Tag Archives: Gardening Genesis

What Motivates You?

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 30.35-40: That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink.

When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.

Meditation: After Rachel gave birth to her first son, Jacob told Laban, he wanted to go back to Canaan; but, he didn’t want to go back empty handed. Jacob wanted wealth in  flocks to accompany his wealth in sons. By this time, Jacob had 11 sons, two wives,  two concubines, and servants. He needed possessions to feed and clothe them.

Jacob was motivated to return to Canaan to see his father and live in the land of his birth. At the same time, Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law was motivated to keep Jacob with him. Laban believed that God blessed Jacob; thus, contributed to Laban’s prosperity.  Both men wanted tangible wealth.  Because Jacob was an Israelite patriarch and because Laban was presented in the Bible as manipulative, most readers support Jacob’s motives and reject Laban’s. In reality, nowhere do we read that either Jacob nor Laban made any, or much, effort to ascertain God’s will.

Jacob knew about God from stories and discussions from his father (Isaac) and possibly his grandfather (Abraham). Yet, despite all of Jacob’s foolish decisions earlier in his life and experiencing Laban’s manipulations, Jacob didn’t turn to God for help. Instead, Jacob attempted to influence the color of sheep and goat using tree branches, to include the popular tree. Jacob’s flock of spotted and striped goats and sheep increased. Most twenty-first century Christians don’t believe that spotted and stripped branches impacted the color of sheep and goats.

Ponder: Ponder your actions when you aren’t sure how to proceed.  Do you pray and ask God to intervene in the situation? Alternatively, are you more prone to attempt to solve the situation on your own? If you pray, are you willing to take the same petition to God more than once? A much-quoted American proverb is “God helps those who help themselves.” That proverb isn’t in the Bible. Instead, the Bible tells us to cast your cares on God because God care for you (1 Peter 5.7).

Action: If you aren’t sure whether or not to pray, or if  persistence in prayer is valuable, read Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18.1-8).

Copyright 9/29/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth

Straw in the Bible, How Uninteresting

 

 The Word of the Lord: Genesis 24.22-27: When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”

She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”

Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

Meditation: In this Bible story, an aged Abraham gives a senior servant the task of traveling to Abraham’s hometown, Nahor in Aram, and obtaining a wife for his son, Isaac.

Traveling by camel, the servant arrived at a Nahor well. There, the servant met Rebekah. Rebekah drew water for the camels. The servant gave her valuable jewelry. After seeing the jewelry, Rebekah’s brother, Laban, invited the servant to the family home and offered straw and fodder for the traveler’s camels.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Rebekah is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother. Subsequently, Rebekah travels to Canaan and becomes Isaac’s wife.

Straw: “Fodder” is food (mostly plants) given to animals rather than food which animals forage (graze the land) for themselves. Fodder includes hay, straw, and grasses.

Why the Genesis recorder included that fodder and straw were given to the servant’s camels puzzles me. It seemed unnecessarily  detailed in a book that emphasizes spiritual life. As I thought more about camel and camels’ intake I remembered Christ’s words that individuals can’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God’s mouth (Matthew 4.4).

Although camels can live on straw and fodder, you and I must have more than physical food. Physical food doesn’t nourish our spirits. To be completely nourished, daily we need to take in God words just as we consume physical food.

Reflection: How are you daily taking in the Word of God so you can be well-fed? Alternatively, are you so occupied with your physical, emotional, and social life that you neglect your  spiritual life?

9/15/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth

Prosperity — I want it!

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 22.9-14: And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!

“Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

 Meditation: The myrtle tree/bush is another plant that appears in thickets in Israel. At one time, wild myrtle was common throughout the Promised Land. Today, in Israel most myrtle bushes are used for ornamental purposes; rarely are they seen in uncultivated areas.

Many world cultures assigned meaning to the myrtle blossom to include beauty, love, paradise, and immortality. The myrtle is one of the four blessed plants used in the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkot), an autumn harvest festival.

