April. In Upper Galilee cyclamen bloom even into early May. Leaves are heart-shaped and dark green with white mottling. In Israel, flowers are generally white or vivid pink; however, they can also be lavender. The blossom (6-9 inches tall) rises from a single stem. The bloom can last an entire month. Flowers are reminiscent of orchids.

Growth Patterns

Generally, cyclamen grow from corms (small bulbs), but with enough patience, they can be grown from seeds. In the United States, cyclamen are winter hardy in zones 9–11. Recently, florists have developed smaller cyclamen (2-4 inch tall blossoms) that are hardy in zones 5-8.  Last fall, I purchased and planted three of the hardy cyclamen corms in St. John Church Bible Garden. I was hoping that they would grow in the spring but none of them made it through the winter..

Owners generally keep cyclamen in a cool, semi-shaded area on a porch or balcony during summer and bring them inside during winter. If cyclamen are planted outdoors, they need a semi-shaded area, composted soil, and plenty of moisture.

Reflection: The more I read about Solomon, the worse I feel about him. He had so much going for him; however, he succumbed to worship of his wives’ gods. We need to be sure that we never slowly drift (like Solomon) to worship of a god other than God.

Copyright December 8, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved. Updated 2/8/20

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Swaddling Cloths

When Mary returned to Nazareth from visiting her cousin Elizabeth, her betrothed, Joseph, decided that the couple should leave for Bethlehem. Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered that all men must go to their home town to register for tax purposes. Joseph was of the lineage of David and his home town was Bethlehem.

When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph’s family’s homes were packed. Inns were filled with other returned Bethlehemites. Joseph’s kin told him that he and Mary were welcome to sleep in the barn. Mary gave birth to her first-born son, Jesus in this barn environment. As was the custom in the Ancient Near East culture, Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths (Luke 2:7), Swaddling cloths were narrow band of cloths wrapped around newborn children to restrain and quiet them. A mother’s womb was snug and warm; these cloths mimicked the womb. Newborns have fingernails, so the cloths would have prevented the newborn Jesus from scratching himself has he wiggled around.

The swaddling cloths Mary wrapped Jesus in were probably made from cotton. Because of their poverty, Joseph and Mary likely were unable to afford linen cloths. Often pictures of Jesus wrapped in cloths at his birth depict the cloths as white; however, likely the cloths were gray or brown as the cotton was unbleached. Perhaps, swaddling cloths that Mary used were several colors because they were cast off rags. Have you ever cared for a newborn? They both urinate and have small bowel movements. Likely, Mary knew this newborn characteristic and used cloths that could be changed separately on Jesus’s lower body.

The cotton cloths were probably from the Gossypium herbaceum plant, also known as Levant cotton and Arabian cotton. Cotton plants were domesticated in India about 3000 B.C. and grew in Mesopotamia at least from 1000 B.C. In the 7th century B.C. cotton was present in the Arad Valley in Palestine. Possibly, returned Jewish exiles brought cotton cloth and cotton plants back with them from Persia.  G. herbaceum isn’t the same species of cotton grown in present-day Israel, nor the species grown in the United States. When cotton plants are irrigated, most flower mid-to-late summer. Large, showy, solitary blooms have five petals (1-2 inches long). Flowers are yellow (occasionally white) at first, then fade to a soft red or pink. The cotton plant fruit is called a boll. When ripe, the boll splits and a mass of fine white filaments or fibers exude.  The white fibers are the cotton of commerce. Seeds are present in the white fibers. In ancient times seeds were separated from fibers by hand, then the fibers woven into cloth.

Luke recorded that Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Most photographs showed this manger made from wood, filled with straw, and elevated off the barn floor. The Nazareth Exhibit in the Museum of the Bible showed a contrasting scenario. There, the manger was hewed out of an approximately two by one-foot stone. The interior of the manger was rough. The Bible never recorded that the manger was filled with straw before the newborn Jesus was laid in it. Swaddling cloths could have been the cushion for the newborn Jesus.

Luke’s story of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling cloths symbolizes Jesus as the lamb of God.  It was in the Bethlehem area that newborn lambs were birthed for Temple sacrifice. Because the lambs had to be unblemished, often shepherds wrapped them lambs in swaddling cloths. As these lambs were fed by their mothers, they were kept unblemished.

Please visit my website to learn more about Bible plants and my ministry: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright May 28, 2018; Carolyn Roth

Superstition! Are You?

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 30.14-17: Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”

So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.

God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob another son.

Meditation: The patriarch Jacob married two sisters: Leah and Rachel. Leah birthed four sons, then stopped conceiving children. Rachel had no children even though Jacob spent his nights with her.

When Leah’s son brought mandrakes to his mother, Rachel proposed a trade to Leah: Jacob will spend the night with Leah in return for Leah giving Rachel the mandrakes. Leah agreed and gave the mandrakes to Rachel. Leah informed Jacob that per the agreement with Rachel, Jacob would spend the night with her.

Jacob appeared powerless in this Bible story. No questions or push-back from Jacob were recorded in the Bible. His wives dictated Jacob’s actions, at least in this episode.

Leah conceived another child as a result of Jacob spending the night with her. Acquiring and somehow using mandrakes didn’t result in Rachel conceiving.

The long mandrake root is shaped like two legs descending from a trunk. The root is most often associated with fertility and conception.

