Tag Archives: King David

God Marching in the Balsam Trees

God using the balsam tree to give David victory over the Philistines is described in 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-18.

When the Philistines discovered that DaPopulus euphraticavid was anointed king over Israel as well as over Judah, they went out in force to search for him.  During the seven years David was king over Judah at Hebron, the Philistines were not too concerned about his kingship.  For them the problem occurred when Israel (northern tribes) asked David to be their king.  The Philistines cities were in the lands of the northern tribes; they feared David would wage war against their cities.  The Philistines entered the Valley of the Rephaim, located on the border between Judah and Benjamin on the west and southwest sides of Jerusalem.  There they raided and plundered the inhabitants who were mainly Israelites.  David responded to the Philistine’s raids and at Baal Parazim David and the Israelites fought a battle with the Philistines.  The Philistines were routed.  When they fled, the Philistines abandoned their idols.  Following Mosaic law, David burnt the idols (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25).

Perhaps outraged by the previous defeat and David’s destruction of their idols, the Philistines raided the Rephiam Valley a second time.  David asked God if he should attack the Philistines.  God’s answer was “yes;” but David’s army should not go straight at the Philistines. Instead, the Israelite army should circle around the Philistines and attack them in front of the balsam trees.  The signal for the Israelite army to attack was the sound of God marching in the tops of the balsam trees.  The marching sound meant that the Lord went in front of the Israelites to strike the Philistines.

In the Rephiam Valley balsam trees grew in groves.  God made the wind blow through the tops of the balsam tree so that leaves rustling and branches rubbing against each other and created a sound like men marching.  The sound was so loud that the Philistine army thought that a huge Israelite army was advancing toward them.  Terrified they fled the valley.  David’ army pursued and struck down the Philistines from Gibeon to Gezar, a range of about 15 miles.  At the time of this battle, Gezar was not a Philistine city; it was held by the Egyptians (Joshua 10:33).  Apparently, the Philistine soldiers were so frightened that they fled to the powerful Egyptians for safety.  The episode concludes with, “so David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him” (1 Chronicles 14:17).

Populus euphratica leavesThe Balsam Tree

The balsam tree is a species of aspen, most likely the Populus euphratica, which is believed to be native to Israel and Middle Eastern countries. The balsaam is also called the  Euphrates popular and salt poplar.  In Israel the tree grows throughout the country; it grows well in rocky and hilly soils and in brackish water. The balsaam tree grows as tall as 45 feet and has spreading branches.  On older branches bark is thick, olive green to gray-brown, and roughly striated.  Branches are bent and almost always forked.  The balsaam’s flower is called a catkin because it resembles a cat’s tail and droops from the stem.  In mid-summer, the P. euphratica produces a green to reddish brown fruit which is a 2-4 valve capsule.  Seeds are minute and enveloped in silky hairs which aid wind dispersal.

Symbolism: God’s people

Balsam trees are associated with the word “people.”  The word Populus in the name Populus euphratica is derived from the trees ancient Latin name arbor populi which means “the people’s tree.”  When God identified the Israelites as his chosen people, God told them that he would dwell with them, walk with them, and protect them (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 11:22-25).  In the Valley of Rephiam, God gave his chosen people victory through the sound of an army (people) marching in the tops of balsam trees.  Israel’s victory was so decisive that David’s fame spread to people of every land; the Lord made people of every nation fear David.

In the Old Testament, God took a people for himself who were of one race.  In the New Testament, Christ directed his disciples to take the good news of the gospel to all his creation (Mark 16:15).  Over 2000 years later, people of all races believe in him.  Despite Christ’s welcome and guaranteed love of all people, the Bible cautions, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).  What does such an ominous verse mean to people?

The writer of Hebrew’s elaborated by saying if people keep on sinning after they receive the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sin is left;  only a fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10: 26-30).  The writer compared the Old Testament Jews rejection of the Law of Moses to an individual who rejects the truth of Christ after they know it.  His argument was if Old Testament Jews who rejected the Law of Moses died, then how much more will individuals who trample the Son of God deserve punishment?   The latter individuals insult the Spirit of grace because they show contempt for the blood of Christ who sanctifies them.  The Lord lives with his people, protects them, and loves them.  In addition, the Lord judges his people.

