Tag Archives: Moses

Linen Curtains in the Tabernacle

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Read how Tabernacle Curtains were made and used in Exodus 26:1–6 and 31-37; Exodus 27:9–19; and Exodus chapter 28.

Flax was used extensively in the Tabernacle to make linen. Flax is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and was an important crop in Egypt since the 5th millennium B.C.  The linen curtains, the blue, purple and scarlet embroidery yarn, and the linen priest’s clothes came from the flax plant. The two craftsmen, Bezalel and Oholiab, God designated to oversee building of the Tabernacle were given skill as designers and embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and in fine linen (Exodus 35:35). 

In the Tent of Meeting, a curtain (veil) made of fine woven linen hung between the Holies of Holy and the Most Holy of Holies. Cherubim were embroidered on the veil with blue, purple and scarlet yarn.  The Tent of Meeting roof was made of linen curtains. The curtains draped over the outside of the gold-covered acacia wood panels.  Cherubim made of purple, blue and scarlet yarn were woven or worked into the linen curtains.  A fine linen curtain covered the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (east side).  The entrance curtain included colored yarn, however, there were no cherubim on the curtain.  The sides of the Tabernacle courtyard were plain linen curtains held in place by silver hooks that attached them to the wood posts.  The curtain at the courtyard entrance was the only courtyard curtain that included colored yarn.  An embroiderer was used to make the entrance curtain.  

Aaron was the first Israelite high priest. God gave very specific instructions for making his   clothes.   The clothes included the breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic, turban, sash, and undergarments.   All were made with fine linen.  With the exception of the tunic and undergarments, all linen clothes were embroidered with or used colored yarn.  No sandals or shoes were included as part of the high priest’s clothing.  The rationale for lack of sandals was that when Aaron ministered to the Lord he was on holy ground.  As priests, Aaron’s sons had special clothes.   Their clothes included tunics, sashes, headbands, and undergarments made of linen; no colored yarn or embroidery was used.

 In the Bible, the Hebrew word for the linen associated with the Tabernacle is shêsh. Shêsh means “fine linen” and denotes a type of Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness. When Egyptians wove fine linen, they used as many as 140 strands of threads per inch lengthwise (warf) and 64 strands per inch horizontal (weft). Linen of this fine weave had the appearance of silk. In ancient times fine linen was a mark of quality and associated with wealth and rank. Fine linen was the usual dress of Egyptian priests and royalty.  Pharaoh dressed Joseph in fine linen when Joseph was promoted to second-in command over all Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43). Egyptian fine linen was exquisite – it was soft and flexible but strong, cool to wear, and had a luster or sheen to its whiteness.

As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites would not have possessed much, if any, fine linen; however, when they left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them tribute.  The tribute included clothes and more than likely included fine linen and yarn for spinning linen (Exodus 12:35-36). When Moses asked the Israelites for offerings to build the Tabernacle, he specified the need for blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen (Exodus 25:3).  Exodus recorded that skilled women spun fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn and brought these as offerings for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:25-26).  There is no record that women wove the yarn into linen cloth for curtains or priest’s clothes.

 The Flax Plant

The Ancient Egyptian flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, was used to make linen.  In Biblical times flax was the most important fiber crop. Probably the L. usitatissimum originated in Mesopotamia; however, it was extensively cultivated in Egypt and less so in Palestine.  In Egypt flax grew along the sides the Nile River and particularly in the Nile Delta region. In Egypt and the Middle East, flax was planted in the early winter and flax harvested in the spring.

 The flax plant has a single stem that grows up to four feet tall.  The fiber is in the stem.  Initially, the stem is green, but turns yellow as the plant ripens and readies for harvest. When flax plants were harvested for fiber, mature plants were pulled up by their roots. Harvested plants were allowed to dry, then retted.  Retting is a process of soaking flax to separate the fiber from the woody tissue (straw).  Egyptians dyed some flax threads.  Blue and purple dyes were derived from shellfish (primarily the murex) which lived in the Mediterranean Sea. Scarlet dye came from the eggs and carcasses of a worm (Coccus ilicus) which lived on the leaves of holly plants.

 Symbolism: Purity 

 In ancient times, linen symbolized purity and in Revelation (15:5-6) St. John used “clean, shining linen” as a symbol for purity.  Purity means spotless, stainless, free from what pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from moral fault or guilt. The Hebrew verb for purify, tāhēr, also means to cleanse or to be clean. The Tabernacle complex with its linen curtains was a symbol of the Israelite’s need to be clean or pure before God.  In the Tabernacle animals were sacrificed and animal blood shed to accomplish ritual purification.  Today when individuals accept Christ as their Savior, they are purified (cleansed) or made spotless in relation to former sins.  Then, the challenge of living a pure life begins.

 Of the 33 verses in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) which referred to purity, about 1/3 centered on the individual’s heart  In the Old Testament, King David implored God to “create in me a pure heart” (Psalm 51:10).  King David questioned who can approach God and stand before him? The answer was “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false” (Psalm 24:3–4).

 In the New Testament there is a similar focus on Christians keeping their heart pure. Christ taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).  Paul told Timothy that love (the greatest of all virtues) comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1Timothy 1:5).  He instructed Timothy to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Paul cautioned Timothy to have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because they produce quarrels (verse 23).

  Taken together, these verses from the Old and New Testament communicated that to please God, Christians must keep their hearts pure.  Keeping a pure hearts begins with a sincere faith in Christ as our Savior. Purity means that we love one another and are free from moral guilt about how we act toward and think about each other.   Purity is about actively pursuing faith, love, and peace.  In addition to positive actions that help us to grow toward purity, the Bible verses on a pure heart articulated certain behaviors to avoid.  These behaviors are worshipping idols, lying, becoming involved in nonproductive arguments and quarrels, and pursuing evil desires of youth, e.g., sexual debauchery.

 I want to keep my heart pure; however, sometime I do not restrain my impulses. At times I fill my life with irreverent thoughts and actions.  In the past I often made my career an idol rather than keeping God at the center of my life. Most certainly I have engaged in foolish and stupid arguments, rationalizing them in the name of “devil’s advocate” or “intellectual debate.”  How, then, can I keep a clean, pure heart so I can see God in my day-to-day life?  The answer for me is the same as it was for the Israelites. I must agree with God about my sins. When I do, I can be at-one with God. God has made it easy for me to reconcile myself to him and his purity. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from sin and purify us from our unrighteousness.  Having a pure, clean heart is as simple as going to God admitting my sin and asking His forgiveness.

Reflection. When did you last clean up or purify your life?  Would now be a good time to enact I John 1:9 in your relationship with Christ?

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

Copyright July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Truth or Fiction: The Burning Bush

R. sanguineus

References: Exodus Chapters 3 and 4.