For Jews, myrtle symbolizes sweetness, justice, peace, divine generosity,  God’s promise, and recovery. An Old Testament prophet, Zechariah, assigned  “prosperity” to the myrtle tree. Prosperity means a person or group thrives or flourishes and is successful, especially in financial or economic ways.

Because we are Christians doesn’t mean we will prosper in the sense of being rich financially. Because we aren’t Christians doesn’t mean we won’t prosper. According to the prophet Zachariah, for Israelites to prosper they needed to repent of sins, obey God’s will and laws, and walk in God’s ways to include living righteously. Their prosperity will be eternal life with Christ.

Jewish sages compared the myrtle tree, which has a good smell but no taste, to Israelites who do good deeds, but don’t study the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament). Today’s Christian sage could compare the myrtle tree to believers who do good deeds, but, don’t study the four Gospels.

 Reflection: Can we prosper without studying Holy Scriptures? Think how Zechariah would answer that question.

Copyright 9/15/2020, Carolyn Adams Roth

Do you want to live forever?

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 6.9-22: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Meditation

Noah was over 500 years old when God told him to build an ark, a giant water-proof vessel. The ark saved Noah, his family, and animals from a flood that destroyed the known world. The ark was rectangular (450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high).

Most of us remember seeing pictures of the ark from childhood Bible story books. The front (prow,  bow) of the ark was pointed. Sometimes, the back (stern) was pointed. In reality, the ark didn’t have a prow or stern. It didn’t move forward through the water while being steered by a rudder. Instead, the ark was built to floated on the top of the water.

Noah used cypress wood, also called gopher wood, to build the ark. I’m not sure why Noah used gopher wood; but, surmise it had something to do with the long, central tree trunk. Using a long piece of wood reduced the number of trees Noah had to cut down. Also, cypress wood contains resins which prevents wood from absorbing water, which could sink the ark. Cypress wood’s odor makes it unattractive to insects, such as wood termites, which could destroy logs.

In the past centuries, gopher wood became associated with immortality. In the upward tip of the columnar-shaped cypress tree and in every shoot and leaf, cypress branches and needles point upward to immortal life with God.  Today in ancient near east areas, cypress trees are often planted in cemeteries where they denote immortality.

Receiving immortality from God doesn’t absolve men and women from acting right (or righteously). The Bible is the ultimate “self-help” book for a successful life. The Bible tells us (believers and non-believers) how to have immortal life with God. In reality, every individual’s life will have immortality. The question is where we spend that immortal life. By our choices in this physical life, we decide where we will spend our immortal life.

Reflection: How much time do you spend each day reading the Bible, the Christian’s self-help book?

Copyright 6/16/2020

Are you malicious?

Zilla spinosa plant

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 4.17-24: Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Meditation

In Genesis, individuals are named after plants and plants are named after individuals. Zillah, the second wife of Lamech, was named for a relatively ugly, spiny plant with beautiful lavender flowers. We know little about Zillah; perhaps she was ugly in words and actions. Alternatively, she may have been like a lovely flower.

We are told that Zillah’s husband, Lamech, was a murderer. He admitted to his wives that he murdered a young man because the young man injured him.

A brier that Ezekiel identified is associated with the zilla plant. Briers are ugly with sharp spines that can tear skin. Ezekiel wrote, “No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briers and sharp thorns (Ezekiel 24.28).

The maliciousness that Ezekiel referenced means a desire to cause pain, distress, or injury to another. Malicious isn’t an inadvertent causing of pain, distress, or injury; it is intentional. When Lamech murdered a young man, he acted with purpose and was malicious. Equally true, adjacent countries’ peoples treated Israelites maliciously, that is, intentionally ugly.

Recently, a dear friend told me that a mutual friend’s words hurt, i.e., she believed the friend was intentionally ugly to her.  At about the same time, the mutual friend shared that she was hurt by my dear friend’s malicious words.

Ponder the best response to each person’s belief that the other was malicious. Dear Abby would advise that you tell each friend to talk with the other. The question is what should be a loving Christian response?

Reflection: Let’s each look at our own behaviour. Do you ever act in a malicious way to another individual? Think about those comments you post on social media.