Reflection.  In the battle where God marched in the tops of the balsam trees, David counted on God rather than his army to protect the people of the Rephiam Valley and Israel.  In a later story, we learn that David took a census of eligible fighting men in Israel rather than trust God to protect the people (2 Samuel 24:10).  Do David’s actions have any parallels to our own life?  Do we believe that God will protect his people?

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 December 7, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Balsam Tree, Shaking in Fear

God using the balsam tree to give David victory over the Philistines is described in 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-18.

When the Philistines discovered that DaPopulus euphraticavid was anointed king over Israel as well as over Judah, they went out in force to search for him.  During the seven years David was king over Judah at Hebron, the Philistines were not too concerned about his kingship.  For them the problem occurred when Israel (northern tribes) asked David to be their king.  The Philistines cities were in the lands of the northern tribes; they feared David would wage war against their cities.  The Philistines entered the Valley of the Rephaim, located on the border between Judah and Benjamin on the west and southwest sides of Jerusalem.  There they raided and plundered the inhabitants who were mainly Israelites.  David responded to the Philistine’s raids and at Baal Parazim David and the Israelites fought a battle with the Philistines.  The Philistines were routed.  When they fled, the Philistines abandoned their idols.  Following Mosaic law, David burnt the idols (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25).

Perhaps outraged by the previous defeat and David’s destruction of their idols, the Philistines raided the Rephiam Valley a second time.  David asked God if he should attack the Philistines.  God’s answer was “yes;” but David’s army should not go straight at the Philistines. Instead, the Israelite army should circle around the Philistines and attack them in front of the balsam trees.  The signal for the Israelite army to attack was the sound of God marching in the tops of the balsam trees.  The marching sound meant that the Lord went in front of the Israelites to strike the Philistines.

In the Rephiam Valley balsam trees grew in groves.  God made the wind blow through the tops of the balsam tree so that leaves rustling and branches rubbing against each other and created a sound like men marching.  The sound was so loud that the Philistine army thought that a huge Israelite army was advancing toward them.  Terrified they fled the valley.  David’ army pursued and struck down the Philistines from Gibeon to Gezar, a range of about 15 miles.  At the time of this battle, Gezar was not a Philistine city; it was held by the Egyptians (Joshua 10:33).  Apparently, the Philistine soldiers were so frightened that they fled to the powerful Egyptians for safety.  The episode concludes with, “so David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him” (1 Chronicles 14:17).

Populus euphratica leavesThe Balsam Tree

The balsam tree is a species of aspen, most likely the Populus euphratica, which is believed to be native to Israel and Middle Eastern countries. The balsaam is also called the  Euphrates popular and salt poplar.  In Israel the tree grows throughout the country; it grows well in rocky and hilly soils and in brackish water. The balsaam tree grows as tall as 45 feet and has spreading branches.  On older branches bark is thick, olive green to gray-brown, and roughly striated.  Branches are bent and almost always forked.  The balsaam’s flower is called a catkin because it resembles a cat’s tail and droops from the stem.  In mid-summer, the P. euphratica produces a green to reddish brown fruit which is a 2-4 valve capsule.  Seeds are minute and enveloped in silky hairs which aid wind dispersal.

Symbolism: God’s people

Balsam trees are associated with the word “people.”  The word Populus in the name Populus euphratica is derived from the trees ancient Latin name arbor populi which means “the people’s tree.”  When God identified the Israelites as his chosen people, God told them that he would dwell with them, walk with them, and protect them (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 11:22-25).  In the Valley of Rephiam, God gave his chosen people victory through the sound of an army (people) marching in the tops of balsam trees.  Israel’s victory was so decisive that David’s fame spread to people of every land; the Lord made people of every nation fear David.

In the Old Testament, God took a people for himself who were of one race.  In the New Testament, Christ directed his disciples to take the good news of the gospel to all his creation (Mark 16:15).  Over 2000 years later, people of all races believe in him.  Despite Christ’s welcome and guaranteed love of all people, the Bible cautions, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).  What does such an ominous verse mean to people?

