They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Tamarisk Tree

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
Genesis 21:33-34.

Another tree that you do not hear much about is the tamarisk tree. It is mentioned in the Bible only a few times; 1 Samuel 22:6, 31:13, and in Genesis, in the story of God promising the Promised Land to Abraham. Abraham said, “I believe you God”, and planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba. Why did he plant a tamarisk and not some other tree? Let’s look at the significance.

Tamarisk tree

Tamarisk tree

The tamarisk tree is what we would call a salt cedar in America. It is of the same family and has the same leaf and color of bark. The tree itself can get much bigger in the Middle East, while ours are more bushy looking. We saw several that were real big trees. It is an extremely slow-growing tree and has to be cared for in order to do well. Very few grow in wilderness settings; they are usually around communities where families plant them on their property.

To a Bedouin or a Jew, you don’t plant a tamarisk for yourself, you plant it for the generations to come. From the Abraham story, they took the idea that I am planting this tree to say, “for generations to come, my family is going to be here”. “This shade is for the generations to come, I’ll never get to use it.”

How much of what we do in life is done for just ourselves? Our comfort, our profit, our satisfaction? Do we do anything to bless or to plant a seed for the generations that are to come? Is there anything that you are currently involved in that will outlive you? A thought, do something this week that will benefit people long after you are gone. The desert speaks…

Battle with the Enemy

Israelite encampment

Israelite encampment

The saying, “we have met the enemy and it is us!” is certainly an appropriate saying and one I was reminded of as I studied Beth Moore’s tabernacle series recently. We were studying the Israelites as they camped around the tabernacle. The Hebrew word for camp is “machaneh” which means army, band, company, or station, and was a military term. Out in the wilderness, God had assembled an army and was leading them as their commander, but there was no enemy on the outside in sight. Instead, the Israelites faced the most vicious enemy of all – themselves! They were in a constant battle against their flesh .Their wants and desires from living in Egypt had corrupted them immensely. It took 40 years in the wilderness to get Egypt, out of them. This led me to the following faith lesson about”ourselves” as our enemy:

As we go through the trials of life, we are tempted to label most of our problems as spiritual warfare. We feel that Satan is constantly out to get us and is placing roadblocks and rocks in our path. “I’m under attack” is our cry, and every difficulty is labeled spiritual warfare. To be sure, we do fight Satan and his demons, but we often war against an equally sinister foe, our flesh! Noted Christian author , Henry Blackaby ,has said, “Before we can be sure it’s spiritual warfare, we must be able to answer the following three questions and be sure the answer is no to each of them. If it’s no, then Satan is after us, if yes, we are fighting are fleshly desires. Look at these questions:

  1. Am I living outside of the will of God? Or the reverse of this is – am I where I am supposed to be in the matter – am I doing what God wants in this situation? Am I right?
  2. Do I have any unconfessed sin? Am I contributing to the problems? Or is it something completely out of my control?
  3. Is God simply working His completion in me? Is this just the path that God is asking me to walk?

Far too often our difficulties originate from one of these three realms instead of a Satanic attack.

Beth Moore said that people often ask her, because of her prominent role as a spokeswoman for God, if she is under continuous attack from Satan. She responds to them,” my own flesh is twice the enemy to me that Satan is”! She goes on to say, we know how to rebuke Satan because we hate him so, but on the other hand, we won’t rebuke our own flesh, because we love it so much. We have far more difficulty rebuking our own flesh and squelching our own desires.

Take a difficulty you are dealing with and test it according to these three questions. Are you under attack from Satan or are you under attack from your own fleshly desires?

Wasn’t this what Paul was talking about in Romans 7:14 – 25 – when he says” what I want to do, I don’t do, and what I don’t want to do, I do. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me, fighting against me.” Like the Israelites, our greatest battles are within ourselves, warring with our minds, our thoughts, and are fleshly desires.

Clearly, the mind is the largest battlefield in our struggles with the flesh.

How do we keep from losing the battle and being subject to defeat?

First and foremost, we must camp and stay close to our commander. The promise found in Deuteronomy 23:14 is awesome and something I hadn’t seen before. If we choose to camp and walk closely with Him, He will protect us and deliver our enemies to us. But our camp, our lives, minds, families (fill in the blank) must be holy and he must not see anything indecent among us or he will turn away. It is a necessary challenge of this life that we must take – to have a holy, godly separated life. We can’t delve into sin and expect God to protect us.