From the time he was weaned through approximately age 40, Moses lived in royal splendor as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. In that time he received an excellent education that included content on history, culture, Egyptian religion, leadership, and military tactics and arms. Despite these benefits, Moses knew that he was not an Egyptian. He was an Israelite and his people were slaves in Egypt.

As an adult, Moses went to where some Israelites were working at slave labor. Seeing an Egyptian overseer beating an Israelite, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body. The next day Moses went to the same location and saw two Israelites fighting. When he tried to break up the fight, one man asked Moses, “Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14). Hearing these words, Moses became afraid; he realized others knew he murdered the Egyptian. Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh learned of the murder and attempted to kill Moses.

Precipitated by these events, Moses fled Egypt and traveled to Midian. Midian was located east of the Sinai Peninsula and outside Egyptian influence. In Midian Moses met Jethro, a Midian priest, whose name means “friend of God”. The Midianites were offspring of Abraham and his second wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1–4). In Midian Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah (Exodus 2:21). Moses became a shepherd for his father-in-law’s (not his own) sheep (Exodus 3:1). After about 40 years in Midian, Moses led the sheep to the west side of the Midian desert, arriving at Mount Horab in the Sinai Peninsula.

There the angel of the Lord appeared in flames of fire within a bush. Moses noticed that although the bush was on fire, it was not consumed by the fire. Deciding to take a closer look at the strange phenomenon, Moses made his way toward the burning bush. When God saw Moses approaching the bush, he called to Moses from within the bush and told him to come no closer. God instructed Moses to take off his sandals because Moses was standing on holy ground. Then God introduced himself to Moses, naming himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At this introduction, Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

Talking from the burning bush, God told Moses that the Israelites were suffering severely under the slave masters in Egypt. God shared that he planned to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them to a land of milk and honey. To this point, Moses was probably nodding his head and agreeing with God’s plan. Then, God stunned Moses by saying, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).

Immediately, Moses started questioning his qualifications to be the leader God described. God’s response was to continue telling Moses to go back to Egypt. In Egypt, Moses was to notify the elders of Israel first and then Pharaoh that the Israelites were to be permitted to leave Egypt. God warned Moses that Pharaoh would oppose him; but, God himself would work wonders to compel Pharaoh to set the Israelites free.

Moses tried several ways to evade being the highly visible leader that God demanded. One of Moses’ fears was that he was “slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). God told Moses that his brother Aaron, a Levite who spoke well, would be Moses’ speaker. Convinced by God to be the Israelite leader, Moses returned to Jethro where he took his wife and two sons and started for Egypt.

Rubus sanctus

The Burning Bush (Rubus sanctus).

The nature of the burning bush is a source of debate among botanists and Biblical scholars. Some believe that the burning bush was not a bush, but a figurative representation of a supernatural phenomenon. Others contend that God spoke through a natural bush. The opinion of Jewish scholars and botanists is that the burning bush was the blackberry bush, Rubus sanctus. Other names for the R. sanctus, are the Rubus sanguineus and the holy blackberry. Most likely the R. sanctus originated in the eastern Mediterranean region of Iran or Turkey. It is a perennial shrub that grows as a large thicket near water sources, e.g., in oases, on wadi banks, and in moist fields. The plant has no central stem; instead it produces long thin branches which can reach 5 – 6 feet in length. Branches have spiked thorns that bend downward. If a person reaches into the plant to pick the fruit, he will feel nothing; however, when he withdraws his hand, thorns will fasten into the flesh like sharp teeth.

Jewish writers drew a parallel between blackberry thorns and the movement of the Israelites in and out of Egypt. When the Israelites entered Egypt, they did so with little notice. In contrast when they left Egypt, the entire country knew of them because of supernatural events and battles associated with their exodus. Generally the blackberry flower is pink. New blackberries are green. As they ripen, they turn red then black. Fully ripe blackberries are plump, firm, and fully black. Never pick blackberries before they are ripe as they will not ripen off the shrub. Blackberries also propagate by vegetative regeneration; for example, re-growth occurs from the perennial root stalk, from the root stem tips, and from root fragments.

Symbolism: God Reveals Himself

Rubus sanctus is a symbol of God revealing himself to man. “Reveal” means to make known something that was secret or hidden and to open up to view. Synonyms of “reveal” are “disclose” and “tell”. In the entire Old Testament nowhere does God reveal more about himself to one man than in the passage of the burning bush. In fact, this passage is sometimes called the “Mosaic revelation of God about himself.”

Some of the truths that God revealed about himself were:

• God revealed to Moses that he was the God of Moses’ ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God remembered Moses’ ancestors and the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from more than 400 years ago.

• God revealed to Moses that he heard the cries and saw the agony of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt. God was not limited to one land area such as Haran or Canaan where he appeared to Moses’ ancestors; rather God heard the cries of his people wherever they were. The Bible does not identify that the Israelite cries were in the form of prayers, but, God heard them.

• God revealed to Moses that he was going to take action on behalf of the Israelites. God cared about his chosen people so much that he was willing to intervene in history to help them.

• God revealed to Moses that he had a plan to see that his promises to Moses’ ancestors were realized. God is a God of specifics and details. Part of that plan was for Moses to act as the leader of the Israelites before Pharaoh.

• God revealed to Moses that he knew the opposition that Moses would face from Pharaoh. God knows the hearts of men; he knew Pharaoh’s pride and stubbornness.

• God revealed his power to Moses. God was able to take other forms, in this instance he was talking to Moses from a burning bush. God revealed his power by telling Moses that the “supposed” power of the gods of the greatest nation on earth, Egypt, would be no obstruction to God’s will and plan.

Considering the attributes that God revealed about himself makes me glad that God is on my side. At the same time, I feel overwhelmed that God who is all powerful (omnipotent), all knowledge (omniscient), and always present (omnipresent) claimed me for his child. It is understandable that Moses hid his face in God’s presence – he doesn’t want God to see him and he was afraid to look on God. What am I going to do when God reveals himself totally to me?

Reflection: How will you respond when you are face-to-face with God, when God is revealed fully to you?

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

Copyright July 3, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

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God’s Watching You

Dwarf flowering almond

Read about the Lampstand of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25.

The almond tree symbolizes God’s watchfulness. The almond tree was central to the Tabernacle and is described in two key situations. First, almond tree buds, blossoms and flowers are the design on the Lampstand (Exodus 25:33-34). The Lampstand and it accessories were made of 75 pounds of gold (MacDonald, 2005). In the Bible, no dimensions (height, width of the top of the Lampstand) were given for the Lampstand; however, its base and arms are described in detail in Exodus 37: 17 – 23).