The writer of Hebrew’s elaborated by saying if people keep on sinning after they receive the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sin is left;  only a fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10: 26-30).  The writer compared the Old Testament Jews rejection of the Law of Moses to an individual who rejects the truth of Christ after they know it.  His argument was if Old Testament Jews who rejected the Law of Moses died, then how much more will individuals who trample the Son of God deserve punishment?   The latter individuals insult the Spirit of grace because they show contempt for the blood of Christ who sanctifies them.  The Lord lives with his people, protects them, and loves them.  In addition, the Lord judges his people.

Reflection.  In the battle where God marched in the tops of the balsam trees, David counted on God rather than his army to protect the people of the Rephiam Valley and Israel.  In a later story, we learn that David took a census of eligible fighting men in Israel rather than trust God to protect the people (2 Samuel 24:10).  Do David’s actions have any parallels to our own life?  Do we believe that God will protect his people?

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 7, 2016, Carolyn A. Roth

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Transient Plants and Wicked Men

Laurus noblisSome Old Testament parables tell a complete story, e.g., Jotham’s parable of the trees crowning a king. Others, such as those in Psalm 37 are short and sometimes even appear terse. Whether long or short, each parable has a spiritual message that unfolds through ideas, incidents, or natural objects in the physical world. In Psalm 37 King David included three parables of one to two verses each. These short parables compared wicked, ruthless men to plants.

As we read reading Psalm 37, we imagine an older and wiser King David. He is no longer the brash aspirant to Israel’s throne or a newly crowned king. This King David comes across as a person has seen a wide range of events and people in his life time. David has dealt with his sin of having Uriah killed so he could marry Bathsheba. He knew his daughter was raped and subsequently dealt with the murder of Crown Prince Amnon. King David was deposed at Israel’s king and fought a heart-breaking battle to regain the throne. God, who David adored, told David that his hands were too bloody to build God’s temple.

Many of King David’s words were written as praise or prayers addressed to God (Adeyemo, 2006). In contrast, Psalm 37 is a teaching directed toward all who will listen. The 40 verses contain a number of separate thoughts loosely organized around a central theme. The theme is problems that result when good people see wicked, godless people prosper. Notice, that through David’s psalm God views righteous (good) versus wicked, ruthless individuals differently:
“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like
the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away”
(Psalm 37:1-2 NIV).

“But the wicked will perish: The LORD’s enemies will be like the beauty of
the fields, they will vanish” (Psalm 37:20 NIV).

Psalm 37 begins with a parable in verses 1 and 2. Evil men are compared to grass which will soon withers and dies away. When I lived in San Francisco, plants bloomed all year around because of continuous rain and moisture in the air. It was difficult for me to imagine grass withering and field flowers fading (verse 20). But, sometime I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and travel up Highway 80 into the Sacramento Valley. In July, August, and even into September and October, the grass along the highway was brown and appeared dead. Few if any wildflowers grew along the highway.

The same was true of David’s Israel. There, the rains came October through March. At that time, the grass was green and flourished. As spring progresses into summer, the grass turned brown from the scorching heat of the sun and paucity of rain. The beauty of the fields to include any wild flowers that grew there, dried and turned brown. David identified that wicked men will vanish like the beauty of the fields (Psalm 37:20), i.e., in the heat of summer with little rain fall, plants turn into brown straw.

David’s third plant parable, verses 35-36, is the most complete. In it David compared wicked and ruthless men to a green tree in its native soil; but, over time these men disappear. In some Bibles (KJV and ESV), green tree is translated as a green bay tree. Characteristics of the bay laurel tree make it a fitting comparison to the transience of wicked, ruthless men.

“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its
native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for
him, he could not be found” (Psalm 37:35-36 NIV).

