Tag Archives: Gardener

Acacia Wood in the Tabernacle

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The wooden structure of the Tabernacle is described primarily in Exodus chapter 25:1–27:19; Exodus 30:1–6; and chapters 35-38. 

 Acacia wood was the only type of wood used in the construction of the Tent of Meeting, the sides of the courtyard, and the furniture and altars in the Tabernacle. The Tent of Meeting itself was constructed of gold covered acacia wood panels, or boards.  Gold covered acacia wood posts and cross bars stabilized the acacia wood panels and held the Tent of Meeting curtains in place. In the Tent of Meeting, the Table of the Presence (Showbread), the Altar of Incense (Golden Altar), and the Ark of the Covenant were built from acacia wood then overlaid with gold. Gold covered acacia wood poles were placed in gold rings on the four corners of each structure. When the Israelites moved, poles were used to lift and carry each piece of furniture.  

 In the courtyard, the Altar of Burnt Offering (Bronze Altar) was built from acacia wood overlaid with bronze. Bronze-cast rings were placed half way up the Bronze Altar at the four corners. Bronze-covered acacia wood poles were inserted into the rings for carrying the Bronze Altar. The courtyard was rectangular — approximately 150 feet on the north and south sides and 75 feet on the east and west sides. Unlike the Tent of Meeting, no acacia wood panels or boards were used to construct the sides of the courtyard. The sides were made of linen; however, the linen curtains were attached to acacia wood posts (top and sides) with silver hooks.  

 When the Israelites moved from one camp to another, the Tent of Meeting and Tabernacle were deconstructed then moved (Numbers chapter 4). God would not allow the sacred furnishings and the Tent of Meeting to be transported in wagons or carts. He required that they be carried on the shoulders of the Levites. Acacia wood is beautiful, light, and practical indestructible. It was ideal for the multiple moves that the Israelites made in their years of journeying on the Sinai Peninsula and final march into Canaan.

 Shittâh or Acacia wood

The Bible identified the wood used in the Tabernacle as shittâh which translates as acacia. The Genus and species of the acacia tree used in the Tabernacle cannot be established with 100% accuracy. Over the years, several trees were suggested as the source of the wood. In the early 20th century, scholars suggested the wood was from the Mimosa nilatica (Spina AEgyptiaca of the Egyptians) primarily because the Israelites could have brought this wood out of Egypt.  Others proposed that the acacia wood of the Tabernacle was from the Acacia tortillis which grew in the Judean Desert and eastern Negev Desert. Jewish rabbinic writings asserted that acacia trees without any knots or fissures were cut by the patriarch Jacob at Migdal Ẓebo’aya, Canaan and taken into Egypt. During their captivity, the Israelites retained the acacia wood and left Egypt with the wood. Thus, when Moses asked for offerings to build the Tabernacle, everyone who had acacia wood offered it.

Although Mimosa nilatica and Acacia tortollis could have been the wood used in Tabernacle construction, many scholars favor the Acacia seyal tree. The A. seyal is indigenous to the dry desert-like climate of southern Sinai. It grows in stony alluvial soil at the base of hills. The A. seyal can grow at altitudes from 65 – 7000 feet and with annual precipitations as low as 3.5 – 9 inches. The Acacia seyal tree is a semi-evergreen tree that grows from 20 – 30 feet tall and has a broad somewhat flat canopy.

 Symbolism: Indestructible

Acacia trees and acacia wood has taken on meaning beyond a common wood used in construction.  The acacia wood used as the foundation of the Tabernacle symbolizes the humanity of Christ while the gold overlay of the boards and poles symbolizes Christ’s deity. Isaiah described Christ as “a root out of dry growth” similar to the acacia tree growing out of arid desert soil (Isaiah 53:2).

As Christians, it is important to remember that Christ was fully human and it was in His human strength that He endured unbelievable torture and finally death on the cross (John 18 and 19).  Acacia wood is virtually indestructible, but Christ is fully indestructible.  In His human body, Christ died once for all people — those present on the earth when he lived and for individuals of all future times (Hebrews 9:12-14).  The indestructible Christ rose after death and now sits at the right hand of God in heaven (Hebrew 10:12).  Burnt offerings on bronze-covered acacia wood altars are no longer needed for sins to be forgiven and for man to be reconciled to God (Hebrew 10:11-18).  Christ’s death and resurrection invites each of us to become a child of God.

The builders and craftsmen of the Tabernacle worked with care and diligence to build the Tabernacle as God directed. As Christians “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 1:10). We are called by God and ordained for His work here on earth. Sometimes it isn’t easy to know the specific work God wants us to do.  In the past I have been way off track with God’s plans for me.  Alternatively, at other times I have been on track, walking as God ordained.  Part of our work here on earth is to be like acacia wood – virtually indestructible –as we walk out God’s plans for our lives.  How indestructible we are depends on how much effort we make to stay close to Christ.  The best ways to stay close to Christ are by regular — preferably daily – Bible reading, prayer, and meditation on the Holy Scriptures.

