Tag Archives: Rooted in God

Caught in a Thicket

Photograph is Chaste tree flower in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Bible Reference: Genesis 22:1-19.

Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah – the son through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. When Isaac was about 16 years old, God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the region of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

Abraham didn’t hesitate or question God’s command. Early the next morning, Abraham, Isaac, and two servants started walking toward Mount Moriah. As Abraham and Isaac walked together, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham responded that God would provide the lamb.

When they reached Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, arranged wood on it, and bound Isaac on top of the wood. Abraham picked up his knife, prepared to slay Isaac. At the last minute, the angel of the Lord told Abraham to not kill Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for fearing God enough to sacrifice his son.

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by the horns in a nearby thicket. The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him on the altar. Just as Isaac didn’t struggle against his bindings, the Bible doesn’t indicate that the ram struggled to loosen its horns from the thicket. The ram was simply there, waiting for Abraham to see it. Abraham killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering.

What is a Thicket?

Although Abraham, Isaac, and the ram played major roles in this Bible episode, so did the thicket. A thicket is a group of wild shrubs and occasional small trees which grow together to form impenetrable branches and roots. In thickets, trees rarely grow more than 10-20 feet tall. Often shrubs have thorns and vines entangle with them. Trees and shrubs that could have composed the Mount Moriah thicket were the chaste tree, prickly juniper, and myrtle.Chaste Tree Flower

Abraham’s planned sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in approximately 2050 B.C. At that time, much of the Judean Mountains including Mount Moriah was tree covered; however, approximately 30-40 years earlier, a natural or manmade disaster (earthquake, flood, or fire) occurred. Thickets grow only in response to disturbances where large trees are destroyed.

In present day Israel, many wild trees and shrubs have been replaced by plants, e.g., flowers and domesticated trees; however, some thickets still grow where cultivated land was abandoned. An example is the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park northwest of Jerusalem. When we hiked a park trail, we didn’t see a ram; however, cattle foraged the area. It was easy to image one reaching into the thicket for succulent leaves and getting its horns tangled in branches.

For wilderness hikers, a thicket can be a difficult landscape to traverse. Often when experienced hikers encounter a thicket, they don’t enter it; they go around the thicket. Trying to go through a tangled, thorn-infested thicket can result in loss of direction and damage to skin and clothes.

My friend from Texas calls the chaste tree a “Texas lilac” Its if from the Genus,  Vitus. They are perennials and grow all over the Roanoke Valley (plant zones 6 and 7).

Symbolism

The Hebrew word for thicket comes from the word çâbak, which means to entwine in the sense of interwoven branches. In English, entanglement means to wrap or twist together and to ensnare. Often entanglements cause confusion. Imagine the confusing thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three day walk to Mount Moriah; e. g., “Surely God doesn’t mean for you to sacrifice Isaac? A God that really loved and cared about you would never require you to kill your beloved son.”

In contrast to the ram entangled in the thicket, Abraham didn’t become entangled in Satan’s lies or become confused by his limited understanding of God and the situation. Abraham obeyed God, believing that God would keep his promise and Isaac would be the father of all nations.

Reflection: Think about a time when you were wrapped up, twisted, or entangled in a problem. Did God fit in anywhere? Knowing what you know now, how could you have involved God more?

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

Copyright July 21, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

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Radiant daffodils

I have never read about daffodils in the Bible. Bible writers missed their chance to refer to or identify a beautiful flower. In March, we had about a week of unseasonably warm weather and the daffodils started to bloom across the Roanoke Valley. Daffodils say to all of us:  “see me, it’s spring!” as they give off their radiant yellow color.

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psalm 19:8 (NIV)

God’s laws were never meant to be burdensome. They were given to us to create life and light. So when we are weary from reading Scripture the problem is not the Bible—it is with our hearts (ouch!!!). Yet this is good news, for the Bible not only exposes our hearts, it can also encourage and even transform our heart. The Scripture will reveal and equip us to work on the attitudes that we all struggle with (adapted from David Whitehead).

Note: the Bible mentions the narcissus; that is a close enough flower to the daffodil.

