Tag Archives: Isaiah

Land Overgrown with Thistles

Bible Reference: Isaiah 32.13-14.

The globe thistle is frequently planted for its beauty. When we visited Greenbrier Resort in the West Virginia Appalachian Mountains, globe thistles were carefully cultivated in gardens.  Blossoms can be white, blue, or purple and looks like a three-dimensional globe.

In contrast to gardener’s deliberate planting of globe thistles is the way the globe thistle was used by Bible prophets in Judah and Israel. Isaiah prophesied that the land would be overgrown with thistles as fortresses were abandoned and citadels and watchtowers turned into wastelands.

A contemporary of Isaiah who lived in Israel (Northern Kingdom), the prophet Hosea predicted that  high places of idol worship would be destroyed. These altars will be abandoned and thistles will grow up and cover the altars. God planned to destroy the kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom) because of its idol worship and failure to obey God’s commandments. Hosea said that the Northern kingdom planted wickedness and reaped evil. They depended on their own strength, rather than God’s protection.

Globe Thistle

The genus of  Israelite globe thistles is Echinops. In Israel, the globe thistle is Echinops viscosus, commonly called viscous globe-thistle. Traditional Jewish texts claim that the E. viscosus was native to Palestine and Babylon. Several flower heads grow on each stem. In Israel, the color of most globe thistle flowers is metallic blue.  Heads are two-to-three inches in diameter. Globe thistle grows best in humid habitats such as treed hills, i.e., Mount Hermon, and Golan Heights. In present-day Israel, globe thistle blooms in June and July. As summer progresses, flowers turn tan/brown.

Application

As I studied “bad plants” in the Bible, I became fearful. Behaviors of both Northern and Southern Kingdom Israelites—idol worship, not caring for the poor, lack of justice in society and courts—have parallels in United States’ society in the twenty-first century. The difference is  names of these behaviors. We attempt to sanitize current behaviors by giving them politically correct names. We worship the idols of money which provide a big house, nice car, and a comfortable life style. We love the prestige of belonging to a country club, having a series of letters after our name, and working in academe or a well-known corporation. Those who have less money are “unfortunate,” sometimes even “unmotivated” because they didn’t work hard enough, plan, save, etc. White collar crime (embezzlement, lying to stock holders, misrepresenting on tax forms) often goes unpunished, or is under-punished, in comparison to outright burglary.

Reflection: Contemporary United States society isn’t all that different from the first millennium before Jesus in Israel. Ponder how God punished Judah/Jerusalem for discounting, even killing, his Son. Don’t you become concerned that God may punish the United States for discounting his Son? What can you do to stop this downward spiral from God in current society?

Copyright May 18, 2019; Carolyn Roth Ministry.

http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Isaiah’s Palestinian buckthorn

Bible Reference: Isaiah chapter 7.

Isaiah (740-681 BC) began his ministry the year that King Uzziah died. Isaiah ministered during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and early in Manasseh’s reign. The Bible identified Jotham and Hezekiah as kings who walked with God. In contrast, Kings Ahaz and Manasseh were two wicked kings.

From the beginning of his sixteen-year reign, King Ahaz rejected God and worshiped foreign gods. Ahaz sacrificed his son to a false god.  When Arameans and Israelites (ten northern tribes) banded together to attack Jerusalem, Ahaz was shaken “as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (Isaiah 7.2 NIV).  Instead of turning to God for rescue, Ahaz turned to the king of Assyria.

When Arameans and the Northern Kingdom joined and attacked Jerusalem, God sent Isaiah to reassure King Ahaz that Jerusalem wouldn’t be overrun by this coalition. At the meeting, God directed Ahaz to ask for a sign of God’s intention to protect Jerusalem.  Ahaz refused saying that he wouldn’t put God to the test.  The first time I read Ahaz’s response, I thought it was a good answer; however, Isaiah had a different opinion.

Isaiah told King Ahaz that the king was trying God’s patience. Then, Isaiah prophesied that in the next twelve-to-thirteen years both Aram and Israel would be laid waste. The Lord would bring Judah devastation from Egypt and Assyria.  Where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, the land would be covered with briers and thorns.  Men would carry bows and arrows for protection when they went among briers and thorns. Where there was once cultivated land, cattle and sheep would run loose in a brier- and thorn-infested land.

Most likely the shrub in Isaiah’s prophecy to King Ahaz was the Rhamnus lycioides (R. palaestinus), commonly known as the Palestine buckthorn. In Israel, the buckthorn is a slow-growing shrub that reaches a height of three-to-six feet; however, in the United States they grow to twenty-feet tall. The Palestine buckthorn is an evergreen shrub in Israel and grows with a many-branched, tangled form, and velvety thin thorns. Young stems and thorns are green. As bark matures it become 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. Overall the Mediterranean buckthorn has no value for mankind or livestock. An ancient strategy to eradicate buckthorn is to burn the land.