 Reflection.  Wouldn’t you like your epitaph to read:____________(your name) was indestructible in his/her walk with Christ. How can you 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 July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

Rue, the Protective Herb

Jesus’ regretRue chalepensis (2) over the priorities of the Pharisees is described in Luke 11:37-44.

This entry is part of the previous one where Jesus was invited to eat in a Pharisee’s home.  Mentally, the Pharisee host criticized Jesus because Jesus did not wash his hands before eating. To the Pharisee hand washing was important not because he was concerned about hygiene, but because he care about ceremonial purity. 

Knowing what the Pharisee was thinking, Jesus attempted to show him that preoccupation with externals had little to do with real religion. Christ declared, “Woe to you Pharisees because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). When Christ used the word “woe,” he was not calling down a curse on the Pharisees, being sly, or amusing. Christ’s “woe” was an expression of deep regret, an expression of the anguish he felt for these men. The Pharisees missed the point of God’s law. They had their priorities and their interpretation of God’s laws upside down and inside out. By this time in Jewish history, the Pharisees had the teachings of the Torah and the Old Testament prophets. They were aware that God did not require 1,000 rams, or 10,000 rivers of oil, or their first born child as a sacrifice (Micah 6:7-8). God wanted men and women to act justly, to extend mercy toward their brothers and sisters, and to love God.

Rue

The rue of the Bible is the Ruta chalepenis called African rue, common rue, and fringed rue.  Rue is native to the Middle East. In ancient Israel, rue grew wild; therefore, a tithe was not paid when the herb was used. In New Testament times, rue was grown in gardens, necessitating growers to pay a tithe on its sell. Rue can grow in almost any type of soil, but grows best in sand or clay loam. Young plants require average to moist soil; however, after plants are established they are drought tolerant.  Rue enjoys full sun. In Israel, rue grows in the northern and central parts of the country, but not in the Negev region. It can tolerate only low levels of salt; consequently, rue is not grown along the Mediterranean coastline of Israel. In ancient Egypt and Greece, it was used as to stimulate menstruation and to induce abortion. Currently, rue is used both as a condiment.  In natural medicine, rue is use as an anti-spasmodic and to strengthen eye sight. 

Symbolism: Regret, Regret

In English, its common name — rue – means regret. Historically, rue was regarded as a protective substance. It was one of the ingredients in mithridate, a substance used in ancient medicine and folklore as an antidote for every poison and a cure for every disease. Possibly the genus name Ruta is derived from “rhutos,” a Greek word meaning “shield” in view of its history as an antidote. Ostensibly, the Pharisees teachings were to act as a shield for the common citizen of Judea to protect them from any blasphemy against God and his commandments.  Instead, their man-made laws often made the Jews rue or regret their presence.

Repeatedly, the Bible – particularly Psalms – identified that God is our shield. A shield is defensive armor or someone who protects and defends. Paul instructed Christians to take up the shield of faith, a deep abiding confidence in God (Ephesians 6:16). He said that with the shield of faith, we can extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the devil. 

Reflection. Possibly Jewish citizens expected too much of the Pharisees. It is never good to rely on men or governments to shield or protect us. Who is your shield and protector?

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 20, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Grass of the Field

Dactylis glomerata, RignaneseJesus teaching on the grass of the field is in Matthew 6:28-30.

In the “Do Not Worry” portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ spoke about grass of the field as well as the lilies considered in the last section. Although scholars do not sure where Christ preached the Sermon, on the    northwestern corner of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum is a gently sloping hillside that is often considered the Sermon site. Possible Christ stood at the bottom of the hillside while his listeners sat in the grass at higher elevations similar to an amphitheater.

In this story Christ told his hearers to consider the lilies and the field grass. The lilies adorned the simple grass in much the same way that colorful robes adorned King Solomon. Solomon’s robes were not as beautiful as the lilies that grew among the grass; the same grass that was here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire. Then, Christ asked his listeners, if God cared enough about field grass to clothe it with beautiful lilies, would not God much more clothe his people? 

Orchard Grass

In Israel there are hundreds of grasses in the local flora. One of the most valuable native grass species is the Dactylis glomerata, also known as orchard grass and cocksfoot. In ancient Israel, this grass grew wild and was used for grazing animals and at times cut for fodder. D. glomerata is native to North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. It can grow on slopes, in shallow areas, and in very dry soils.  Orchard grass is frost and heat resistant and tolerates shade. The plant is found throughout Israel to include the Mediterranean coastline and extreme deserts. In the Mediterranean Basin, orchard grass has adapted to long, hot, dry summers.Seeds often germinate in three weeks.   

Symbolism: Pasture, Meadow

In the New Testament, the Greek word for grass is chŏrtŏs which comes from a primary word meaning a court, garden, or pasture. In the context of field grass, chŏrtŏs best symbolizes pasture land. Often pastures are called meadows. A meadow is land that is in grass or predominantly in grass. Pastures have important meaning to the ancient Israelites and by extension to Christians today. Jeremiah (50:7) wrote that the Lord was the true pasture of the Israelites; while psalmists sang that the Israelites were the sheep of God’s pasture (Psalm 100:3).  