Three branches extend from one side and three branches from the opposite side of the central base. On each of the six branches there were three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. The Lampstand base and central branch had four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One almond bud was under the first pair of branches, a second bud under the second pair of branches, and a third bud under the third pair of branches. The buds and seven branches were all one piece of gold with the base, hammered out of pure gold. At the top of each of the seven branches was set an oil lamp.

The Lampstand was the only source of light in the Tabernacle. It was positioned in the Holy of Holies on the south side of the room, opposite the Table of the Presence-Bread. Priests lit the seven oil lamps every evening; the lamps were to burn continually throughout the night until morning. Today, Christians and Jews refer to lamps that are similar as a “menorah.”

The second source of almonds in the Tabernacle is Aaron’s staff which sprouted overnight while in front of the Ark of the Testimony (Covenant) in the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 17: 1 – 11). Unlike staffs representing the other 11 tribes of Israel, Aaron’s staff produced buds, blossoms and almonds. Aaron’s staff was not placed in the Tabernacle at its initial construction at Mt. Sinai.

After Aaron’s staff sprouted it was kept in front of the Testimony in the Most Holy of Holies during the wanderings of the Israelites. Paul avers that that Aaron’s staff was placed in the Ark of the Testimony (Hebrews 9:4); however, Aaron’s staff was not in the Ark of the Testimony when Solomon brought the Ark to the first Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 8: 9).

Almond Tree

The almond tree described in Exodus and Numbers is likely the Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis or Amygdalus (almond) communis(common). The almond tree bears sweet almonds which were used for food in the eastern Mediterranean region. Domesticated almonds were identified in the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 B.C.). Usually almond tree grow 12 – 27 feet in height. The flowering almond tree buds in Israel as early as February and is one of the most beautiful flowering trees in nature.

Amygdalus communis, NK

In Old Testament times almonds were eaten raw or roasted, pressed for almond oil, and used to flavor porridge, breads and other baked goods. In Egypt, almonds were found in Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt (around 1327 B.C.); these almonds were likely imported from Canaan. When Jacob directed his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain, he told them to take almonds as a gift to the Egyptians because almonds were “some of the best product of the land” (Genesis43:11).

Symbolism: Alert, Watchful

In the Hebrew language, name for almond tree is shâqêd (Strong, 2010). The primary root of shâqêd is shâqad which means to be watchful, alert, on the lookout, and sleepless. Almond buds and blossoms were placed on the Lampstand where the lamps burned during the night to symbolize two things: first, the constant watchfulness of God over His people and second the need for Israel to be alert to the commandments of God.

The association between the almond tree and watchfulness of God over Israel is repeated in Jeremiah 1: 11 – 12. The Lord asked Jeremiah, What do you see? Jeremiah’s response is, “I see the branch of an almond tree.” God returns, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Job (7:20) calls God a “watcher of men.” Placing Aaron’s almond rod in the Most Holy of Holies is a reminder that the priesthood must be watchful against any rebellion or turning of the Children of Israel from God’s laws.

By using the symbolism of the almond tree in the Tabernacle, God provided both reassurance and caution to the Children of Israel. He provides reassurance that He is always watching over them. At the same time God cautions His Children to remain alert to events and situations that can detract them from keeping God as the primary focus of their lives.

At this time I am teaching an on-line course to university students. When courses are offered online, faculty and students rarely meet person-to-person. Students can be in Africa as missionaries, in Guam on a military ship, or anywhere across the globe. Faculty must be watchful that students read and implement the course syllabus, content, and assignments. If a student is off track, the faculty must immediately respond to assist her/him to re-read or re-think their work. Students ask questions of the faculty on line in Discussion Boards or via university email. University policy requires faculty to respond to students within 24 hours. At the same time students have a responsibility to be alert. They need to read posted announcements, grading comments, and answers to questions posed by classmates. If students are not constantly alert to the interactions in the course, they can limit their learning and their earned grades.

Faculty-student interactions in an online course are a reflection of how God works with us. He constantly monitors our behavior and when we get off track, He sends us messages that we need to readjust our thinking and our behavior. Unlike my interaction with students, God does not take up to 24 hours to learn what I am thinking/doing and respond to me. He knows immediately. And, thanks be to God, He does not figuratively pull His hair out at some of the things I do or neglect to do.

God is continually and constantly watchful over me. That does not mean that I can float along in my relationship with God and expect Him to do all of the work. I must stay alert and track with His guidelines for a successful life. In Matthew 26:40 Christ warns Peter, “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Paul instructs Timothy to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Timothy 4:16).

Reflection: Are you being watchful of your life and behavior so you do not drift from closeness with God? Are you watching and praying so you do not fall into temptation?

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, January 15, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Moses’ Bulrushes in U.S.

Papyrus

Read the account of Moses and the bulrush cradle in Exodus chapter 1 – chapter 2:10.

Jacob and his family (70 members in all) settled in the Goshen area of Egypt in about 1876 B.C.   Moses was born about 350 years later.  In the interim years, the Israelites becoming so numerous that Goshen was filled with them. A new pharaoh came to power who did not know the history of Joseph helping Egypt.  Feeling threatened by the number of Israelites living in Egypt, the new Pharaoh made them slaves.  He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all Israelite newborn males.  The midwives worked around Pharaoh’s edict and the numbers of Israelites continued to grow.  Still determined to reduce the number of Israelites, Pharaoh ordered that every Israelite male infant must be thrown into the Nile River where the infant would die.

When Moses was born to an Israelite family, his mother was determined to keep him alive. She crafted a cradle made from bulrushes and coated it with bitumen (tar-like substance) to make it water resistant.  Moses’ mother placed him in the cradle and put the cradle among Nile River reeds. Moses’ sister, Miriam, was tasked with guarding the baby in the cradle.  Guarding the cradle was dangerous; predators, e.g., wild animals, crocodiles, and snakes, lived in and around the Nile River reeds.

Pharaoh’s daughter came to the Nile River to bathe and saw the cradle floating among the reeds.  She sent a slave girl to get the cradle. When Pharaoh’s daughter opened the cradle, she recognized a Hebrew baby.  Feeling compassion for the baby, Pharaoh’s daughter decided to make the baby her son. At that time Miriam stepped forward. Miriam asked Pharaoh’s daughter, if should obtain a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.  When Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, Miriam went home and returned with Moses’ mother.  Pharaoh’s daughter directed her to nurse Moses until he was weaned. In ancient times, it was common to nurse infants for two to three years.  Probably, Moses’ mother nursed him the maximum time possible.  After Moses was weaned, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and Moses became her son. In the Hebrew language, Moses meant “drawn from the water,” while in Egyptian Moses meant “son of” or “born of.”