Isaiah used buckthorn to describe once-fertile agricultural lands in Judah that would be destroyed as a result of God’s judgment.  This particular judgement was an assault from Assyria. Instead of vines and grains, the land would produce thorns and briers. Shayith is a Hebrew word for the thorn.6 A translation of shayith is “trash.”  Trash is debris from plant materials, something worth little or nothing, and something thrown away.3  Trashed is an excellent symbol for what was going to happen in Judah as a result of King Ahaz leading Judahites to reject God.

King Ahaz treated God’s Temple like trash.  When the Arameans and Israelites attacked Judah, Ahaz plundered the Temple for its gold and silver and sent it to the Assyrian king to purchase the king’s military assistance.  Later, Ahaz barred doors to God’s Temple so no one could enter and worship God.  King Ahaz set up worthless idols at street corners in Jerusalem.  In every town in Judah, Ahaz built high places to burn sacrifices to man-created gods.

People that treat God and his laws as trash weren’t confined to the Old Testament.  Paul identified that some people in New Testament times were senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1.32 NIV). We need only spend an hour watching television to know that many people today act similar to people in first-century Palestine; and, similar to first century Palestinian onlookers, we applaud these degenerate behaviors.

Reflection: Name aspects of God’s laws you treat as trash? Do you ever watch television or read books that God would name degenerate and say, “right on?” When you treat God’s laws as trash, are you helping your country?

Copyright April 4, 2019; All rights reserved.

Beautifully Ugly

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Isaiah chapter 34 is titled “Judgment Against the Nations” in the NIV Bible.  In God’s description of judgement against Edom, he says, “Thorns will overrun her citadels, nettles and brambles her strong holds. She will become a haunt for jackals, a home for owls” (Isaiah 34:13). The point that God is making is that Israel (and Judah) who trusted other nations for their defense rather than God would be overrun and destroyed. Equally true, the nations in which Israel put her trust would be overrun. Having thorns, nettles, and brambles overrun strongholds implies that people no longer living in these citadels and strongholds. If an individual were to enter these once well-populated, supposed secure areas, they would see jackals slinking around. At night owls that lived on rats and other rodents would hunt there.

Cotoneaster Bramble

Often the Bible bramble is a fast-growing, rough, and prickly shrub of the Rubus Family of plants. This Family contains blackberries and raspberries. Although both are good to eat, the bramble identified in Isaiah most likely was not one that produced any human food. They were just that – brambles that would have to be removed for people to live in the area.

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This photograph of a bramble it one that grows here in the mountains of Roanoke. It is called the cotoneaster (Cotoneaster frigidus) and in the Rosaceae (think rose) Family. I first remember seeing it when I was fishing in the Appalachian Mountains near Paint Bank, Virginia. It grew as a very thick hedge 3-4 feet tall. However, my neighbor has two cotoneaster bushes in his front yard that are about 12 feet tall. He planted them both sides of his front walk.  We live here in the Roanoke Valley (Plant Zone 7 a).  Cotoneaster had its origins in China.

Cotoneaster flowers are light white or light pink and bloom in May in the mountains. It is September, and my neighbor’s cotoneaster still has beautiful flowers. I purchased two cotoneasters and Bruce planted them at church in our Bible garden. They will get afternoon sun. Hopefully, they will make it through our winter.

What we can learn

I didn’t receive any consolation or encouragement from Isaiah’s words. My thoughts were that the United States has put her confidence in politics, money, military; rather than God. We have even built strategic alliances with other nations, NATO, OAS, etc. Yet, look what happened to ancient Israel when she did that. Where are our heads both as individuals and as a nation?

If I allowed myself, I could get depressed; however, I must always remember two things: 1) God is sovereign and 2) God  expects me to do my part to promote him and his kingdom. In the Fellowship of the Ring, an elf says something to the effect, “we fight the long defeat” (Tolkein). Like the elf character, I must continue to fight; but ultimately, I fight the long victory.

Reflection: Why did Isaiah write this Chapter? How can we see it as victory?

If you want to learn more about Bible plants, visit my website: CarolynRothMinistry.com

Copyright September 12, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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Destroyed Vineyards

This September 2015 photo shows the Cremisan Monastery and vineyards in Bethlehem. The winery uses local grapes to make fine wines at the site of an ancient church and also hosts tours. Local Palestinian Christians and Muslims work together in the vineyards. (Kevin Begos via AP)

Bible References: Psalm 88:8-13; Isaiah 5:1-6   

Introduction: Do you want your heart to break? Then, read these two parables about the Israelites rejection of God. The first is contained in Psalm 80. The second, in Isaiah, is called The Song of the Vineyard. Although written at two different times in Israelite history and by two different men, both parables are a cry of anguish from God directed to his chosen people. These parables identify God as the gardener and Israelite as his vineyard.