King David declared that the Lord is our shepherd and makes us lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23:2). Interestingly, sheep only lie down when they feel contented and secure. When sheep feel threatened, they stand up and look around seeking the source of peril. David’s metaphor was that with the Lord as our shepherd, we, his flock, can rest contentedly in verdant meadows. Christ named himself the Good Shepherd and the gate for the sheep (John 10:9-14).  Whoever enters through him will be saved and find pastures. In these pastures, Christians will be safe and they will have a full life.

In the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, spring is here. Grasses have turned green, dogwood trees are blooming, and azalea bushes are laden with pink and white flowers. Looking at them calms my mind. I spend hours looking out my window at the beauty of the spring season. Often, my husband walks into the room, catches me standing in front of the window, and asks what I’m looking at. My answer is always the same – grasses, trees, and flowers. God made this beautiful section of creation just for me and just for anyone else who values it. God clothed these meadows with trees and flowers. 

In  2-3 weeks the dogwood trees will no longer bloom and azalea flowers will die. In several months, meadow grass will turn brown from the effects of reduced moisture and unrelenting sun.  If God is gracious, I will still look out my window; but the beauty of spring will be gone. When I consider spring’s beauty, it is hard to fathom that I am more important to God than spring grasses, blooming trees, and budding flowers. 

Reflection.  David wrote that we will enjoy safe pasture if we trust in the Lord and do good (Psalm 37:3). Do you want safe pastures enough to trust God and do good? Or, are safe pastures not a high priority for you right now?

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 30, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Does Old Age Diminish Desire?

Capparis spinosa BushThe Teacher’s description of old age and diminishing desire is in Ecclesiastes 12:1-5.

The Teacher gave advice at the beginning of this teaching, then provided examples to support the advice. The advice is “remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NIV-SB, 2002). In poetic and allegorical form the Teacher elaborated how age takes its toll on a man, reducing him to feebleness. Read through the Table for an explanation of various diminished senses and abilities of old age and their accompanying fears.

Description and Interpretation of Old Age

Description Interpretation Verse
Keepers of the house tremble Arms and hands tremble perhaps with a neurological disease, e.g., Parkinsonism 12:3
Strong men stoop Back is bent, shoulders concave possibly from osteoporosis or arthritis 12:3
Grinders cease and are few Teeth cannot chew food because some teeth are lost and others possibly decayed 12:3
Those looking through the windows are dim Eyes are dimmed by cataracts, or near or far sightedness 12:3
Doors to street are closed Hard of hearing; cannot hear street noise or sounds of women grinding meal in the home 12:4
Men rise up at sound of birds No longer able to sleep; arises with first birds of morning 12:4
Songs grow faint Vocal cords no longer allow him to reach notes of favorite songs.  Voice is raspy 12:4
Fear of heights Afraid he will fall because he is unsteady 12:5
Fear of street dangers No longer able to defend his home from intruders 12:5
Almond tree blossoms Hair is white 12:5
Grasshopper drags himself along Unsteady gait and moves slowly perhaps holds onto furniture for support 12:5
Desire no longer is stirred Could be sexual desire, but more likely desire for food, entertainment, or company because his sensations are diminished, e.g. sight, taste, hearing, etc. 12:5

One characteristic of old age is reduced desire or appetite for sex, food, or other types of stimulation. In Ecclesiastes 12:5, the Hebrew word for desire is ʼabîyôwnâh which is translated as caper berry.

The Caperberry

The caperberry is the Capparis spinosa L., also known as the common caper. Probably it originated in dry regions of western or central Asia; but for millennia was present in the Mediterranean basin including Israel. The plant will grow in sand, loam, or clay soils as long as the soil is well-drained. The caperberry tolerates drought.  A rule of thumb is that the caperberry will grow wherever the olive tree grows. In Israel, the  caperberry clings to cracks and crevices of rock piles and abandoned walls. It can be seen between the rocks of the Western (wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

The commercial caper is an immature flower bud that is pickled in vinegar or preserved in granulated salt. Caper taste has been described both as sharply piquant and peppery mustard. Capers are used to flavor pasta sauces, pizza, fish, meats and salads.  Caperberries (cornichon de câpres) are the semi-mature caper fruit. Along with young shoots and small leaves, caperberries are used as condiments. Young caper shoots can be eaten as a vegetable.

Symbolism:  Desire

The symbolism of the caperberry is desire. A desire is a wish, craving, or longing for something or someone. Other words for desire are want, yearn, and need. The Teacher made the point that with old age desires were blunted or reduced. Reflecting on this passage, leads me to believe that some desires may be reduced so that we have time to concentrate on other desires.  It’s possible that the intensity or urgency of sexual desires are muted, we may become less adventurous (I no longer want to paraglide), and we may even hear less well. That does not mean that desire is lost as much as re-focused. Decades of living allows us to acquire experiences and knowledge. An Israelite proverb is “desire without knowledge is not good (Proverbs 19:2, ESV, 2008). God does not view age as a deterrent to usefulness. Not until Abraham was 75 did he leave Haran in response to God’s call.  Moses was 80 when God appeared to him in the Sinai.