The Bulrush Cradle

The bulrush cradle was made from the Cyperus papyrus, a stately aquatic reed also called the Nile papyrus.  The reed is  indigenous to Africa and other countries around the Mediterranean Sea. For optimal growth, reeds need full sun. Throughout Africa many swamps, shallow lakes, and stream and river banks are dominated by papyrus reeds; however, in Egypt the papyrus plant is now rare.  In Israel there are only limited papyrus reeds, generally in tended gardens. In ancient Egypt, the bulrush had multiple uses. The reed was renowned as the source of ancient Egyptian paper called papyrus.  In Egypt, references to papyrus paper occurred as early as 3100 B. C. Bulrushes were excellent pens because air-spaces in the stems could hold ink. Papyrus reeds were used to make boxes and baskets because they were light weight. Giant stems were buoyant, therefore, used in construction of reed boats, cradles, and bed mattresses.  Today in sub-Saharan Africa, mothers craft reed or wooden cradles for newborns that they call a Moses’ Basket.

For the first time this year, local nurseries were selling the Cyperus papyrus. I bought several for the church Bible garden. They were a great hit especially with the children.  I planted them in part sun and part shade and watered them frequently. Unfortunately they are an annual but perhaps they will regrow next year if I mulch their roots this fall.

Symbolism of the Papyrus: Absorb

The symbolism of the bulrush reed is related to its ability to absorb. The Hebrew word for bulrush is derived from the Hebrew word gâmâ’ which means “to absorb.” Moses’ cradle was made of porous bulrushes which absorbed air; thus, it was buoyant and floated and saved Moses’ life.  In the English language, the meaning of absorb is to take in and make part of an existent whole.

The body of Christ is the world-wide universe of believers who have God’s spirit living in them (I Corinthians 12: 12-13; Ephesians 1:25; Colossians 1: 24). When we accept Christ as our lord and savior, we automatically become members of the body of Christian believers. Then, ideally we affiliate with and are absorbed into a local body of believers.  Being absorbed into a local body of believers takes several intentional steps.  First, we need to find other Christian believers.  Second, we need to open ourselves to fellow Christians so we can absorb the essence of Christ-likeness in them. Third, we need to willingly give the Christ in us to others.

God tells us “not to give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25); but where do we find members of the body of Christ? Generally, we find them in a Bible-believing church. Finding a Bible-believing church can begin with exploring church websites. Most churches describe their doctrine and beliefs on their website; believers can ascertain if a church’s doctrine is congruent with the Holy Scriptures.  After evaluating a church’s doctrine and beliefs, believers can attend the church.

When we moved to Roanoke, we started looking for Bible-believing churches.  After prayer, receiving friends’ recommendations, and evaluating church web-sites, we decided to visit several churches.  Some were large, others were small. One met in a movie theater on Sunday mornings; another in a large century-old stone church.  Some churches we eliminated after one visit; however, generally we made several visits to each church. Not limiting ourselves to churches in our present denomination was a big step. It was hard to act on our belief that we were members of the body of Christ, rather than members of a certain denomination. Finally, with continued prayer we agreed on a church that promoted Christian growth and development in an inclusive body of believers.

Making an effort to be absorbed into the Church’s body of believers is work.  In addition to Sunday church, we attended Sunday morning Bible School. Attending Bible school was important because we heard the teacher’s point of view and that of congregates who participated in discussions. We joined ministries that used our spiritual gifts and talents.  My husband and I noted repeatedly that congregates “knew their Bible” and applied it to situations encountered in meetings and ministries. We participated in a number of one-day mission/community outreach activities where we interacted with more church members.

Not every individual slides automatically into fellowship with others in the church. My husband is outgoing and is comfortable in just about any setting.  I’m just the opposite; I prefer to stay at home, have my personal devotions, journal, and meditate.  At one time I felt inadequate because I was introverted. Now I realize that God does not require us to change our personality (I Corinthians 12:12–30). Within the body of Christ, there is room for individual differences. What God expects is for each of us be absorbed into a body of believers (Hebrews 10:25).

Thought: How we absorb and are absorbed into the body of Christ can take many forms.  What form is your absorption taking?

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 25, 2014: Carolyn A. Roth

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Acacia Wood in the Tabernacle

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

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

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

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

 Shittâh or Acacia wood

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

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

 Symbolism: Indestructible

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

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

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

 Reflection.  Wouldn’t you like your epitaph to read:____________(your name) was indestructible in his/her walk with Christ. How can you make this happen?

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

Copyright July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

Cassia in the Anointing Oil

Rolled CassiaThe anointing oil used in the Tabernacle is described in Exodus 25:6; 29:1-9; 30:22-33; 40:17; and Leviticus 8:1-13, 30.

When God instructed the Israelites to bring offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for the anointing oil.  Sacred anointing oil was a blend of four spices and olive oil. God was specific in the proportions of each: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, 500 shekels of cassia, 250 shekels of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane and one hin of olive oil.  The sanctuary shekel was equivalent to about 2/5th ounce.  Taken together the four spices weighed about 38 pounds.  A hin of olive oil was equivalent to about one gallon. The Tabernacle anointing oil was made by a perfumer and it was considered sacred.  If any person made perfume like it or put it on anyone other than a priest, they would be cut off from the Israelites.

The Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt.  At that time the Tabernacle, its furnishings, the priests, and the priests clothing were anointed with the sacred oil and consecrated.  Anointing was done to set apart items and people to God’s service.  Consecration means “to make holy” for God’s service.  Leviticus chapter 8 called the process of anointing and consecrating Aaron and his sons “ordination.”  As it is used in Leviticus, ordination literally means “you shall fill his hands.”  Probably the meaning was that the priests will take into their hands the role/tasks of the priesthood given to them by God.

The Bible allocated many verses to Moses’ anointing and consecrating the Tabernacle and the priests.  The reason for these detailed descriptions is that God is holy and demands holiness from those who serve him.  The Bible detailed that Aaron and his sons were anointed and consecrated only after sacrifice and atonement were made for their own sins. They could not be anointed for God’s service until they were ritually clean. Outwardly Moses presided over the anointing of the Tabernacle; however, the Israelites understood that God, not Moses, made the Tabernacle and priests holy.

Cassia is used to represent the spices in the anointing oil.  It was probably brought with the Israelites out of Egypt.  Egyptians imported cassia from China and used cassia in the embalming process.  As the Israelites traveled throughout the Sinai Peninsula, they could have bought cassia from traders who crossed the Peninsula from Arabia to Egypt.  In the ancient Middle East, peoples so valued cassia that it was worth its weight in gold or ivory.