Back Story: After the death of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom divided (c. 930 BC). The Northern Kingdom, called Israel, included 10 tribes. The Southern Kingdom was known as Judah. At times Judah included both the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. At other times, Benjamin seemed more aligned with the Northern Kingdom. Levite towns were located in both Israel and Judah.

The first Northern Kingdom king introduced idol worship, which was embraced by much of the population. After 200 years (c. 722/721 BC) Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom. Most of its inhabitants were exiled throughout the Assyrian Empire. In the Southern Kingdom, Judah, descendants of King David ruled until 586 BC. Judah followed much the same path as the Northern Kingdom, albeit over a longer period of time. Judah turned from God to worship a myriad of idols. Jerusalem fell to the onslaught of the Babylonians and most of its citizens taken captive to Babylon.

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Interpreting Destroyed Vineyards: Isaiah declared, “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice; but saw bloodshed. God looked for righteousness; but heard cries of distress” (Isaiah 5:7 NIV). The spiritual interpretation for both Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5:1-6 is that there are consequences of sin. The consequence of Israel’s and Judah’s sins was that God abandoning them. God removed his protection from both kingdoms with the result that both was attack and ruined. In their pride both kingdoms forgot that God was their hedge. They believed that their armies were protection for their borders and for their populations.

In these two parables we glean another spiritual lesson: God’s judgment was proportional. After becoming a nation separate from Judah, Israel turned immediately to idol worship, e.g., Jeroboam set golden bull in Dan and Bethel and told his people that the bulls were the gods that brought them out of Egypt. Over 200 years, the nation’s population repudiated God almost completely. In response, God allowed the nation of Israel to cease to exist.

On the physical or natural level, the parables of destroyed vineyards included preparing and protecting a vineyard. Usually, ancient Israelites enclosed vineyards with fences. Often farmers dug a ditch around the vineyard. The earth from the ditch was thrown on the inner side of the ditch. Fence posts and thorny plants were placed on the berm. At other times, a wall of stones or sun-dried mud took the place of the earthen fence with its thorny plants.

God built a watch tower to protect his vineyard Israel; the watchman could see marauders coming from far away.  The vineyard was planted, “with the choicest vine” (Isaiah 5:2). Farmers traded for the best vines available or purchased the highest quality vines that they could afford.

As the vine grower devoted himself to the vineyard and grapes, God devoted himself to the Children of Israel. He did everything possible to select good vines, protect them, and promote good growth in them. When God anticipated a yield of good grapes from his vineyard, he got only bad grapes.  They produced disobedience, rebellion and idolatry. God is so disturbed that he asks: “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” (Isaiah 5:4 NIV).

Reflection:  The consequence of Israel’s and Judah’s sins was that God abandoning them. What do you think will be consequences of the United States of America’s rejection of Godly ways of living?

If you want to learn more about plants in the Bible, go to my website www.CarolynRothMinistry.com and check out my two books devoted to plants in the Bible. Ascertain what God wants us to learn from them.

Copyright July 31, 2016; Carolyn Adams Roth

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Redemption

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:1). The 35th chapter in Isaiah is named “The Joy of the Redeemed.”

Early spring saffron crocus

Early spring saffron crocus

Christians are redeemed by accepting that Christ died for their sins and inviting him to be Lord of their life.  What joy this act brings us. Joy, not just that we will be with Christ after our death; but equal joy that he is with us now.

Could you or would you want to even try to live in this world without Christ? About a 100 times a day, I pray “Oh, God, help me”  or “Need some help here, Christ”  or simply “Christ.” When I send these e-mails to God, I’m not being flip or disrespectful; instead, I am making a short-hand prayer.

I think that I can safely use these  short email prayers, because I spend more concentrated time to be with Him in my devotions at some point during the day.

Reflection: Do you burst forth like a crocus after the winter snow? Do you take joy in your redemption?

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 3/14

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Isaiah, Ahaz & the Buckthorn

Buckthorn fruitAn interaction between Isaiah’s and King Ahaz is described in Isaiah chapter 7 with other parts of Ahaz life described in 2 Kings chapter 16 and in 2 Chronicles chapter 28.