Bay Leaves

In both the KJV and ESV versions of the Bible, green tree is translated as green laurel tree. In Israel, laurel trees are Laurus nobilis, called the sweet bay laurel because bay leaves come from the tree. Laurel trees grew on Mount Hermon, in the Judean and Samarian mountains, and in the Jordan Valley. Although laurel trees grow in a wide variety of soils, they thrive in moisture-retentive soils. The laurel is an evergreen tree that can grow 60 feet tall; however, most are much smaller at eight-to-twelve feet. Left unattended, laurel trees can form a small thicket. One way to identify a laurel tree is to bruise or cut a leaf and smell the sweet aroma; the aroma is of a bay leaf.

One of the most important attributes of laurel trees—and one that King David apparently knew—was that laurel trees thrive where they are planted. They tend to wilt and even die if they are moved repeatedly. Ideally, gardeners plant laurel trees and allow them to grow in place. Laurel trees prefer partial shade. Although they tolerate strong winds, laurel trees haven’t adapted to maritime exposure. The tree is frost-sensitive. A few master gardeners including myself planted laurel trees here in the Roanoke Valley. Although smaller laurel trees tolerated several of our (plant zones seven) winters, all died after a few years. We learned that in the Roanoke valley, laurel trees grow best in protected areas such as next to a building.

King David said that he saw wicked and ruthless men who flourished like a green laurel tree in its native soil. Probably, he was thinking of a mature laurel tree with a broad canopy and numerous branches. This tree never suffered the setback from being transplanting. Likewise, prosperous, wicked men never seemed to suffer set-backs. They achieved wealth and influence, caring little who they step on in the process. In spite of their seeming charmed lives, David noted that later he looked for these wicked men. They were gone. David concluded that wicked men don’t endure; they have no staying power. Perhaps, like a laurel tree wicked men can’t tolerate adversity—they are frost sensitive—and only flourish in a narrow environment.

In the these three parables in Psalm 37, King David went beyond identifying the puzzle of seeing wicked ones prospering. In verse eight David elaborated on advice he gave in verse one. David said not to fret when evil men prosper because fretting leads to evil. When David said evil, he meant anger, resentful, or mimicking wicked and ruthless men’s business practices. Instead refrain from anger and hope in the Lord. When we hope in the Lord we take our bad as well as good times to him. We take our cares and our joys.

The spiritual focus of these parables is: righteous men and women’s incentive to act right (using biblical moral-ethical standards) comes from knowing that ultimate power on earth and in heaven is in the hands of a just God. Even if the righteous person doesn’t experience worldly prosperity, they will be rewarded in heaven for how they acted on earth. In a later Psalm, David averred that the righteous flourish like a palm tree and like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the Lord’s house (Psalm 92:12-14). Righteous men bear fruit in old age and stay both fresh and green.

In contrast to King David’s parables that speak to the transience of wicked men, probably each us have seen such men and woman thrived their entire career, even life. Was David wrong in verses 35-36? What did he mean? MacDonald (1990) wrote that King David may have been stating a general principle. He noted that Holy Scripture often makes sweeping statements; it describes a general, or normal, outwork of spiritual laws. Exceptions don’t disprove the overall principles.

Reflection: Have you studied the behavior of wicked persons? Do they have staying power?

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: September 12, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

 

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David Waits for God

God using the balsam tree to give David victory over the Philistines is described in 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-18.

When the Philistines discovered that DaPopulus euphraticavid was anointed king over Israel as well as over Judah, they went out in force to search for him.  During the seven years David was king over Judah at Hebron, the Philistines were not too concerned about his kingship.  For them the problem occurred when Israel (northern tribes) asked David to be their king.  The Philistines cities were in the lands of the northern tribes; they feared David would wage war against their cities.  The Philistines entered the Valley of the Rephaim, located on the border between Judah and Benjamin on the west and southwest sides of Jerusalem.  There they raided and plundered the inhabitants who were mainly Israelites.  David responded to the Philistine’s raids and at Baal Parazim David and the Israelites fought a battle with the Philistines.  The Philistines were routed.  When they fled, the Philistines abandoned their idols.  Following Mosaic law, David burnt the idols (Deuteronomy 7:5, 25).