Eternal God, you do not change. You have revealed yourself to me in your Word. You call me to worship you in spirit and in truth. But I confess that I often worship not your true self but who I wish you to be. I too often ask you to bless what I do rather than seeking to do what you bless. Forgive me for seeking concessions when I should be seeking guidance. Forgive me when my worship shapes you into what I want instead of shaping myself into what you want. Help me to meet you here, that I might bow before your unspeakable majesty and so live for you now and ever, in Christ. Amen.

Copyright 6/16/2020

Fruit of the Soil

 The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 4.1-7: Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

 Meditation

Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was a farmer and Abel herded sheep and goats. Both Cain and Abel brought thanks offerings to God. Each set of gifts reflected their vocation. As a farmer, Cain offered fruit from labour in his fields.  As a herder, Abel offered the fat portion of the first born of his flocks. God rejected Cain’s offering, but, accepted Abel’s offering. Many of us wonder why God rejected Cain’s offering. Both offerings were from the brothers’ toil.

Some Bible scholars suggested that God rejected Cain’s offering because Cain didn’t shed blood, i.e., sacrifice an animal, to make the offering. Others identified that the discord was an allegory for the conflict that occurred in early times between farmers and herders.

Careful reading of this Genesis story suggests a different perspective. Notice, Cain offered God some, but not necessarily his best, crops. In contrast, God accepted Abel’s sacrifice because Abel gave the best from his flocks, i.e., fat portions of the first born of his flock. Perhaps, God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice because he didn’t give his best to God.

Have you ever wondered where Cain’s best crops went? Would Cain have taken them to his mother, Eve,  who doted on him as her first-born son? Because of Eve and Cain’s close relationship, Cain may have wanted the  best for his mother.

Very likely, Eve never told Cain to bring his best crops to her; but, Eve praised Cain when he offered her succulent, beautiful produce. Perhaps, Eve’s influence on Cain was emotional, she appealed to his heart. Cain may have wanted recognition for his hard work. That recognition most often came from his mother.

Reflection: We shouldn’t put anyone or anything before God and surely not encourage loved ones to put us before God. What do you put before God?

Copyright 6/16/2020

Are You Trash?

The Word of the Lord

Genesis 3.17-20: To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

 Meditation

 God cursed the ground because of Adam’s rebellion. Thorns were a result of God’s curse. Throughout the Bible, thorns don’t have a good reputation. Frequently, they are symbols of desolation and devastation.

The Hebrew word for thorn is shayith which often translates as trash.  Trash is debris (often from plants) worth little or nothing, and often thrown away or burnt.  Trash is an excellent symbol for men and women who reject Christ’s atoning work for the trash of their present lives.

The Palestinian buckthorn was a bush that grew in the ancient Middle East. The buckthorn grows as an evergreen shrub with a many-branched, tangled form, and velvety, thin thorns. Young stems and thorns are green. As bark matures it becomes gray.

Most gardeners don’t plant buckthorn. It’s an unattractive shrub that normally doesn’t grow in cultivated gardens or fields. Buckthorn grows well in poor soil that is gritty and highly eroded.

Along with the thistle, the buckthorn is the last species to disappear when livestock over-graze an area. The Mediterranean buckthorn has no value for mankind or livestock. An ancient strategy to remove buckthorn was to burn the land.

At times in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, we have referred to individuals as “trash” or “trashy.” From God’s perspective none of his creation—including buckthorn, you, me—are trash. Each person is worthy. God put each person on the earth for a purpose. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2.10).

Reflection: Name some aspects of God’s laws you treat as trash. You know the ones I mean—the ones that you think are outdated or don’t apply to you.

Copyright: 6/16/2020

 

I Hate Consequences

 

The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 3.17-20: To Adam he (God) said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

 Meditation

After Adam and Eve’s rebellion, the world, including plant life, became subject to death. Because of Adam’s disobedience, God cursed the ground. From that point to the present time the entire creation groans (Romans 3.22-23). Creation’s groaning will continue until the redemption of human bodies at the end of the ages.