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Rejected by God

Photograph of a growing barley

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)

God rejected Cain’s offering of grain, yet He accepted his brother Abel’s offering of a lamb. It is easy to see why Cain became angry, but that was because God’s preferences contrasted Cain’s inclinations. Yet God loved Cain so much that he tried to reason with Cain. What happens to us when our will is crossed by God’s will in Scripture? Do we get angry as well? Our reactions are more of an indicator of our heart than any inconsistencies on God’s part (David Whitehead).

Millet berries and flower

Disobedience Consequences

 

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”– Genesis 3:19 (NIV)

Ruling and subduing the earth was given to us before the fall of Adam and Eve, but our rebellion against God turned that work into a drudgery. Now what was created to be satisfying takes a toll upon our body and our mind. Yet even in the curse of toil God gives Adam the perspective that there is more to this life than what we do. In other words, our dignity does not come from our work but from the breath of God that separates us from dust. Our value is far greater than our efforts, and the dust reminds us of a day when our labor will cease and we shall experience peace in a way that we only knew in the Garden of Eden (David Whitehead)

 

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Rooted in God

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Captured by Seaweed

macrocystis-pyrifera-1

Reference: Jonah 2:5

The story of Jonah is about disobedience and redemption. Most children know that Jonah disobeyed God when God told him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to the city. Jonah didn’t want to go there, so he got on a ship bound for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Jonah believed that if he left the land of the Israelites, he could escape God.

A huge storm occurred in the Mediterranean Sea. Even the experienced sailors were frightened. They decided to cast lots to see who had disobeyed their god and brought the storm on them. The lot fell to Jonah. He admitted that he was disobeying God and recommended that the sailors throw him overboard. Reluctantly, the ship’s sailors threw Jonah overboard. Once Jonah was off the ship, the storm abated, and the ship proceeded on its way.

A large fish swallowed Jonah. Jonah’s prayed and called out to God while he was in the belly of the giant fish. Later Jonah wrote about the experience (Jonah chapter 2) so we read what happened to him and what he thought. Jonah described how the sea waters closed over him and sea weeds wrapped around his head.  Jonah noted that he was at the roots of the mountains in the ocean suggesting that he fell to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.  Jonah remained in the belly of the fish three days. Then, the fish vomited up Jonah onto dry land. (Ugh, I bet he was slimy). The land was on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, not all that far from Nineveh. When Jonah went to Nineveh and preached repentance, the Ninevehites repented.

Sea Weed

The Bible referenced seaweed only once (Jonah 2:5, NIV). Although the New International Version translated the plant that wrapped around Jonah’s head as seaweed, other sources translated it as “weed” (ESV) or as “eelgrass” (Douglas & Tenney, 2011). I have a problem with the translation of eelgrass because eelgrass is generally confined to tidal water and grows out to a water depth of 35 feet.  A close reading of Jonah chapter 1 suggested that the ship Jonah was on was away from land and out into the Mediterranean Sea when the storm hit.

My research indicates that the seaweed referred to by Jonah may have been the Macrocystis pyrifera also known as brown seaweed. It is a marine alga and known as the Sequoia of the sea because it can grow 45 meters (about 147 foot) in length.  It grows in the Mediterranean Sea. The stalks are thin and readily float through the waters. It could have easily wrapped around Jonah’s neck. Currently, it is eaten as a good source of minerals.

brown-kelp

Symbolism:  Captured

Perhaps the type of plant is not as important as what it symbolized. The sea weed captured Jonah. Capture means catching, winning, or gaining control by force. Capture is exactly what the seaweed did to Jonah. He was captured so that the giant fish could swallow him.

I have been captured, or caught, by Christ and I am so glad. Now, I have to stop struggling and let God control my life.  The problem, or perhaps not so much a problem, is that God won’t control me by force. Bummer, I wish God would just “make” me do the right things. But, He doesn’t operate that way. I have to willingly give my life to Him.  That is really difficult for me to do because I have been used to controlling my own life and future.  You know:  “I am a self- made woman.” “I can do it myself.”