Perhaps outraged by the previous defeat and David’s destruction of their idols, the Philistines raided the Rephiam Valley a second time.  David asked God if he should attack the Philistines.  God’s answer was “yes;” but David’s army should not go straight at the Philistines. Instead, the Israelite army should circle around the Philistines and attack them in front of the balsam trees.  The signal for the Israelite army to attack was the sound of God marching in the tops of the balsam trees.  The marching sound meant that the Lord went in front of the Israelites to strike the Philistines.

In the Rephiam Valley balsam trees grew in groves.  God made the wind blow through the tops of the balsam tree so that leaves rustling and branches rubbing against each other and created a sound like men marching.  The sound was so loud that the Philistine army thought that a huge Israelite army was advancing toward them.  Terrified they fled the valley.  David’ army pursued and struck down the Philistines from Gibeon to Gezar, a range of about 15 miles.  At the time of this battle, Gezar was not a Philistine city; it was held by the Egyptians (Joshua 10:33).  Apparently, the Philistine soldiers were so frightened that they fled to the powerful Egyptians for safety.  The episode concludes with, “so David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him” (1 Chronicles 14:17).

Populus euphratica leavesThe Balsam Tree

The balsam tree is a species of aspen, most likely the Populus euphratica, which is believed to be native to Israel and Middle Eastern countries. The balsaam is also called the  Euphrates popular and salt poplar.  In Israel the tree grows throughout the country; it grows well in rocky and hilly soils and in brackish water. The balsaam tree grows as tall as 45 feet and has spreading branches.  On older branches bark is thick, olive green to gray-brown, and roughly striated.  Branches are bent and almost always forked.  The balsaam’s flower is called a catkin because it resembles a cat’s tail and droops from the stem.  In mid-summer, the P. euphratica produces a green to reddish brown fruit which is a 2-4 valve capsule.  Seeds are minute and enveloped in silky hairs which aid wind dispersal.

Symbolism: God’s people

Balsam trees are associated with the word “people.”  The word Populus in the name Populus euphratica is derived from the trees ancient Latin name arbor populi which means “the people’s tree.”  When God identified the Israelites as his chosen people, God told them that he would dwell with them, walk with them, and protect them (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 11:22-25).  In the Valley of Rephiam, God gave his chosen people victory through the sound of an army (people) marching in the tops of balsam trees.  Israel’s victory was so decisive that David’s fame spread to people of every land; the Lord made people of every nation fear David.

In the Old Testament, God took a people for himself who were of one race.  In the New Testament, Christ directed his disciples to take the good news of the gospel to all his creation (Mark 16:15).  Over 2000 years later, people of all races believe in him.  Despite Christ’s welcome and guaranteed love of all people, the Bible cautions, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).  What does such an ominous verse mean to people?

The writer of Hebrew’s elaborated by saying if people keep on sinning after they receive the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sin is left;  only a fearful expectation of judgment (Hebrews 10: 26-30).  The writer compared the Old Testament Jews rejection of the Law of Moses to an individual who rejects the truth of Christ after they know it.  His argument was if Old Testament Jews who rejected the Law of Moses died, then how much more will individuals who trample the Son of God deserve punishment?   The latter individuals insult the Spirit of grace because they show contempt for the blood of Christ who sanctifies them.  The Lord lives with his people, protects them, and loves them.  In addition, the Lord judges his people.

Reflection.  In the battle where God marched in the tops of the balsam trees, David counted on God rather than his army to protect the people of the Rephiam Valley and Israel.  In a later story, we learn that David took a census of eligible fighting men in Israel rather than trust God to protect the people (2 Samuel 24:10).  Do David’s actions have any parallels to our own life?  Do we believe that God will protect his people?

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: October 4, 2014: Carolyn Adams 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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Dethroned King David

Vicia faba beans, Rignanese (192x128)The story of Absalom’s conspiracy and David’s retreat to Mahaniam where he and his men received welcome supplies is told in 2 Samuel chapters 15-18.