The Cassia Plant

The botanical name for the Tabernacle cassia is Cinnamomum cassia also known as C. aromaticum. Although cassia is in the same genus as the spice cinnamon, cassia is a different plant with a more pungent aroma.  Both fresh and fallen leaves emit the cassia aroma. Chinese cassia comes from the bark of the cassia plant. The tree is cut above the ground level 4 – 5 years after planting and every 3 – 4 years thereafter.  The bitter-tasting outer bark is removed leaving the inner cassia bark is dried in the sun. When the inner bark is dry it turns brown and curls into a hollow tube or quill. In the United States during the yuletide season, bunches (7 – 8) of cassia quills tied with a ribbon and sold in stores as cinnamon.  Cinnamaldehyde is the major (70 – 95%) component of cassia bark and responsible for the pungent odor of the bark and powdered cassia. Cassia powder is a reddish brown color in contrast to the tan color of cinnamon.

Symbolism: Anointing

Cassia and other substances of the anointing oil symbolize the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly the Spirit’s acts in the New Testament.  Christ told the people of Nazareth that he was anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to give recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppresses and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19.).  To the Church at Jerusalem and to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ home, Peter reiterated that God anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit and empowered Christ (Acts 4:24-28; Acts 10:38). Christ’s work on earth was completed through the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit anoints believers for God’s work on earth just as the Holy Spirit anointed Christ’s for God’s work on earth.  Saint John declared that Christians have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). Scholars are not sure whether “Holy One” refers to God or Christ; however, there is wide-spread agreement that anointing means the Holy Spirit. We Christian’s are anointed with the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Savior.  At that time, the Holy Spirit enters into our body and mind and becomes a part of us.

Christ told his disciples before he left them that the Holy Spirit would come to them (John 16:5-15).  The Holy Spirit would convict them of sin and righteousness, console and guide them, be their advocate with God, and the revealer of all truth. According to Paul, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to Christians so the work of the Church in the world can be accomplished, e.g., administration, teaching, healing and distinguishing of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28).

Although God’s work here on earth is vitally important, the Holy Spirit anointed Christ and believers not just for work. In addition to anointing Christ with power for work, God anointed him with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:9). The oil of joy was more valuable than the most important and valuable aromatic oils and cassia in the fragrant robes of the greatest king (Psalm 45:7–8). The reason God anointed Christ with the oil of joy was so Christ could give the joy to believers.  Isaiah wrote that Christ would bestow on believers a crown of beauty instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah (61:10).  What a blessing to know that when we enter a personal relationship with Christ, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit and given the oil of joy and gladness.  Further, the Holy Spirit’s anointing presence allows us to bear fruit spiritual fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).

Reflection This morning, I heard a song that said, “You raise me up to more than I can be” (The Four Troops, 2010).  God does that through anointing Christians with the Holy Spirit.  What are you doing with your anointing?

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 16, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Onions Depict the Universe

???????????The Israelites’ complaints that there were no vegetables in the Sinai Desert are recorded in Numbers chapter 11:4-34 and Psalm 78:17-33.

After the Israelites built and dedicated the tabernacle, they left Mount Sinai and restarted their journey to the Promised Land.  After about three days travel, the community started complaining. The complaints began with people the Bible called, “the rabble”.  The rabble was non-Israelites who joined the Israelite exodus so they could escape Egypt.  Hearing the rabble complain, some Israelites began to complain.  The substance of the complaints was:   1) if only we had meat to eat; 2) we remember the fish, cucumbers, melons, leaks, onions, and garlic we ate in Egypt at no cost; 3) we have lost our appetites; and 4) we never have anything to eat but manna.

When Moses heard people of every family wailing, he was troubled.  When God heard the complaints and wailing, he became exceedingly angry.  God was angry because he graciously provided the community –both Israelites and non-Israelites — with bread from heaven (manna).  Rather than thanking God, the peoples spurned the manna; thus they spurned God.  Moses was so amazed and troubled by the people’s complaints that he asked God, “why me?”  Essentially, Moses wanted to know what he did to warrant carrying the burden of these people.  Ironically or completely frustrated, Moses noted that he did not conceive or birth the Israelites.  He asked God, how was he to “nurse” them along to the Promised Land? Where was he going to get meat to feed them and stop their wailing?  Moses admitted to God that the people (all 2 million of them) were too heavy a burden for him.

God heard both the people’s complaints and Moses’ distress and responded to each; however, God chose to respond to one person’s (Moses’) genuine distress before responding to complaints from the two million member community.  God worked with Moses to appoint 70 Israelite elders to share the burden of leading the people.  Then, God rained down enough quails on the camp to last the Israelites for 30 days.  Avidly, the Israelites collected the quails and prepared them.  As they began to eat the meat, God’s anger burned against the people for spurning him.  He sent a severe plague and killed the people who craved food other than manna.

The Egyptian Onion Plant

The vegetables identified in Numbers 11:5 were the most extensive list of vegetables given anywhere in the Bible.  The listed vegetables were eaten in Egypt, not Canaan or Israel.  Vegetables available in Egypt and Israel were not always the same genus and species.  The Bible onion is the Allium cepa, also called Egyptian onion; it is the common garden onion found in the United States.  Onions were eaten in Egypt over 4000 years ago.  For the slaves and workers who built the pyramids, onions were everyday food.  Reportedly, nine tons of gold was paid for onions and garlic to feed these pyramid builders. Onions are one of the hardiest of all garden vegetables and are cultivated for their bulbs and leaves.  Most home gardeners replant onions started in greenhouses; but on a large scale, cultivated onions grow from the onion plant’s small black seed.  Onions are a biennial plant; often they die in the second year after flowering. Bulbs can be eaten fresh, e.g. in salads, and used for cooking, e.g., stews.  Cutting the bulb horizontal at the diameter reveals that onions grow in concentric layers; the larger the onion, the more layers

Symbolism: Universe

Ancient Egyptians regarded the spherical bulb of the onion as a symbol of the universe. Egyptians believed that the spheres of heaven, earth, and hell were concentric, like layers of the onion.  Western society believes the universe is both the world of human experience and the cosmos.  It includes phenomena both observed and postulated.  When something is universal, it exists or operates everywhere and under all conditions. The Book of Hebrews declares that the universe was formed through Christ at God’s command (Hebrews 1:2; 1:3).

God tried to help the Israelites comprehend that he was the God of the universe. He demonstrated power over the physical world by bring 10 plagues on Egypt so the Israelites could have their freedom.  God provided water from rocks and bread from heaven. He assured the Israelites that he would make them whole, e.g., physically and mentally (Exodus 15:26). Spiritually, God gave the Israelites his holy law to live by. He directed them to build a tabernacle where he would dwell among them.

Despite these demonstrations of God’s control over all things, many Israelites did not accept him as their God and the God of the universe.  Instead, the Israelites spurned what God offered them, wailing and complaining about his offering of food from heaven.  Every time I read, think, and write about the Israelite’s behavior, my first reaction is to shake my head.  I wonder how they could spur the God of the universe.  How could they complain so much?  Yet, complaining was not a behavior unique to Old Testament Israelites.  Writing from prison to the church at Philippi, Paul caution: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so you may become blameless andpure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in whichyou shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:14-15).