Reflection: What about you? Are you willing to let God capture you? Will you willing and totally yield to God?

Copyright: January 5, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website for other information: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Jerusalem artichokes

39484220 - jerusalem artichoke, helianthus tuberosus, sunroot, sunchoke, perennial herb with elongated tobers, green alternate leaves and yellow terminal heads, tubers used as root vegetable

39484220 – jerusalem artichoke, helianthus tuberosus,

Adapted from Mortal Tree

Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), we call them Sunchokes,  are not so much a stable ground cover as masterful bed builders. They don’t just block, but obliterate grass lawn, taking the place of bed building mulch  if handled correctly.

Its home is the American prairie, where it stretches for sun among massive grasses and other very competitive plants. Placing it in the standard lawn, full of short European grass species, or even an overgrown field is like releasing a saber tooth tiger into a playpen with modern house cats. It’s a brute.

It begins by pumping nutrients from deep in the soil to power billowing clouds of leaves rambling up sometimes 15ft tall stems. Every year it sends out runners. To unleash the beast, get a bucket of the tubers in fall, and with a shovel, make little slits in the ground about one foot apart, inserting the tubers deep enough they aren’t exposed, and walk away. The days of the nearby plant residents are now numbered.

28174029 - topinambour helianthus tuberosus plants

Jerusalem Artichoke sprouts

Don’t worry next spring when the tubers don’t sprout early. Jerusalem artichokes don’t like frost, and wait until late in the spring to pop up their furry little heads. I have planted these into completely unamended yards where lawn grass wasn’t even happy, but the ‘chokes still grew well. Later, in a very dry year, Jerusalem artichokes were the lushest plant in my food forest to feed my rabbit. She liked them, so I would snap off the growing tips, let the plants branch off to the side, and snap of the side branches to make rabbit happy. I started this when the plants were about 5ft tall, leaving about 4ft stems that in turn could return their nutrients to the tubers. Nevertheless the plants that normally topped ten foot came up the next year anemic, and dwarfed, barely reaching three feet.

35172408 - jerusalem artichoke flower in garden

Symbolism

As I read my friends description of Jerusalem artichokes, my reaction is that they were hearty – lived over the winter, produced when it was hot and dry.  I stay alive in cold, blustery times by hunkering down; it is like I go into hibernation. But in my hibernation, I don’t read my Bible, meditate, or pray. Usually, I watch television or read novels – not really the way to get through a rough patch is it? To paraphrase St. Paul, I do things that I don’t want to do and neglect those I should be doing. Oh wretched me, who will save me from myself?  The answer is Christ, Christ will save us from our self.

Reflection: When life is cold, tough, overwhelming and miserable, spend only 5 minutes a day not just emoting to God, but praying for His intervention in your life.

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Beauty in Aloneness

flowing-creek-jim-forney

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, – Matthew 14:23 (NIV)

Jesus was always connecting to his heavenly Father in prayer. The gospel accounts record that he would often be found in a lonely place praying. The pattern is pretty clear—Jesus found renewal in prayer. As Christians, why would we think any differently? We are quick to do bible studies—even studies on prayer—but do we pray? To walk in the ways of Jesus is to seek God in prayer (David Whitehead).

Reflection: If Christ needed time alone with his father, surely we do also.

Another photograph by Jim Forney.

January 5, 2016

Not So Christmas tree

Cedar of Lebanon from Noet Kedumin, Israel, 2012

This particular specimen of cedar tree is in the Biblical Landscape Preserve in Israel.

When I think of Christmas, I imagine a cedar tree. In the Bible, the cedar had nothing to do with Christmas. Rather, its wood was used by King in the Temple (1 Kings Chapter 5-7 and 2 Chronicles chapter 2-4).

In the fourth year (960 B.C.) of Solomon’s reign as king over a combined Israel and Judah, he started to build a Temple to God.  Several types of wood were used in the temple construction, e.g., cedar, pine, algum, and olive.  The temple was decorated with plant motifs, e.g., pomegranates, lilies, palm trees, and gourds.   The outside of the Temple was made of stone; however, the interior walls were made of cedar board covered with gold.