After killing his older brother Amnon, Absalom fled to Geshar.  Only after five years did David welcomed Absalom back into his presence.  After returning from exile, Absalom set out to win the hearts of the men of Israel from David.  Absalom greeted those who approached him warmly reaching out his hand and kissing them.  Absalom’s primary assertion was that David was unresponsive to the claims and complaints of the people.  After years of undermining David, Absalom went to Hebron where he had himself declared King.  Hebron was where David ruled Judah for 7 years.  Absalom had a large following of men from Israel and some from the tribe of Judah where Hebron was located.  In addition, Ahithophel, David’s most important and most trusted adviser, sided with Absalom.

Hearing that Absalom was declared king and not knowing the extent of the rebellion, David fled Jerusalem with his household and close fighting men.  David walked barefoot up the road to the top of the Mount of Olives; he wept and his head was covered in grief.  When David reached the summit, Hushai, one of his trusted advisers, met him.  David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem to foil Absalom’s plans and to serve as David’s spy.  Shortly, after David passed over the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba met him with a string of donkeys, food, and wine.

As David traveled away from Jerusalem and approached Buhurim, Shimei a man from the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe of Saul) cursed David and threw stones at him; however, David would not allow his men to harm Shimei.  David said that Shimei’s cursing may be at God’s direction.  Eventually, David, his tired household, and fighting men arrived at Mahanaim where he set up camp.  About 100 miles north-northwest of Jerusalem, Mahanaim had historical significance.  It was in Mahanaim that Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, lived during his two year reign as king over the tribes of Israel.  While David was at Mahanaim, three wealthy men brought him provisions that included bedding, cooking and eating bowls, sheep, dairy products, grains, and beans. The three benefactors were an Ammonite leader, Shobi, who probably was appointed governor after David conquered Rabbah (2 Samuel 12:29); Makir of Lo Debar who first sheltered Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:4); and the 80 year old  Barzillai, the Gileadite from Rogelim.

Meanwhile King Absalom entered Jerusalem and took over David’s palace.  Increasingly more men from the northern tribes of Israel and from Judah swore allegiance to Absalom. Through God’s intervention, Abaslom decided not to mount a focused attack to kill David immediately.  Rather Absalom led his men against David and his fighters who were on the eastern side of the Jordan River in the forest of Ephraim.  David must have been confident his commanders would win the battle against Absalom because them to deal gently with Absalom.  In the battle David’s long-time commander, Joab, deliberately killed Absalom.  After some negotiations, David returned to Jerusalem as King over Israel and Judah.

The Broad Bean    

The bean was the Vicia faba  known as the broad bean, faba bean, and Vicia vulgaris. Beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants.  Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East.    Although beans are not drought resistant, they are sufficiently hearty to live through mild frosts. The broad bean can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight and tolerates. Beans are a green, up-right, annual, legume. The attractive flower is white with dark purple markings.  Mature beans are between 3–9 inches long. Beans should be harvested as beans inside mature.  If harvesting is delayed until all pods are ripe, pods nearer the bottom of the plant split and beans are lost.  Beans are oblong or oval, smooth, and flattened on the sides. Bean color is mottled reddish-brown. In the ancient Middle East, beans were and are an important alternative source of protein particularly for those living in or near poverty.  Even today in the Middle East beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad bean flour is very rich in protein, vitamins and minerals; therefore, it is used alone or mixed with other flours to make bread.

Symbolism: Extend, Extent

Traditionally, beans were associated with pending conflict, laughter, or something small. European folklore claims that planting beans during the night time or on Good Friday is good luck.  In Nicaragua newlyweds are given a bowl of beans for good luck. When beans were included in the provisions brought to David at Manhaniam, luck was probably not considered. More likely David’s benefactors were providing a high source of protein that was both a meat and flour extender.

Extend means to make the offer of or to make available. David’s three benefactors at Manhaniam extend provisions including beans to David when he was in severe need.  The three men who extended themselves to support David knew that they would likely forfeit their lives and lands if Absalom’s rebellion prevailed. The Bible has a great deal to say about individuals who willingly extend help to the needy.  A proverb in Biblical Israel about a noble woman was, “she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hand to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).  Extending assistance to the needy included sharing food (Proverbs 22:9), lending money (Proverbs 28:8) and defending rights (Proverbs 31:9).  Those who were kind and extend assistance to the needy were blessed (Proverbs 14:21; 22:9) and lacked nothing (Proverbs 28:27).