After God cursed the ground, Adam toiled (worked, sweated) to raise vegetables and grow fruit to feed his family. As Adam and his offspring plowed and planted crops, some plants became weeds. The most troublesome weeds were thorns and thistles.

Scholars don’t know which thistle grew first when Adam tilled the soil. The milk thistle, called St. Mary’s thistle, is widespread around projected locations of the Garden of Eden and a likely candidate for the first thistle.

In the Genesis story, the symbolism of thistles is consequences. Consequences are the direct outcome of an action or its end result. Adam and Eve’s disobedience and rebellion against God’s direction to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil resulted in consequences to their lives, to their livelihood, and to planet Earth.

When the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, they could have responded differently. What would have happened if Adam and Eve (as a couple) discussed possible consequences of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil before they took the first bite of its fruit? Perhaps, they would have eaten the fruit; but, perhaps they would have decided not to eat the fruit as they contemplated alternative actions.

Consider ways that you rebelled against God, i.e., how you disobeyed his statutes. List alternative ways you could have behaved in some of these situations had you thought longer.

Reflection: What are some consequences you experienced from your rebellion against God?

Copyright: 5/16/2020

 

Separation from God

 The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 2.8-14: Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Meditation

 God planted a garden, the Garden of Eden, and placed mankind in it. The Hebrew word for Eden means “delight.” The Garden of Delight was a place of pristine natural beauty. All types of plants, i.e., trees, flowers, grains, etc., grew there. A river watered Eden. After leaving Eden, the river flowed through the land of Havilah, where bdellium (an aromatic resin tree) grew.

Perfume was made from bdellium tree resin. The resin seeped through tree bark after horizontal cuts were made on the tree. Ancient Egyptian women carried bdellium pieces in cloths which they lifted to their nose in foul-smelling surroundings or used to release a pleasant odor from their bodies.

Bdellium comes from the Hebrew word “bâdal,” which means separate, or distinguish from. The bdellium tree symbolized the separation between the Garden of Eden and outside lands. Eden included plants for beauty and food. In contrast, Havilah was notable for  only one plant—the bdellium tree which produces a sweet-smelling resin.

Living with Christ is like living in Eden;  life is beautiful, fertile, and satisfying. Separated from Christ (outside of Eden), life is flat and unproductive. Our surroundings  and our actions are a stink in our nostrils despite attempts to cover them over with perfume.

 Many times what we don’t do is as important as what we do in our effort to have a meaningful relationship with Christ.

At this time, my country is experiencing a pandemic. Churches are closed. By not having a set time each week to worship God, do we put space between God and ourselves? The best we can do when we can’t leave home is watch church services on social media and read biblical literature, such as devotionals.

Reflection

How do you put space between you and Christ?

Copyright 5/30/2020

Instinct in Us

The Word of the Lord

 Genesis 1.29-31: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Genesis 2.8-9: Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.

Meditation

 Most of us don’t need to grow vegetables and fruit. We buy them in stores and markets; yet, many of us have gardens. There is joy in enriching the soil and nurturing seeds to full growth. We delight to see our own flowers grow and bloom, crave succulent fruits from our trees and yearn to stimulate taste buds with fresh-grown herbs. There is something inherently satisfying about gardening.

I have always lived in rural areas where almost everyone has a garden. Yet, I know urban dwellers have gardens. They use raised beds and tub gardens on patios and balconies. Individuals’ gardening instincts shouldn’t surprise us. Our spiritual father, God, was a gardener, the producer of all vegetation and fruits on earth. Gardening is in our genetic makeup.

God’s plan for us is to live with plant creation. God wants brightly colored flowers and leafy trees to delight our eyes and soothe our spirits.

The value of plants goes beyond food and beauty. In both Testaments, plants were teaching tools, i.e., illustrations in warnings, parables, miracles.

What do you see when you view your garden (and plants)? Do you go beyond looking at them as a whole and focus on the beauty of each? Do you imagine the produce you will have from them and how yummy it will taste? Alternatively, are you thinking about the myriad of challenges in your life so that you don’t see the beauty in front of you?

Reflection

Think about plants in your garden or in your home. How do they give you joy in addition to their beauty?

Copyright may/30/2020