Solomon contracted with King Hiram of Tyre to supply the cedar and pine logs from the forests of Lebanon.  In exchange for the wood, Solomon provided Hiram’s court and servants with food during while the timber was cut and transported.  The timber was transported by rafts from Lebanon at Joppa, the port for Jerusalem.   Solomon conveyed the wood from Joppa to Jerusalem.

The Cedar Tree

The scientific name for the Lebanon cedar is the Cedrus libani.  It is a protected species in Lebanon. The most venerable representatives are 1,200–2,000 years old and grow in the Besharre region of northern Lebanon.  Cedars are an evergreen tree with trunk and older branches silvery and cracked.  Leaves present as silvery-blue needles arranged in clumps on short spur-like projects from branches. The flower is a cone. Seeds germinate best in the cool temperatures of high hills and mountains.  It takes centuries to produce a majestic cedar.

Cedar wood was and is used in edifices constructed to last centuries, even millennia. Cedar is durable, free from knots, and easy to work.  The heart wood is a warm red and beautifully grained.  Cedars exude a gum or balsam which gives the tree an aromatic scent in which people take delight.   In contrast, most insects dislike the smell and taste; consequently, they do not attack the tree.   The cedar is resistant to fungal disease so dry and wet rot rarely occur.

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This little deodor cedar is growing in SJLC Bible garden.

Symbolism: Firm, Firmness

The Hebrew word for a cedar tree is ʾerez a word derived from the primitive root ʾâraz, meaning to be firm as in the case of a cedar tree (Strong, 2010).  The cedar tree was firm because of its tenacious root structure, its long life in nature, its resistance to insect infestation, and its endurance as a building material.   The adjective firm, means securely or solidly fixed in place; having a structure that resists pressure; and well-founded.   The opposite of firm is weak or uncertain.

Old Testament Perspective on Firm

Fifty verses in the Bible address firm or firmness, 29 in the Old Testament and 21 in the New Testament.   In the Old Testament two themes emerged in relation to firm.  The first theme was that God is firm in his purpose (Job 36:5), plans (Psalm 33:11), love (Psalm 89:2), and statutes (Psalm 93:5).  The second theme was that if God’s people stood firm, God would deliver them from their enemies, e.g., Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13), Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:17), and from wicked men (Proverbs 12:7).  At the same time, God warned Old Testament Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).   If Israel succumbed to the life style and pressure of surrounding nations and their faith became weak, then they would not stand as individuals or as a nation.

Christ’s Perspective on Firmness

In four places in the New Testament, Christ said that if followers stood firm to the end, they would be “saved” or have “life eternal” (Matthew 10:22, 24:12-13; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:19).   But, in the same verses Christ warned his followers that wicked/worldly men would hate them because these wicked men hated Christ.  Christ described ways hate would become visible, e.g., brothers would betray brother and fathers their children, and children would rebel against parents.

My Pastor’s Perspective on Firmness

Several Sundays ago, our Godly minister distributed a handout that said we live in a “post-Christian” society.   A post Christian society is one in which the majority of individuals are not Christians.  They do not follow the moral-ethical statutes and laws of God.  We see evidence of this post-Christian modernism in efforts to remove the 10 Commandments from public buildings, eliminate prayer and after school Bible study from public schools, turn college religion courses into philosophy courses, and forbid Christian prayer before public meetings.

My Perspective

Until recently, when I read Christ’s descriptions of brother betraying brother or parents betraying their children, I always thought of Nazi Germany, Communist countries during the cold war, or Christians in China.  More and more, I acknowledge that hate and betrayal of Christians occurs daily in the United States.  The result may not be that the life of a family member or dear friend is forfeited; but mental or spiritual death and physical illness can occur through betrayal and neglect after family members or friends embrace Jesus Christ.

I am very uncomfortable with the disconnection between our government and God’s gracious loving principles for our lives.  Removing God from in our nation’s public life and symbols, means the United States no long affirms God and Christ.   That leads us back to Isaiah’s warning to the nation of Israel, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand firm at all”  (Isaiah, 7:9).