The story of Jacob’s wives and  mandrakes showed that both Leah and Rachel were superstitious. Before we are too critical of these two women, think about individuals today who read their horoscope daily. Believing that mandrakes promoted conception and that a horoscope foretells type of day are   attempts to circumvent God’s will. Both actions reflect a dependence on something other than the God of the universe.

Christians don’t believe in superstition or search for omens in the sky as with a horoscope. Christians have the Holy Spirit to instruct and guide them. God’s Word itself, the Bible, is our source of spiritual insight.

Reflection: Have you ever used superstitious behavior to achieve something you wanted? Why don’t you turn your problems over to God and allow him to handle them?

Copyright: 9/28/2020: Carolyn A. Roth

John, Unbendable Reed

 

Reference: Luke 7:19-28

John the Baptist’s public ministry lasted one-to-two years. Jesus went to John to be baptized. Baptizing Jesus was the high point of John’s ministry. Then, King Herod Antipas arrested John and imprisoned him at Machaerus, a walled fortress with special quarters for political prisoners. When King Herod arrested John, the ostensible reason was that John criticized Herod for divorcing his powerful Nabatean wife.

Although King Herod used a personal reason for imprisoning John, getting John out of circulation made political sense. John mandated that individuals, who came to him for baptism, change their behavior.  John advocated economic changes that influenced King Herod’s income. For example, John told tax collectors to collect only the amount of money required by Rome. They should stop lining their pockets and those of King Herod by over-taxing citizens. Soldiers must be content with their pay and stop extorting money from individuals. John had tremendous influence with people in Herod’s kingdom. According to the first century historian, Josephus, Herod feared that John, with his widespread support from the common people, would instigate rebellion against him.5

After John was in prison perhaps 15-18 months, he sent two disciples to Jesus. They asked Jesus if he was the expected Messiah, or if they should look for someone else (Luke 7.19). Jesus didn’t give the disciples a direct “Yes” or “No” answer.  Instead Jesus told the disciples to go back to John and report what they saw and heard, i.e., the blind received their sight, the lame walked, lepers were cured. After John’s messengers left, Jesus asked the crowd what they expected when they went to see John in the desert. Jesus contrasted John the Baptist’s behavior with a reed that blew in the wind, swaying first one way than another.

The reed that Jesus referred to when talking about John was the Arundo donax, known as the giant reed or the Cypress cane. Reed colonies were located on the banks of natural water courses, in floodplains of medium or large sized streams, and in dry river banks far from permanent water sources. Reeds grew throughout Israel from Mount Hermon to the Negev Desert.

Giant Reed

Giant reeds are perennials; they regrow year-after-year. Reeds  reach a height of 20 feet and may grow 10-12 feet in a single season. In frost areas, reeds are smaller. Often, they die back in winter, only to regrow in spring. Like bamboo grass, the giant reed spreads readily. Roots are thick, knobby rhizomes. In nature, this reed often propagates by rhizomes breaking from the main root stock, moving through the water, and taking root in a new location. The central reed stalk is called a culm; culms are about 1 ½ inches in diameter and hollow. Each culm has many leaves that resemble corn stalks; however, leaves have sharp edges that can cut fingers.

Culms and leaves are green in spring and early summer. As drier weather prevails, foliage turns light brown and rattles in the wind. Giant reeds bend with the wind, even when they grow in large colonies. In ancient times, reeds were used to check soil erosion and functioned as wind breaks.

Symbolism: Unbendable

Jesus asked the crowd if they expected to see a reed swaying in the wind when they went out to see John the Baptist. In New Testament times, individuals knew about reeds.  At a minimum, they saw reeds growing along the Jordan River. To them reeds elicited mainly positive thoughts. Perhaps, they remembered how Isaiah associated reeds with humility (Isaiah 58.5).

Jesus denied that John was a swaying reed. John was firm and upright, unlike a reed that swayed in the wind. Jesus averred that John’s beliefs were firm, and he lived by them. John stayed on message (repentance) and on task, (baptism). John didn’t have a politically correct bone in his body. He didn’t pander to public opinion, giving one message to common people and a second one to the rich and powerful. John called the Jerusalem elite “a brood of vipers.” Nor, was John silent when King Herod divorced his first wife, Phasaelis, to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Instead, John labeled Herod an adulterer.

Despite Jesus denying that John was a swaying reed, John’s behavior reflected how reeds were used in ancient Judea and Galilee. By his words and life, John stood against the erosion of godly living. He called ordinary citizens, tax collectors, and civil and religious leaders to a life changed to reflect God’s standards.

Like reeds used as windbreaks, John stood as a buffer between people who were righteous and the secular society of the Roman Empire. The best windbreaks lower wind chill in man, animals, and plants. Everything we know about John the Baptist showed a priest and prophet who lived close to God. As a windbreak John, lowered the chilling effects of the secular Roman society on inhabitants of Galilee and Judea.

Jesus’s comments on John the Baptist included a eulogy for John. In addition to commendatory words given at a memorial service, eulogy means “high praise.” Although John was still alive, Jesus eulogized him by saying of all men (and women) born of woman, there was none greater than John the Baptist. John wasn’t a weak reed, or as we would say in the 21 century, John the Baptist wasn’t a “shrinking violet.”

Reflection: What about you? Do you bend and sway with all types of adversity?

Copyright: 7/26/18; Carolyn A. Roth

Visit my website: CarolynRothMinistry.com