Isaiah (740-681 B.C.), son of Amoz, is listed as the first of the three Major Prophets; he wrote the book that bears his name.  Isaiah began his ministry the year that king Uzziah died and ministered during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and early in the reign of Manasseh.  The Bible identified Jotham and Hezekiah as kings who walked with God.  In contrast Kings Ahaz and Manasseh were two of the wickedest kings who reigned over Judah.

From the beginning of his 16 year reign, Ahaz rejected God and burnt incense and offered sacrifices on hill tops and under spreading trees.  Ahaz even sacrificed his son to a false god.  When the Arameans and Israelites (Northern Tribes) banded together to attack Jerusalem, Ahab and the citizens of Jerusalem were shaken “as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (Isaiah 7:2).  Instead of turning to God for rescue, Ahaz turned to the king of Assyria.  Ahaz plundered the Temple silver and gold and sent it to Assyria to buy help.

When the Arameans and Israelites joined to attach Jerusalem, God sent Isaiah to reassure Ahaz that Jerusalem would not be overrun by this coalition of armies (Isaiah chapter 7).  At the meeting, God directed Ahaz to ask for a sign of God’s intention to protect Jerusalem.  Ahaz refused saying that he would not put the Lord to the test.  Isaiah’s responded that Ahaz was trying the patience of God. Then, Isaiah prophesied that in the next 12–13 years both the lands of Aram and Israel would be laid waste and the Lord would bring on Judah devastation from Egypt and Assyria.  Where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, the land would be covered with briers and thorns.  Men would need to carry bows and arrows for protection when they went among the briers and thorns.  Where there was once cultivated land, cattle and sheep would run loose in a brier and thorn infested land.

The Buckthorn Shrub

This shrub associated with Isaiah is the Rhamnus lycioides, also known as the Rhamnus palaestinus and Palestine buckthorn. This buckthorn is native to countries that border the Mediterranean Sea and is well adapted to dry climate of Mediterranean Basin.  In Israel buckthorns grows primarily in woodlands, shrub-lands, and the mountain vegetation of Mount Hermon.  It occupies some of the same sites as the Kermes oak, Aleppo pine, and juniper. In Israel, the buckthorn is a slow growing shrub that reaches a height of 3-6 feet; however, in the more temperate climate of central Europe, it can grow to a height of 39 feet.  The Palestine buckthorn is evergreen in Israel and grows with a many branched, tangled form, and velvety thorns.  Young stems are green but as the bark matures they become gray. The buckthorn fruit is a small (1/4 inch), oval, berry which is initially green but turns black with maturity.  Berries are poisonous to humans, but a good source of food for birds. Bbuckthorn plants  can be propagated from cuttings.

Symbolism: Trash

Isaiah used the thorn to describe once fertile agricultural lands destroyed as a result of God’s judgment.  Instead of vines and grains, the land would produce thorns and briers (7:19, 23-25).  The Hebrew word for the thorn in Isaiah 7:23-25 is shayith which is translated as scrub, trash, and thorn.  Trash is defined as debris from plant materials, something worth little or nothing, and something thrown away.  Trashed is an excellent symbol for what was going to happen in Judea as a result of Ahaz leading the Judeans to reject God.

Essentially, King Ahaz treated God’s Temple like trash.  When the Arameans and Israelites attacked, Ahaz plundered the Temple of its gold and silver and sent it to the Assyrian king.  Later, Ahaz removed the furnishing from the Temple, e.g., the basins from the moveable stands, the Sea from the bronze bulls, the Sabbath canopy, and the royal entryway from the Temple (2 Kings 16:17-18; 2 Chronicles 28:24).  Ahaz shut the doors to God’s Temple.  He set up worthless idols at every street corner in Jerusalem.  In every town in Judah, Ahaz build high places to burn sacrifices to man-created gods (2 Chronicles 28:25).

Isaiah prophesied that God would allow the land of Judah to become the trash Judah claimed for itself.  Formerly fertile fields would become brier and thorn (trash) infested as the result of God’s punishment of Judah’s sin.

People that treat God and his laws as trash were not confined to the Old Testament.  Paul identified that some people in New Testament times were senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless (Romans 1:31).  “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).  We need only spend an hour watching television to know that many people act similar to people in the first century; and like in the first century, onlookers applaud their degenerate behaviors.

God’s judgment is not confined to the Old Testament.  Today God’s judgment will fall on people who treat God and his laws as worthless.  If individuals want to be something that is thrown away like trash, God will allow them to be this way (Romans 1:28).  God will give them over to a reprobate mind as he did the Judeans.

Reflection.  When I started to write about God and trash, I felt anxious.  The anxiety caused me to wonder if I love God, but treat his laws as something I can accept or throw away. What about you – do you pick and choose which of God’s laws to obey?

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 August 27, 2012; carolyn a. roth

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