In the New Testament two verses use the word “extend or extent.”  In describing God’s great and glorious provision of salvation for his people, Mary (the mother of Christ) said that God extends his mercy to those that fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1:50).  Saint John wrote that Christ loved his own who were in the world and showed them the fullest extent of his love (John 13:1).  Showing the fullest extent of his love entailed Christ being tortured, crucified, and dying in place of each of us.

Absalom won the hearts of the Israelites because he was young, attractive, smooth talking, and extended himself with handshakes and kisses to the Israelites (2 Samuel 14:25; 15:1-6).  In contrast, David was elderly, more introspective, and less available to the people. Yet, David had solid friends who stood by him during Absalom’s rebellion even when David retreated to the east side of the Jordan River.  From the time David began his retreat and all during the time of his exile, David extended his plans to return as king of Israel and Judah.  Similarly, during his entire life Christ demonstrated the extent of his love for individuals and humanity.

Reflection.  How can you extend your love to other individuals?  How can you share your food and money with others?  How can you defend the rights of the poor and needy?

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 December 29, 2011; carolyn a. Roth

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King David’s Confession & Repentance

Origanum syriacum stem, JBGThe background and story of David and the hyssop plant are related in 2 Samuel chapters 11:1–12:25 and Psalm 51 (New International Version Study Bible, 2002).

In the spring David remained in Jerusalem when the Israelite army went out to fight the Ammonites.  Unable to sleep one evening, David walked on the palace roof.  Looking down he saw a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing. David had Bathsheba brought to him and they spent the night together.  Later Bathsheba sent David a note saying she was pregnant.  The problem was that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, a soldier serving with the Israelite army.

God’s law prescribed the death penalty for both David and Bathsheba because of their adultery (Leviticus 20:10).  Attempting to cover his transgression, David ordered Bathsheba’s husband to be placed in the front lines of battle without adequate support.  Uriah was killed.  After Bathsheba’s mourning period, David married Bathsheba.  Chapter 11 ends with the statement, “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27).

God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin and to tell David God’s punishment for it.  The punishment was

1)      Because David killed Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites and took Bathsheba as a wife, the sword would never depart from David’s house.

2)     Calamity will come on David from his own household and his wives would be given to one who is close to David.

David’s immediate response was to acknowledge his sin before Nathan and before God.  Nathan assured David that God took his sin away and that David would not die; but, David and Bathsheba’s child would die.

Psalm 51 was written by David soon after Nathan confronted him with his adultery and murder.  Psalm 51 is classified as one of the Penitential Psalms.  David began the Psalm asking God for mercy and to wash away his sins.  Specifically, David asked God to cleanse him with hyssop.  The hyssop plant was used in the first Passover in Egypt to mark Israelite homes with the blood of the Passover lamb or goat (Exodus 12:21-23).  It was also used by them in ritual cleansing or purification, e.g., after an individual recovered from a skin infection (Leviticus 14:3-7) and after a home was cleaned from mildew (Leviticus 14:48-53).  The hairy surface of hyssop leaves and branches held liquids well; thus, it was adopted as a sprinkling device in purification rituals.

The Old Testament Hyssop

The hyssop that David referred to was most likely the aromatic plant Origanum syriacum called wild majoram, hyssop, and za`atar (Arabic).  The hyssop is indigenous to Turkey and  the eastern Mediterranean, e.g., Israel.  In Israel, hyssop is distributed distributed throughout the country except the deserts. It is frost-sensitive. O. syriacum is an up-right perennial and a giant among oreganos growing as tall as four feet. As the oregano plant ages, stems become a woody brown and leaves a dark, dusty green.  The O. syriacum is harvested and used fresh when the plant is young until flowers bloom. Mature leaves and flowering stems are dried and sold commercially as “oregano,” a name that should be restricted to Origanum vulgare.  The fresh or dried herb can be mixed with olive oil and spread over warm pita bread for a delicious accompaniment to a meal.  Flower stems can be made into fresh herbal wreaths. As in ancient Israel, the O. syriacum was gathered in bunches and used as a brush or sprinkler for purification rituals.