Our own desires can cause problems for us. Cain’s offering of fruit was unacceptable to God (Genesis 4:2-7). Cain became angry and his face downcast. God loved Cain, so he explained that a suitable sacrifice would be accepted. Then, God warned Cain that sin was crouching at Cain’s door and “desired” to have Cain. Cain’s fruit, grains, or vegetables were not what God wanted in a sacrifice. Perhaps God wanted the best or first fruits from Cain’s harvest, perhaps he wanted an animal sacrifice similar to Abel’s offering, or perhaps God just wanted Cain to acknowledged that all he reaped was from God. God told the Israelites, “I desire acknowledgement rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6, ESV-SB, 2002).

Saint John counseled Christians that the things of the world – the desires of the flesh and of the eyes and the pride of life – are not from God (I John 2:15-17). The world is passing away along with all of its desires; but whoever does the Lord’s will abides forever. In the poem on old age, the Teacher described the elder as being afraid of street dangers (Ecclesiastes 12:5). Many of us are afraid of things of the world, e.g., muggings, burglary, taxes. Yet the world is temporal and is guaranteed to pass away.

Reflection.  God fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries and saves them (Psalm 145:19). List your top five desires. Was fear of God one of them?

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 23, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Meaningless Crackling Thorns

Thorny burnetThe Teacher compares the meaning of life to a burning thorn under a pot in Ecclesiastes 7:6.

Bible scholars are not sure who wrote Ecclesiastes. Possibly it was written by Solomon, one of his offspring who reigned later in Israel’s history, or a learned teacher in the Israelite assembly.  Within Ecclesiastes, the writer refers to himself as Teacher. One proverb that the Teacher wrote was, “Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 7:6, NIV-SB, 2002).

In ancient Israel, cooking fires were located in outer courtyards or inside homes. The time of year influenced where the fire was located.  In hot weather it could be found in the courtyard.  While in cooler or cold weather, the fire was probably located inside the home to add warmth.   Many poorer Israelites cooked over a simple hole in the ground (a fire pit) with rocks around it.  Others had ovens, either inside the home or in the courtyard. When King Jehoiakim sat in his winter house with a fire burning in the firepot (Jeremiah 36:22), the firepot was probably a three-legged hearth of copper or bronze.

Wood was the primary fuel used for cooking in ancient Israel; however, in Ecclesiastes 7:6 thorns fueled the fire. Thorn bushes burn faster than dense wood. Many times when thorns were collected and burned, green branches were present at the base of the thorn plant even when the bush appeared dry. Burning green branches contributed to the crackling sound when thorns were burnt. Thorns as the fuel made the point of the Teacher’s proverb. The laughter of fools is like a short-lived fire fueled by thorns not wood. A fool’s laughter, although perhaps loud, does not last very long. It is valueless or meaningless.

The Thorny Burnet

The thorn plant of Ecclesiastes is the Sarcopoterium spinosum. Other names are the thorny burnet and prickly burnet. The thorny burnet’s origins are prehistoric, but it may be native to the Middle East. In present-day Israel, the plant is wide spread in Israel from Mount Hermon and Galilee in the north to the Negev hills and Eilat in the South including the Mediterranean coast. The thorn burnet is a dwarf, perennial shrub that resembles a ball or pillow.  In the female flower, two or three ovaries are set in 4-5 joined sepals. The top of the corolla is covered by the tips of the sepals which make the female flower resemble a covered pot. These flower pots are numerous on stems. When the female flower is young, it is green, but turns reddish at maturity and rusty brown as it dries.  In the heat of fire, the flower “pots” pop and produce a small explosive sound which sounds like crackling. The thorny burnet is used to make brooms, to stuff mattresses, and to form low-growing hedges.

Symbolism: Futility

In the Bible, thorny plants were often associated with desolation and ruin. In the Teacher’s parable in Ecclesiastes 7:6, the meaning was futility. Although a thorny burnet fire may snap, crackle and pop, and be pleasing to the ears, the sound adds nothing to the heat. Futility implies an action that has no use or purpose. Synonyms are ineffective, pointless, and vainness and the antonym is useful.

Malachi is one of the few, if only, prophet in the Old Testament who wrote about futility. He related a hypothetical conversation between God and men of Israel (Malachi 3:13-18). One group identified that it was futile to serve God and carry out his requirements. Arrogant, evildoers prospered. The redemption (Messiah) that good men looked for had not appeared even after many centuries.  Another group of men feared and followed God. God wrote this group’s names in a scroll of remembrance, similar to a record of notable deeds kept by earthly kings (Esther 6:1-6; Isaiah 4:3). God promised that in the day he makes up his treasured possessions, the men’s names in the scroll would be spared. Malachi’s point is that fearing and serving God are not futile but have long-term rewards.

