Tag Archives: Commitment to God

Climbing a Sycamore Tree

???????????????Luke recorded the episode of Christ, Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree in Luke 19:1-10.

This picture of a sycamore tree was taken in Jericho and is identified there as the actual tree that Zacchaeus climbed; however, it is much too young. It could be an offspring of the actual tree.

The setting for Christ’s interaction with Zacchaeus was Jericho, located 5 miles west of the Jordan River and about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Herod the Great built a new city of Jericho south of the old city. Probably Jesus was entering the new city when Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him. 

Zaccheaus was a Jew but functioned as the chief tax collector for the Romans. In the Roman Empire, tax collectors were responsible to collect and give so much money to Rome annually.  Money collected beyond what they turned over to Rome they kept. Many tax collectors, including Zacchaeus, were unscrupulous; they became very rich from overtaxing and defrauding the people in their tax districts. Jews assigned tax collectors to the category of “sinner” along with adulterers, prostitutes, robbers, etc.  Zaccheaus and his entire family were ostracized by Jews. 

Zacchaeus was a physically short man. Because he wanted to see Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree by the side of the road where Jesus was walking. To Zacchaeus’ surprise, Jesus stopped below the sycamore tree where he was perched, looked up, and started to talk to Zacchaeus. What Jesus said was shocking not only to Zacchaeus but to the crowd who was with Jesus. Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down from the tree immediately because he was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that day. The story of Zacchaeus is the only Biblical record of Jesus inviting himself to an individual’s house.  Zacchaeus climbed down from the sycamore tree and welcomed Jesus gladly.

When members of the crowd saw that Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ home, they muttered about Jesus wanting to be a guest of a known sinner; however, Jesus’ conversation with Zacchaeus brought about a radical change in Zacchaeus’ life.  Following their time together, Zacchaeus vowed that a) he would give 50% of his possessions to the poor and b) anyone he cheated, he would pay back fourfold.  Zacchaeus’ promise of restitution was more than the Hebrew law demanded (Exodus 22:4, 7; Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7). Where Zacchaeus was controlled by greed, he was now controlled by love. Christ’s response to Zachaeus’ conversion was to declare that salvation came to Zacchaeus and his house.

Sycamore Tree

The sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed into was the Ficus sycamorus, also called the sycamore fig.  Some scholars argue that the Ficus sycamorus was the original fig tree in the Garden of Eden, not the Ficus carica.  In Israel, sycamore trees grow where underground water is shallow and is most prominent in the southern Israel because of construction and rapid development.     Under very favorable conditions, the sycamore tree may produce up to six crops per year.  In Bethlehem, we purchased a wrapped package of sycamore fruit at a road-side market. When unwrapped, the sycamore fruit were hard, salted, and made a tasty snack.  1-DSC00874

Symbolism: Regeneration    

In Israel, the sycamore tree symbolized regeneration.  Regeneration refers to someone who is spiritually reborn.  Zacchaeus had a spiritual rebirth thorough his discussion with Jesus in his home.  Levi, known as Matthew, was one of Christ’s original 12 apostles.  Like Zaccheaus, Levi was a tax collector (Mark 2:14).  When Christ called, Levi left his tax collector’s booth and followed Christ.  Possibly Zacchaeus knew Levi and wondered why his colleague who could become very rich collecting taxes would give it up for Christ.  After spending several hours with Christ, Zacchaeus no longer wondered because he too had a regenerated heart. Zacchaeus’ new heart did not cause him to follow Christ as did Levi’s.  Instead, Zacchaeus’ regenerated heart caused him to make restitution and change his life where he lived in Jericho. 

Reflection: I wonder if Zacchaeus did not have a harder task than Matthew???

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, 10/13

Save

Save

Save

Abraham Planted Tamarisk Trees

Tamarisk (2)Abraham  planted tamarisk trees 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 descendants. 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.” Tiny segments on athel pine needles are often less than 1/8 inch long. The gray-green needles appear to wilt or hang down from the stems. 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 (Hareuveni, 1989). 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 does not 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 did not 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.

Taking Action

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 does not 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 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.

Reflection: “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 May 24, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth, all rights reserved.

Save

Save

Save

Save