My default behavior used to be complaining in many situations. Then, I asked myself what kind of a representative am I for Christ when I complain so much?  Complaining and shining like a star for Christ are incompatible.  Christ created my situations so that I could mature in my Christian walk.  Complaining did not add value to my life; in fact complaining devalued me and most assuredly devalued God.  When I complained, I spurn the God of the universe in the same way that the Israelites spurned him.

Reflection.  Changing our default behavior from complaining to praising takes time and effort; but it pleases the God of the universe.

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 27, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Manna Resembled Coriander Seed

Coriander ground and seedsThe story of manna which was white like coriander seed is in Exodus chapter 16 and Numbers chapter 11.

When the Israelites were first feed with manna they were in the Desert of Sin, located on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula.  The Israelites left Egypt about one month earlier and were traveling 10 – 15 miles per day.   In the desert of Sin the “whole community” grumbled against Moses and Aaron because there was not enough food to eat. The grumbling included (Exodus 16:3): 1) If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt; 2) In Egypt we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted; and 3) You have brought us out into this desert to starve the entire assembly to death.

Clearly, the Israelites were romanticizing their time as slave laborers in Egypt. The primary foods for slaves were grain, beer, and vegetables such as onions, leeks, cucumbers, and melons.  The poor and slaves were permitted to eat fish caught from the Nile River. Rarely, if ever, did Egyptians give meat, e.g., beef or lamb, to slaves.  Meat was reserved for very wealthy Egyptians.

The Lord heard the grumbling and told Moses that he would provide bread from heaven (manna) for the Israelites so they could see God’s glory. Characteristics of manna along with specific instructions for gathering it are outlined in Sidebar 3. When God provided the manna to the Israelites, he planned to test them to determine if they followed his instructions for gathering the bread.  Moses told the Israelites that when they grumbled, they were grumbling against God not against him for it was God who brought them out of Egypt.

When the Israelites first saw the bread on the desert floor, the wondered what it was.  The word manna is derived from Hebrew words, mân hû’ meaning “what is it.” The bread or manna that God provided was white like coriander seed and looked like bdellium.  The bdellium plant was described in Chapter 1, Creation and Plants. The coriander plant and seed will be described as part of the discussion on manna.

Before moving to a description of the coriander plant, the question needs to be answered on whether or not manna was provided directly from heaven or was it derived from an earthly plant or substance.  Some scholars suggested that the Biblical manna was exuded from a tamarisk tree (Tamarix gallica or Tamarix mannifera) after it was pricked by an insect (Coccus manniparus). Others have identified the manna of Exodus 16 as an alga called Nostoc and the manna of Numbers 11 as lichen from the Lecanora genus. The challenge is that these options do not meet the criteria associated with God’s provision of manna to Israel. Manna fell 40 years wherever the Israelites traveled, e.g., on the Sinai Peninsula and for a short time on the Jordan plain in Canaan.  Manna never fell on the Sabbath, the day God set aside for Israel’s rest.  Nomads who lived on the Sinai or traders who crossed the Peninsula in the same 40 year period never reported seeing manna.  None of these arguments adequately override the Biblical account that manna was bread from heaven provided by God.

The Coriander Plant

 The botanical name of the plant that produces the coriander seed is the Coriandrum sativum; it is a member of the parsley family of plants and sometimes called Chinese parsley.   Its origins is most likely the Eastern Mediterranean or Asia Minor.  In ancient times coriander plants grew wild in Egypt and Israel. Coriander has been used to enhance the taste of food for more than 5000 years ago. Today, in the Middle East coriander seeds are used to flavor bread as apparently God used it to flavor the desert manna.  Plants are annuals and should be planted each year.  They prefer all day sun; but will grow in partial shade.  Coriander grows best in dry climates and suffers during humid, rainy weather.  The coriander is delicately branched and can reach a height of 2 – 3 feet with a 1 – 2 foot spread.  Over time stems fall to the ground and send up new shoots.  Today’s coriander plant produces brown seeds; however, in Numbers11:7 manna was described as white like bdellium.  Perhaps in ancient times, coriander seeds were white.  Coriander seeds grow in round, yellowish-brown pods. Seeds can be ground into a powder using a pepper mill, or home electric or hand grinder.  Ground coriander has a pleasant, aromatic smell.

Symbolism: Sufficiency

A number of authors have proposed the symbolism of manna. Suggestions included a) revealing Israel’s need for healing; b) foreshadowing the coming Messiah and Christ, the bread of heaven. and c) the institution of the Lord’s Supper and a type of Eucharistic bread. All of these suggestions are excellent; however, MacDonald’s (1995) proposal that manna symbolized sufficiency seemed particularly appropriate in the Israelite situation.  God supplied hungry Israelites with coriander-like manna.  This unique substance was sufficient – necessary, desirable, and enough – to take care of their hunger.  God wanted to demonstrate to the Israelites that he was capable of meeting their need for food and by extension all of their needs. Essentially, God was saying to them – my food is sufficient for you and I am sufficient for you.  At the same time, God tested the Israelites to see if they would follow his instructions for gathering the manna he provided.  Some Israelites followed God’s instructions while others did not. Those who disobeyed God suffered the consequences, e.g., food with maggots and no manna to eat on the Sabbath.

The manna symbolized Christ’s sufficiency to meet every need of his people. St. Paul would agree that Christ is able to meet all our needs. Paul had a thorn in his flesh that tormented him (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). Three times Paul asked Christ to take away the cause of his torment.  Christ answered Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9.  Christ gave Paul grace to deal with his torment, a better solution than removing its cause. Human weakness provides an opportunity for God to display his divine power.

Having never lived in servitude, most of us have difficulty understanding the behavior of the Israelites in the manna story. Possibly they felt a sense of entitlement because God brought them out of Egypt into the desert. Perhaps they were weary being a dependent people and did not want to rely on anyone even God. Maybe they grabbed the manna when it appeared each morning not trusting that it would be there the next day.  Whatever their thoughts, we can contrast them with Paul’s response in accepting God’s grace to deal with his torment. Paul accepted his situation and trusted that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

Reflection.  Have you ever thought about God’s sufficiency? Do you live as if you believe God is sufficient (ample, plenty) to meet your needs in any and all situations?

Sidebar 3 Characteristics of Manna

Characteristic Description and Reference
Where did it come from? When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down (Numbers 11:9). When dew was gone, manna was there (Exodus16:14).As sun grew hot, manna melted away (Exodus16:21).
   
What did Israelites say when flakes appeared on ground? When Israelites saw substance on ground, they said, “What is it?” (Exodus16:15).
   