Paul identified several ways and situations where man’s thoughts were futile, e.g., useless and ineffective (Romans 1:18-23, 8:20; 1 Corinthians 3:20-21, 15:17; Ephesians 4:17). Two points seem particularly important today.  First, God is revealed though his creation, yet unrighteous men neither glorify God nor give him thanks (Romans 1:18-23). Instead their thinking becomes futile and their foolish hearts are darkened. They exchanged worship of the immortal God for worship of man-made images, e.g., birds, animals and reptiles. Today, most men and women do not worship animals, but, sometimes, they let their admiration for another man or women approach worship of them. They hang onto the words of these men/women rather than focusing on God’s instruction for life.  Reading commentaries of the Bible should never take the place of reading God’s word.

Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul stated that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sin” (1 Corinthians 15:17, NIV-SB, 2002). Redemption of our bodies, eternal life in Christ, depends on a risen Christ. When I was in college, The Passover Plot (Schoenfield, 1995) was required reading for anyone trying to be intellectual.  The book argued that Christ implemented an elaborate plan to have himself declared the Messiah. He never died on the cross but was hidden away by his closest associates. He appeared three days later to fulfill the Jew’s expectations for the Messiah.

The problem with The Passover Plot’s argument is the lived experiences of individuals who saw Christ’s death and his resurrected body. Evidence of Christ’s death comes from eye-witness accounts of non-believers as well as believers (Mark 15:39; Luke 23:46-49). In his resurrected body, Christ appeared at least 11 times to over 500 people. The phenomena of Christ’s death and resurrection may confound the wise; but do not make the phenomena any less real.

Reflection. The Lord knows that the thoughts of the (supposed) wise are futile (1 Corinthians 3:20). We cannot believe everything we read in books. Truth is not a prerequisite for publication.

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 14, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Supping at God’s Table

Cypress, Jezreel ValleyThis topic was written by Israeli botanists Dr. Elaine Solowey at Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Negev Desert:

“Good food cannot be made like plastic sandals. The entire point of farming is to produce good food to support human life on earth, — a basic truth eclipsed by a skewed system of values that puts a great deal of value on what can be measured by the pound and sold, but little on less tangible things like community, happiness or health.

Good agriculture can only be done by tapping into the bounty of the natural world in an organized intelligent manner that does not destroy the resource base upon which we depend.

We must tap into the crop potential of the entire planet and do it in a way that recognizes the beauty, complexity and fragility of our world.”

The picture is a wheat field in the Jezreel Valley in central Israel.  Notice it contains beautiful cypress trees as well as wheat.

Asaph and the Tumbleweed

Grundelia tournefortiiAsaph’s prayer for God to make Israel’s foes like tumbleweeds is in Psalm 83.

Although Asaph is credited with writing Psalms 50 and 73-83, possibly he was the ancestor of the actual writer of Psalm 83. The content of Psalm 83 indicates it may have been written in the years immediately before the Exile. Psalm 83 is more an urgent prayer than a song.

Psalm 83 takes the same form as several other psalms. First the present situation is defined (verses 1-4). Second, the Lord is reminded how he gave victory to the Israelites in the past (verses 5-12). Finally, a specific request for help is outlined (verses 13-18).

Situation defined: God’s people are threatened by enemies. If God does not defend them, they will be destroyed completely (Psalm 83:1-4). The psalmist named 10 nations who allied themselves against God’s chosen. Asaph pleaded for Israel’s safety in a way that made Israel’s circumstances God’s challenge; he referred to Israel’s foes as your (God’s) enemies, those who hate you (God), your (God’s) people, they form an alliance against you (God).

Past victories from God: Asaph reminded God he gave Israel victory over the Canaanites (Jabin and Sisera) at the Kishon River. When the Midianites attempted to co-opt Israelites pastures, God gave Israel the ability to drive them out and kill their kings, e.g., Zebah and Zalmunna.

Request for help: Asaph pleads with God to destroy – blow away — the kingdoms who want to destroy God’s chosen people. Specifically Asaph wrote, “make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind” (Psalm 83:13, NIV-SB, 2002).

The Tumbleweed

Most often the Bible tumbleweed is identified as the Gundelia tournefortii sometimes called a tumble thistle. Israeli botanists use the Hebrew name, galgal, while Arabs call it the A’Kub.  The tumbleweed is native to the Middle East including semi-desert areas of Israel and the Palestinian Authority where it has been documented as an edible plant for the last 2000 years. In Israel, tumbleweeds grow in wastelands and along roadsides from Mount Hermon and Golan in the north to the Negev hills and Eilat in the south. Tumbleweeds do not grow well in the shade. The fruit is a seed. After the fruit is formed, thistle stems separate from roots. Because the tumbleweed is round, it rolls like a ball when driven by the wind. Seeds of dead fruits are dispersed by the rolling plant. Young flower heads are removed and sold in Palestinian Authority markets where they supplement the foods of local people. Mature plants are sometimes used as camel fodder.