Symbolism: Humility

The hyssop plant is a symbol of humility. When David murdered Uriah and took Bathsheba as his wife, he mimicked the proud behavior of foreign kings; however, God called the Israelites to a higher standard of behavior (Leviticus 20:10).  Murder was murder and adultery was adultery whether committed by the king or the lowest servant in Israel.  When David cried out his remorse and asked to be cleansed with hyssop, he acknowledged his sin and repented.  David showed his humility before God and before the people in his kingdom.

Humility is a spirit of deference or submission, not being proud, haughty, arrogant, or assertive. Many Bible verses focus on humility.  In the Old Testament we read that God guides the humble in what is right (Psalm 25:9), gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34), and crowns the humble with salvation (Psalm 149:4).  Humility takes precedence over both wisdom and honor (Proverbs 11:2, 15:33, 18:12).  In the New Testament, humility is first mentioned in Matthew when Christ identified himself as gentle and humble in heart  (Matthew 11:29).  Paul told the Church at Philippi that Christ humbled himself and obeyed God, even though Christ’s obedience meant his death on the cross (Philippians2:8).

As he was humble, Christ instructed us, his followers, to be humble (Matthew 18:4; Luke 14:7–11).  Christ was concerned particularly about the humility of religious leaders.  He noted that some Pharisees dressed in religious clothing, sat at places of honor at banquets, and loved to be called “Rabbi.”  These Pharisees were more concerned with outward piety and praise than practicing their faith.  Christ said “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12, New International Version Study Bible, 2002).  In this same instruction, Christ averred that the greatest among you will be your servant (Matthew 23:11).  Recently, I attended a church dinner in a parishioner’s home.  When I finished eating, I picked up my husband’s and my dishes and walked to the kitchen.  At the sink I saw our senior pastor.  He was alone in the kitchen washing dishes, in no way calling attention to him.  As a fairly new member of the church, I began to realize why Pastor Mark was so loved. He exhibited humility and was willing to quietly serve others.

For many of us, not acting haughty or arrogant is fairly easy.  Haughty means blatantly or disdainfully proud; while arrogant is exaggerating our own worth or importance. We’ve seen individuals who are haughty and arrogant, and we don’t want to be like them.  Not being assertive is harder.  Asserting oneself is speaking or acting in a manner that compels recognition especially of one’s rights.   Many individuals today, especially women, minorities, and students have taken courses on how to present themselves assertively.  How do we reconcile the image of ourselves as being equals with not being assertive?  The answer may be in the word compel in the definition of asserting oneself.  To compel means to cause someone to do something because of overwhelming pressure. Christianity is not about compelling or forcing others to do what we want.  Assertive, forcing, and compelling behaviors are antithetical to humility.

You may be thinking that humility is all well and good for David; but, you are a minority in the work world or a student in a university.  If you don’t demand, compel, or force your employer/teacher to acknowledge your rights, you will not have them.  That could be true or it may not be true.  Perhaps we could present our petitions and requests in non-forceful ways; in ways that distinguish us from non-Christian employees or students.  I think about students who have disagreed with my grades and grading comments.  When students communicate humbly, honestly questioning a grade, and asking for an explanation, I am much more prone to re-read their papers and re-thing the grade than when students’ communications are forceful and demanding.

God does not always promise that Christians will achieve their every desire by acting humbly; yet Christians are called to be humble, to have a spirit of deference and submission.  In his first letter Saint Peter wrote that we should clothe ourselves with humility toward one another because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  Further, God instructed through Peter to “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand so that he may (is free to) lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).  Notice that we must take the first step to reap God’s rewards.  We must first be humble so we can receive God’s grace and be lifted up by God.

Reflection.  What would happen if for one week when you dressed every morning you imagined you were clothing yourself with humility?  Try it and keep a daily journal of how your week goes. Think about the outcomes in relation to 1 Peter 5:5-6.

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 Dec. 19, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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