Appearance of manna Thin flakes like frost on the desert floor (Exodus16:14).  It was white like coriander seed (Exodus16:31, Numbers11:7). Looked like resin (bdellium) (Numbers11:7).
 
How was it gathered? Gathered by hand in the morning (Exodus16:21).  Day 1 – 5, gather 1 omer*/person (Exodus16:16, 21). If retained overnight on Days 1 – 5, became full of maggots and began to smell (Exodus16:20). Day 6 gathered 2 omer/person; 1 omer for day 6 and 1 omer for day 7 (Exodus 16:22-23, 29).  Manna could be retained overnight on Day 6 (Exodus16:17). No manna provided on Sabbath (day 7) (Exodus16:25-26).
 
Preparation for cooking Ground in a hand mill; or crushed in a mortar with pestle (Numbers11:8).
Preparation for eating Cooked in a pot –possibly gruel (Numbers11:8).  Made into cakes – probably baked or even fried in olive oil.
Taste of manna Tasted like wafers made with honey (Exodus16:31). Tasted like something made with olive oil (Numbers11:8).
Aroma or odor No information provided.
How long was manna provided to Israelites? Manna stared: 16th day of 2nd month after Israelites came out of Egypt.  Israelites were camped in Desert of Sinai, Sinai Peninsula (Exodus16:1, 13). Manna ended: 16th day of the 14th month after leaving Egypt. Israelites were camped at Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, Canaan (Exodus16:35; Joshua 5:10-12). How long was manna provided:  40 years (Exodus16:35).

*An omer is equivalent to about two quarts, dry measure.

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 16, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Did the Mangrove Tree De-Salt Water?

Saltcrystals_on_avicennia_marina_var_resinifera_leavesThe incident of the Israelites’ complaints against Moses at Marah is in Exodus 15: 23-27.

The events that preceded “Moses and Mangrove Trees” included the Israelite exodus from Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. Now, the Israelites were safe from pursuit and ready to head for the Promised Land. Moses led the Israelites southeast from the Red Sea into the Desert of Shur on the Sinai Peninsula (Exodus Map, 2002, p. 107). For three days the Israelites traveled on foot through the desert until they reached Marah.  At Marah, the Israelites expected to find fresh water; instead the water was bitter. We are not told in what way the water was bitter; but, it could have had high concentrations of salt.  If the Israelites drank the water, they would have become dehydrated and died.

Probably, the Israelites were foot sore, hot from traveling through the desert, and feeling the effects of an adrenaline let down after their escape from Egypt.  Some were becoming aware of their situation: they had no homes and they were in the desert. There was no source of food and there no potable water to drink.  The Israelites grumbled against Moses saying, “What are we going to drink?” (Exodus 15:24). Likely, Moses was asking the same question, “What are we going to drink?”  The difference between the Israelites and Moses was that Moses cried to God with the problem.  God answered Moses by showing him a piece of wood and directed Moses to throw the piece of wood into the bitter water.  The result was that the bitter water became sweet and drinkable.  In this verse the Hebrew word for sweet is mâthaq, which is a primitive Hebrew root word meaning “to suck” or “to relish” (Strong, 2010). The water did not turn sweet to the taste as with a sweetener added, but sweet in the sense of drinkable, and the Israelites relished it.

At Marah God made a decree and law for the Israelites.  God was aware that the newly freed slaves were feeling lost.  Possibly they were even afraid of him.  He was a new God to many. After spending generations in Egypt, possibly many of the Israelites were more familiar with the Egyptian pantheon.  This new God was unbelievably powerful. He overcame the greatest nation in the region to set them free.   Now, at Moses’ cry, God turned bitter water into drinking water.  In these circumstances, it was normal for the Israelites to feel stunned, awed, and frightened.  So God acted to reassure them. God said that if a) they listen to him, b) do what is right in his eyes, c) pay attention to his commands, and d) keep his degrees, then he, God, would not bring on them any of the diseases he visited on the Egyptians. God concluded by telling the Israelites “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26, New International Version Study Bible, 2002).

The Mangrove Tree

Although there have been many books written on plants in the Bible, few authors suggested that the wood Moses threw into the water at Marah was from an actual tree. Of those authors, only Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz in Torah and Flora (1977) identified a possible source of the wood – a mangrove tree.  The Avicennia marina is a species of mangrove tree that grows on the Sinai Peninsula near the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea. It is called the gray or white mangrove because of the color of its bark.  The gray mangrove is both a pioneer and a relict species. Pioneer because it will be the first mangrove species that populates an area. Relict because it remains in an area after other mangrove species are extinct.  The gray mangrove  uses two mechanisms to extract salt from sea water.  First, leaves have special salt glands that are among the most active salt-secreting systems known.  Second, mangroves concentrate salt in the bark and in older leaves which carry salt with them when leaves drop. In normal circumstances, the process of trees extracting salt from water would take days; however, God was in the process as he was in the burning bush that was not consumed.  When God is present, natural processes can become supernatural.

Symbolism: Healing

 The mangrove wood healed the bitter water at Marah. This symbolism mirrored what God told the Israelites at Marah, “I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26) Healing means to make sound or whole; to mend an undesirable condition; and to restore to original integrity.  If Israelites needed to be healed, then they were in some way unsound or un-whole. Probably, the Israelite’s unwholesomeness was related to their perception of themselves as slaves. In Leviticus 26:13, God reminded the Israelites “I …brought you out of Egypt, so you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with you head high.” Only three days out of Egypt with generations of slavery behind them, most Israelites were not walking with heads held high. Very likely the Israelites still believed they were no more than property, their opinions were worthless, and they could not take care of themselves.  God was more than willing to heal them from these negative self images.  In fact, God wanted to make them a cohesive and great nation who would capture and occupy all of Canaan.

To be healed, individuals must first recognize how and when they are sick and then want to be restored to health.  In the four gospels we read many examples of Christ healing physical, psychological, and spiritual illnesses. Today, Christ wants to heal whatever is unsound or un-whole in us. We can respond positively to Christ or be like the Israelites who did not seem to understand that they were sick.  In Exodus 15:26, God told the Israelites explicitly what they should do to be healed; however, in the Sinai journey many failed to carry out the requirements for healing.  Likewise, Christ demonstrated in Matthew chapter 9 how we can be healed. First, we need to have Christ forgive our sins (verse 3). Then, we need to follow Christ (verse 9).  Finally, we need faith that Christ can heal us. In verse 22, Christ told the woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, “Take heart daughter, your faith has healed you.”

This morning my husband and I were taking our morning walk. Bruce asked me what I was studying.

My response was, “Healing; last night I read all of the verses in the Old Testament about healing.”

“What did you learn?” Bruce asked.