Symbolism: Action, Act 

Action is the process of doing something in order to achieve a purpose. Synonyms of action are accomplishing, battle, and prosecute. God’s action was central in the two places tumbleweeds were named in the Bible. In Psalm 83:13 the psalmist pleading for God to take action and make Israel’s enemies like tumbleweed before the wind. While Isaiah (17:13) recounted God’s action on behalf of Israel. God rebuked the nations and they were driven before the wind like tumbleweed before a gale.

Asaph’s motivation for asking God to act on behalf of the Israelites was not only for the security of Israel, but for worldwide acknowledgement of God as the true God (Psalm 83:18, study note).  Acknowledgment of God includes seeking God as his people seek him, e.g., to learn about God, his teachings, and his commands.

Christians cannot use Psalm 83 against national enemies because Christianity is broader than national boundaries. Christians are the world-wide fellowship of believers and one Christian should not pray for the downfall of another. Christians can pray Psalm 83 against foes who act to destroy them and all traces of their faith (Psalm 83 text note, ESV-SB, 2008). They can ask God to defeat these plans in a way that persecutors seek and know God and accept Christ as Savior.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, God promises to accept us as his children. That promise requires God to act on our behalves; however, God’s action is not always according to our timetable.  Sometimes we want God, “to do something NOW!”  A number of years ago, I was part of a large congregation attempting to buy our church property from the diocese.  The diocese kept pushing the time back for final notification and sale closing. Church members became more anxious every day, then every hour. Quietly, our minister reminded us, “God is rarely early, but He is never late.”

ReflectionChrist said that wisdom is proven right by her actions (Matthew 11:19). What do you think Christ meant?  How does Christ’s statement apply to your life?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright February 6, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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David Learns from the Laurel Tree

Leaves on Laurus nobilisThe green laurel tree symbolizing the accomplishment of wicked men is found in Psalm 37.

Psalm 37 was written by King David probably in his later years. Each stanza depicts a complete thought; yet, taken together, all stanzas develop a common theme. In Psalm 37, the common theme is how the wicked flourish. The wicked man’s brief accomplishments are contrasted with God’s continued and sustaining help to the righteous. Several stanzas in Psalm 37 refer to plants.

Christians should not be envious of those who do wrong even when the wicked seem to have everything going for them. The wicked are like the grass, like green plants they die away (Psalm 37:1-2). The wicked are the Lord’s enemies and like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish (Psalm 37:20). Think about wild flowers that grow in the green areas between divided interstate roadways. One week these wild flowers are green, lush, and abundant. A few weeks later they are withered. Road crews mow them down as if they were weeds. Their transient beauty vanishes like smoke; so will wicked men.

Verses 35 and 36 compared wicked men to the green laurel tree.  David wrote that he saw a wicked and ruthless man who flourished like a green tree in its native soil. David’s laurel tree never suffered the setback that comes from transplanting. The tree was in its native soil, thus grew large and vigorous. The wicked man was correspondingly prosperous and powerful. A short time later, however, David looked for the wicked man. He was gone; David could not find him. David’s wisdom was that the wicked do not endure; they have no staying power.

David cautioned his listeners not to fret when they saw wicked, ruthless men prospering.  Fretting leads to evil (Psalm 37:8-9). Instead David implored the righteous to refrain from anger and to hope in the Lord. In a later Psalm, David averred that the righteous will flourish like a palm tree (Psalm 92:12-14); the righteous will grow like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the Lord. They will still bear fruit in old age and stay fresh and green.

Bay LeavesThe Laurel Tree

The laurel tree is the Laurus nobilis. The laurel tree is called the true laurel and the sweet bay laurel because the culinary seasoning bay leaves come from the tree. Bay laurel is native to the southern Mediterranean Sea region. In Israel, laurel trees grow in most areas except the desert. The laurel tree will grow in a wide variety of soils, e.g., sand, loam and clay, but does best in moisture-retentive soils. Leaves are elliptic to ovate in shape and  2-4 inches long and .75-1.75 inches wide. Leaf margins tend to undulate softly; leaves feel leathery.  The leaf surface is a lustrous dark green. One way to identify a laurel tree is to bruise or cut the leaves and smell the sweet aromatic leaves.

Symbolism:  Flourish

A number of writers have proposed symbolism for the Laurus nobilis to include notable, victory, merit, accomplishments, honor, praise, martyrdom, and old age. Psalm 37 seems to fit most of these concepts; however, I believe the best description is flourish. Flourish means to grow luxuriantly, to achieve success or prosper, and to reach a height of development or influence.

King David compared the wicked to a luxuriant laurel tree, perhaps the one about 60 feet tall with a broad canopy and numerous branches growing up from the ground. These wicked, ruthless men flourished like the laurel. They achieved wealth and influence, caring little who they stepped on to achieve. Righteous men see these same ruthless men and women today and ask, how can God let them get ahead when I’m stuck in this job year after year? I’m a Christian, isn’t God supposed to help and bless me? What about God’s promise that “in his days the righteous will flourish; prosperity will abound until the moon is no more” (Psalm 72:7). I’m not flourishing at work or __________(you fill in the blank)!