Prayer.  Help us to believe and act like we live in a Christian nation.  Help us to stop being afraid to speak and write about Christ. Amen.

Copyright 12/15/16; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website to learn about other Bible plants: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

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Grass or Flower???

dactylis-glomerata-05-kropaar2-i5

Bible Reference: 1 Peter 1:23-26

In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, he included the parable of lilies adorning grass. In contrast to Jesus’s emphasis on flowers, Peter’s parable mentioned flowers, but focused on field grass. Peter encourages Christians to live a holy life because their physical life on earth is short and then comes a great reward. Belief and hope in Jesus means eternal spiritual life with him. Peter reminded Christians that they were born again through belief in the enduring Word of God. The enduring Word of God is Jesus (John 1:1-5). In his letter, Peter quoted almost verbatim from a parable given initially by the prophet Isaiah. Here is what Peter wrote:

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.    — 1 Peter 1:24 NIV

Most scholars agree that Silas acted as Peter’s secretary and carried this letter to Christians in what is now inland Turkey. In his first letter, Peter draws comparisons between the transience of field grass and the brevity of mankind’s life. The transiency of life is a common theme in the Bible. Both King David and Isaiah compared man to grass which soon withers and dies away (Psalm 37:2; Psalm 103:15; Isaiah 40:6). This year, the Roanoke Valley received an overabundance of rain; it is December and grass is still green. Yet, I remember when I lived in San Francisco. Sometimes, I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and traveled up Highway 80 into the Sacramento Valley. June through August, and even into September and October, the grass along the highway was brown and appeared dead.

Orchard Grass

In Israel there were scores of grasses in the local flora. One of the most valuable native grass species was known as orchard grass. Orchard grass grew wild on hill sides and in shallow areas, in both sun and shade. Most likely orchard grass covered the large slopes where crowds set to listen to Jesus’s sermons and smaller areas where Jesus took Peter and other disciples for private talks. In Israel rains came October through March. In those months, grass was green and carpeted the hills. As spring progressed into summer, grass turned brown from the scorching heat of the sun and lack of rain. Grass and wild flowers dried and turned into brown straw.

Orchard grass is a perennial plant. That means that even through it dies in the summer, grass regrows the following year. Orchard grass produces a flower head called a panicle. Seeds are produced in the flower heads. Initially, seeds are green but turn brown as they mature; then, seeds drop to the ground. Although some seeds are carried away by the wind and others eaten by birds, most remain where they drop. Seeds enter the soil, germinate when it rains, and regrow the following year.

Application

Peter told the Christians that they were born again with imperishable seed—the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). In the Bible, the Word of God is the living Christ. St. John wrote that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). Christians are born again by believing that Jesus is God’s son and savior of the world. In his physical body, Jesus died on the cross. Most living men and women will die unless Jesus returns to earth first. After physical death, Jesus rose from the dead. Individuals who believe in Jesus and who die physically will rise again. Why—because they are born again with the imperishable seed of belief in the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

King David, Isaiah, Peter, and Jesus made the point that life is transient by comparing man’s life with field grass. They were all correct that grass withers and dies and that physical life is transient; it withers and dies. At the same time, most field grass is a perennial. It withers and dies with the heat of the sun and lack of rain. Most field grass has a deep root structure and it produces seeds which germinate and grow.

Individuals who don’t believe that Jesus is the son of God die like field grass at the end of a season. In contrast, we, who are born by the Word of God, have physical lives that wither and die; but, we are perennials. Our root structure is firmly embedded in Jesus. We produce seeds of righteousness. We are going to live with Jesus even after our physical bodies wither and die. As Peter wrote, we are born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:23).

Reflection: How do we get to be born again so that we never perish?  If you aren’t sure, read, ponder and explain: Romans 3:22-23, John 3:16, and 1 John 5:11-12. Do you need or want to take any action, or are you where you want to be?

To learn more about Bible plants and their application, go to my website: www. CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright September 27, 2016. Carolyn A. Roth

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