“All through the Bible, time after time, God wanted to heal the Israelites; but they would not respond to him” I replied.

“I guess they were not much different than we are today” Bruce replied.

Silently, I walked along thinking; finally I agreed, “I guess you’re right.”

 Reflection.  God wants to heal all of your undesirable conditions.  Are you willing to turn to Him and be healed?

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 5, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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Endive, Bitter Herb in 1st Passover

Cichorium endiva Ch 3 MosesRead the account of Moses and the Plague of the First Born described in Exodus chapters 11:1 – 12:36.

After his encounter with God at Mount Horab, Moses returned to Egypt. Following God’s direction, Moses met with Aaron and the Israelite elders. Then, Moses met with Pharaoh and asked Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go into the desert to worship God.  Pharaoh’s answer was an emphatic “no”; he was not going to allow the valuable Israelite slaves leave Egypt. As a result of Pharaoh’s pride, stubbornness, and manipulative behavior, God visited 10 plagues on Egypt.  Two plagues – the 7th and 10th plague — have direct relevance to plants. The seventh plague was a severe rain storm that involved thunder, lightning, and hail. The hail caused the barley and flax to be destroyed. The wheat and spelt were not destroyed because they ripened later. These plants – barley, flax, wheat, and spelt – will be described in later chapters of God as a Gardener.

The NIV Study Bible (2002) labeled the 10th, and final plague sent on Egypt as “The Plague of the Firstborn.”  The 10th plague was the death of the firstborn of every man and animal in Egypt with the exception of those of the Israelites. To keep the death angel from entering Israelite homes, God required the Israelites to slaughter a lamb or goat and place the animal’s blood on the sides and top of their door frames. That same night, the meat of the slaughtered animal was roasted.  Then, the meat, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread were eaten.

God told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs with their meal to remind them of the bitterness they experienced in Egypt. Originally a free people living in Egypt, the Israelites experienced bitterness when they were enslaved by the Egyptians. During these years of servitude they were worked brutally making bricks, planting and harvesting crops, and pumping water from the Nile River into fields for irrigation (Deuteronomy11:10). Common practice was for Egyptian taskmasters to whip Israelite slaves. The Israelites must have experienced terrible bitterness when their newborn sons were taken from them and thrown into the Nile River to die. They were powerless to stop these murders. The final way bitter herbs symbolized bitterness was related directly to the death of Egyptian first born sons. The death of Egyptians’ first-born sons was the price of Israelite freedom.  Pharaoh’s resolve to keep the Israelites was not shattered until his son was killed. Individual, family, and national freedom through death of children – even children not their own — would have been a source of bitterness for the Israelites.

In Egypt bitter herbs included endive, chicory, dandelion, and wild lettuce. The type of bitter herb used in the first Passover meal may have varied among families.  Exodus 10:15 recorded that “nothing green remained on tree or plant in all of Egypt” after the eighth plague, the plague of the locust. Possible some families stored one type of bitter herb, while other families had another bitter herb available to them.

The Endive Plant

 In this chapter, endive, Cichorium endivia, is used as an example of a bitter herb. In early Greek translations of the Bible, the word “endive” was used in place of “bitter herbs.”  Although the origin of endive is lost from history, the first wild species may have grown in Turkey and Syria.  Probably, endive  was native to India, China or Egypt.  Endive grows best in full sun to partial shade and needs regular watering. Very hot weather makes endive tough and bitter.  Endive tends to rot in cold, damp weather and does not tolerate frost.  In Egypt, endive grows in January. Usually endive can be recognized and differentiated from other lettuce and/or greens by its appearance. It grows in a rosette pattern which is a cluster of leaves in crowded circles or spirals. Endive leaves are about five to six inches long and bright green in color. Endive produces attractive light blue flowers which grow on stems that stand above the leafy foliage. Endive is used almost exclusively in raw salads. Its slightly bitter flavor is often more appreciated by Europeans than Americans. Adding a sweet or oily salad dressing can balance the bitter taste.

Symbolism: Bitterness

The symbolism of bitter herbs including endive is clear from the name – they refer to bitterness. Bitterness is something intensely distressing or disturbing to the mind (Merriam-Webster Incorporated , 2005). Bitterness is an expression of severe pain, grief, or regret.

Writing to the Ephesians (4:31), Paul told them to get rid of all bitterness.  Yet, God wanted the Israelites to eat bitter herbs at the annual Seder meal during Passover to remind the Israelites of their bitterness in Egypt.  How are we to reconcile putting off all bitterness with God’s direction to the Israelites to remember their bitterness annually?

I think there is a difference between remembering a bitter occasion as a precursor to celebration of a better life, versus remembering bitterness to the point that it leads to resentment of God, situations, and people. Certainly, God did not tell the Israelites to hate or resent the Egyptians. Rather, the Seder meal which included bitter herbs was a meal celebrated the Israelite exodus from Egypt.

Remembering bitterness (of pain, grief, and regret) disturbs our minds. Bitterness supplants the peace Christ designed to rule our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).  Our bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30-31).  Can we remember bitterness as an object lesson, but not allow it to control our lives? In his book Total Forgiveness, R.T. Kendell (2007) suggested that forgiveness was the answer to bitterness. He identified four parts to this forgiveness:

Step 1, we need to forgive whomever and whatever situation caused the bitterness in us. The Israelites needed to forgive the Egyptians for enslaving them.

Step 2, we need to forgive ourselves for contributing to the situation that caused bitterness. The Israelites needed to forgive themselves for remaining in Egypt for 400 years, well after the famine in Canaan was over.

Step 3, we need to forgive God.  Saying we must forgive God seems odd and almost improper. Does the created forgive the creator?  In this situation forgiveness means we need to acknowledge our bitterness toward God for letting us get in a devastatingly painful situation.  I think that some Israelites blamed their bitterness on God. After God led them out of Egypt, probably some cried “Where were you when my son was murdered? If you would have freed us sooner, my son would be alive.”  The reality is that we do blame God for some, or even much, of our bitterness. If we want to get rid of bitterness toward God, we need to tell God our feelings, tell God we forgive him, and really mean it.

Step 4, we need to ask God’s forgiveness. Without bitterness in our hearts, we can confess our sinful feelings of bitterness toward God and ask his forgiveness.

From time to time, we may still remember the bitter situation; however, the pain of it will be gone or go away over time. For years I had bitterness in my heart over a situation. I tried a number of ways to get rid of it, to no avail. Then, I read Total Forgiveness and implemented the four steps of confession and forgiveness that Kendall recommended. Now, I am free of the bitterness of this situation. Thank you, God.

Reflection: The past cannot be changed, but the future is whatever you want it to be. Is there bitterness in your life that needs attention?

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 26, 2011; carolyn a. roth

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