When believers encounter situations where the wicked seem to achieve everything their heart’s desire, it is time to remember that God cannot lie and his word tells us two important facts. First, the righteous will flourish (Psalm 92:12) and God will not forsake his faithful ones (Psalm 37:28). Second, evildoers will be forever destroyed (Psalm 37:20; Psalm 92:7). Our reaction to evil-doers should not be envy but sadness and prayer for their redemption. The only heaven, or nearest heaven, that wicked, ruthless men and women will experience is on earth.

Seeing ruthless men and women achieve is not easy for a believer. At times I’ve asked God, “how can you let this happen?”  In those times, God did not give me an answer; probably because I was not in a mind frame to receive it. In retrospect, I can see that instead of anger and resentment, my response to workplace wickedness should have been compassion and prayer. I cannot be responsible for evil, ruthless men and women flourishing. I am only responsible for my thoughts and behavior. At all times, I must be right with God, trusting that his ways are not my ways and his thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). They are much, better and wiser than mine. When I concentrate on flourishing in the garden where God planted me, I don’t obsess about whether or not ruthless individuals are getting ahead.

Reflection.  Father knows best.

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 February 8, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Job and Salt Herbs

Atriplex halimus fruitJob’s lament about being disdain by men who gather salt herbs is in Job 30:1-15.

Job was a non-Jewish man who worshiped God and was upright in his conduct and dealings with others (Job 1: 1-5). Job lived during the second millennium B.C. in the land of Uz, probably located in present day Jordan. When the book of Job begins, we see God giving Satan permission to test Job’s righteousness and loyalty to God. God allows Satan to do anything to Job except kill him (Job 1:6–2:10). The result is that Satan kills Job’s children, destroys Job’s home, deprives Job of his wealth, and afflicts him with painful boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Shortly after these calamities, three of Job’s friends visit him to extend comfort. Most of the Book of Job consists of discourses between Job and the three friends (Job chapters 3–37).  We read Job’s struggle to understand his losses while still retaining faith in God.

In Job 29, Job described how he longs for months gone by when God watched over him. He would walk to the city gate and take his seat in the public square. Young men saw him and stepped aside, old men rose to their feet at his presence. Chief men and nobles listened to his words and all spoke well of him. Now (chapter 30) Job’s life is totally different. He is mocked by younger men whose fathers were dregs of society, e.g., men who Job would not have hired to put with his sheep dogs. In Job’s days, dogs were not pets; they were filthy and viscous. When Job said that men were not fit to keep company with his dogs, it was a grave insult.

Job continued describing the fathers of the mockers. They were haggard from deprivation and hunger. The men roamed desolate places to gather food such as salt herbs and the roots of broom trees. Herb salt leaves were food of the very poor and eaten in times of famine. That the sons of such men now mocked, spit on, and used Job’s name as an epithet was terrifying to Job.

Salt Herb

The salt herb in Job was most likely the Atriplex halimus known as the salt plant, and shrubby orache.  It was native to Northern and tropical Africa, the Middle East including Israel, and southern Europe.  Salt plants grow well in nutritionally poor soils to include sand as long as the soil is well drained. In Israel the salt herb is distributed in deserts, the Dead Sea Valley, and Sharon Plain. It grows best in full sun. If planted in shade, stems become weak and spindly with sparse foliage. The salt plant is damaged by frosts. Leaves and stem are nutritious and have been described as a pot-like spinach; however, American’s will find the salt herb tastes salty and unlike the popular spinach leaf used in salads. In addition to humans eating stems and leaves, animals consume the plant as fodder. Ash from burning the A. helimus is used as the alkali in soap making.

Symbolism: Salt, Seasoning

The symbolism of the salt herb is salt and season. In Hebrew, mallûwach is the word for the salt herb.  Mallûwach is derived from the primary root word mâlach which means to salt or season. Salt can be used to preserve food. A seasoning is a substance that adds flavoring, interest, or excitement.  Salt was a familiar seasoning to the Israelites.  In Leviticus God told the Israelites to use salt to season all grain offerings.  The salt that was to accompany grain offerings was called the “salt of the covenant” (Leviticus 2:13).  Salt symbolized and sealed the promises made between the Israelites and God when a grain offering was made.

In the New Testament Christ identified that salt was good; however, if salt lost its taste or flavor, it might as well be thrown out and trampled by men (Matthew 5:13).  He told his disciples to “have salt in themselves and be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50).  When Christians have salt, they are anything but blah. Christianity does not depersonalize an individual.  Christianity allows us to be zestful, flavorful, excited, interesting/interested, and tasty.

Generally, the basis for living at peace with others is what and how we talk to them. Christian’s conversation should be full of grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). At no time should unwholesome talk come from our months (Ephesians 4:29). Instead we should learn what others need and talk about things that will build them up. If our words have these qualities, those who listen can benefit.

At times Christian salt and seasoning will have no effect or even a negative effect on individuals.  What do we do then?  Do we become angry, cynical, indifferent, or uninvolved with the world?  In Life as a Vapor, John Piper (2004) wrote “the salt of the earth does not mock rotten meat.”  Piper contended that where possible we season others with our salt and lead them to Christ.  Where we cannot, we weep and pray. We never shrug our shoulders and say “it’s your choice” to people living in darkness. We labor to give them a taste of Christ.

Reflection. Christ said, “everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49). What do you think he meant by that statement?   Everyone includes Christians.

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 January 18, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Ezra Orders Wild Olive Branches Gathered

?????????????Nehemiah chapter 8 tells the story of the Jews cutting wild olive boughs to make booths for the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkoth).

After Aharuerus’ death, Artaxerxes I (465-425 B.C.) ruled the Persian Empire.  His support for the Jews may have been related to a positive relationship with the Jew Mordecai, the chief official during Aharuerus reign.  In his 7th year as king, Artaxerxes aided the priest-scribe Ezra to return to Jerusalem (458 B.C.).  Ezra’s main contribution to restored Zion was interpreting and exhorting the Jews to keep the Mosaic laws.

Nehemiah was cup-bearer and personal confident of King Artaxerxes I.  When Nehemiah heard (circa 445 B.C.) that Jerusalem’s walls were not yet rebuilt, he grieved.  The first Jews had returned to Jerusalem over 90 years earlier.   Nehemiah secured support from Artaxerxes I to go  to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. Working almost day and night, the Jews rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15.).  Excavations showed the Jerusalem city wall built in Nehemiah’s time was about 9 feet thick.

After the city walls were rebuilt, the Jews assembled in Jerusalem.  At this time Nehemiah was governor and Ezra was chief priest.  Ezra read from the Book of Law.  Hearing God’s laws and statutes, the listeners became aware of their transgressions and began to weep.   Nehemiah told them to stop weeping and to celebrate the restoration of Jerusalem by feasting.  The following day, family heads met with Ezra to discuss the Law they heard read.  Part of the Law required that the people live in booths during the feast of the 7th month, the feast of Tabernacles or booths.  Ezra directed the people to go into the hill country and bring back branches to build the booths.  The types of branches were from olive and wild olive trees and from myrtle, palm, and shade trees.

The people built the booths on their roofs, in their courtyards, and in the square by the Water Gate; one booth was built by the Gate of Ephraim.  The entire nation became involved in building booths and living in them to commemorate their forefather’s 40 year wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt.  Nehemiah recorded that the Festival of Tabernacles was never before celebrated like it was at that time in Jerusalem

The Wild Olive Tree

In the past various Bible scholars translated the Hebrew êtz shamen as oil tree or pine tree; however, today most Bible scholars and botanists agree that êtz shamen is the wild olive tree. The wild olive tree is the Elaeagnus angustifolia, also known as the oleaster and Russian olive.  The oleaster was native to southern Europe and western Asia.  Dense stands are present in river bottoms where the water table is seldom more than two feet below the ground surface.  At the same time, oleaster is drought tolerant and indifferent to wind and heat. In Israel, oleaster is found in woodlands (e.g., around Mount Tabor), shrub-lands, and on Mount Hermon. In some parts of the United States, oleaster has naturalized and is considered an invasive weed. Oleaster is a thorny shrub or small tree. The oleaster tree has several uses.  It can be used to make booths for Jewish festivals.  The flower produces oil used to make perfume.  A gum from the plant is used in calico printing.  The hard, fine-grained wood of the trunk and branches is used for posts and beams and for wood carving.  The wood makes excellent fuel.  In some countries, to include Palestine, oleaster trees are pruned into hedges.

Symbolism: Security

Despite  building a secure wall around Jerusalem in a short 52 days, the Jews were aware that their security did not come from rocks and mortar.  Their security came from God.  As early as the days of King Solomon, the Jews had a proverb that described the source of their security: “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26, NIV-SB, 2002).  Just as Old Testament Jews relied on God for their security, so do New Testament Christians.  Christians have a secure position based on Christ as savior and redeemer.  Still, St. Peter cautioned new Christians to be on guard so that they did not get carried away by lawless men (and women) and fall from their secure position (2 Peter 3:17-18).  In addition to guarding against erroneous teaching, Christians are to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

Over the past year, I spent time writing this blog, e.g., reading the Bible story where the plant is located along with its historical setting, researching the plant origins and characteristics, and prayerfully considering the plant’s symbolism.  Recently, I’ve become convicted about the time consumed by these activities – albeit Bible-centered activities.   They have taken from and taken over my God-focused time and my prayer time.  I think Peter would have included my deviation from God-focused devotions as a way to fall from a secure position in Christ.

Reflection:  Think over your activities, e.g., church related and possibly even Bible-study related.  Are any of them interfering with God-focused time?

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 January 13, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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