Secondly, we have a promise from II Corinthians 10:3 – 5. Though we live in the flesh, the weapons we fight the flesh with are not carnal, not the weapons that worldly people have to use, no self-help for us! Our weapons are spiritual, and can pull down strongholds, if we will take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

Hezekiah said, when faced with extermination by Sennacherib, “Don’t be afraid of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for with him is only the arm of flesh. With us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us.”

God will protect and deliver us if we get our camp cleaned up and holy. We can avoid a lot of our problems just by surrendering our minds to Christ and walking closely with him and by living a separated ,holy life. My thoughts to myself for the day – a lot to work on.

The Acacia Tree

Sinai Acacia

Sinai Acacia

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article on the broom tree and talked about how it fit into several Bible stories.  Being in the tree business, I naturally wanted to carry this theme as far as I could.

Another tree that has some wonderful Biblical metaphors attached to it is the Acacia. This is the tree described in Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17. The Acacia is a pretty prominent landmark in the desert. They are by far the biggest tree or plant that grows in the desert. Slow-growing and long-lived, it is said that God planted them knowing that we would need shade.

The Acacia is the Bedouin’s best friend because it does so much for him. Besides providing the best shade in the desert, it also is the best and really only firewood.

Bedouin & Acacia

Bedouin & Acacia

The camels love to eat its leaves, and also eat its pods that grow seasonally. The Bedouins boil the pods for the camels to eat. Also, they boil the sap and it is used for both camels and people as a medicine for stomach trouble and cuts and scrapes. The Acacia is also used by the Bedouin to locate a water source, because where there is a good Acacia growing there must be some underground source of water. This is also the tree that the Ark of the Covenant was made of. As you can imagine, the metaphors are huge.

This Psalm 1 tree is a picture of someone deeply rooted in something that provides all sorts of things for people; food, shelter, shade, water, medicine. How do we become that tree? Psalm 1 has the answer, we must be in the word and meditate (“Hagah”, remember? wrestle, growl,chew) on it day and night. You can’t skip the hard work that called you to be an Acacia, and it takes some time to grow. The words are literally to always be in our mouth — we are chewing on them. When you are a good Acacia tree you are literally your community’s best friend, you do all kinds of things that bless others. You dig in and do the hard work, and then when the time comes you help out.

An interesting phenomenon with an Acacia is that almost never do you see any water around the tree, yet you know it is getting water, because of its leaves and fruit. You know there is water there because of the tree. If God is living water and we are the tree, they will know we are getting living water by the fruit we produce. It’s how much water that we get that determines how well we do in the desert.

Obviously, we need more Acacia trees. Are you willing to do the work to become one?

Creation Story in the Tabernacle

Adam & Even Driven from Eden --Gustave DoreAs you read and study about the Tabernacle, you definitely notice some parallels between it and the creation story.  What was God doing, or trying to say to His created?

First of all, in both stories God was creating a space where He could come and live with His creation.  In both stories God came and met with them and walked with them in His created space. His desire from the beginning was to come and live with His chosen people.

As God created the universe He divided into three sections; the visible Earth, the visible heavens, and the invisible heavens.  He also divided the Tabernacle into three parts; the outer court, where ordinary people would be, the priest court, and the Holy of Holies, where God would be.  You can definitely see the similarity in creation in that God would live in the invisible heavens, man would dwell on earth. The  priests were a symbol of how man could get to the invisible places where God lives.

When God created the universe, it took Him six days.  On the seventh day He rested. Now compare that to the  seven times in Exodus where it says.  “The Lord said to Moses” (Exodus 25:1, 30:11, 30:17, 30:22, 30:34, 31:1, and 31:12).  This equates with the seven times that God said “let there be” in Genesis.

The seventh time God said.  “Let there be”, the Scripture said.  “He rested”.  The seventh time” God said to Moses”, it was, don’t do any work on the Sabbath.  Rest.  (Exodus 31:12 and 13).

The main job for the inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, was to work the land and take care of God’s home (see Genesis 2:15).

The main job for the priest was to take care of all the furnishings and do the work in God’s new home.  (Numbers 3:7-8).

The entrance to the Garden of Eden was on the east.  The entrance to the Tabernacle was also in the East.  See Genesis 3:24 and (Exodus 26 process of deduction).

The entrance to the Garden of Eden was guarded by cherubim (Genesis 3:24).  The entrance to the Tabernacle and the holy of holies were guarded by cherubim woven into the fabric.  (Exodus 26:31-33).

God placed a tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9).  When God had the Israelites craftsmen build the lamp stand or menorah, He had them build it to resemble and represent the tree of life, with buds, blossoms, branches, and fruit.  (Exodus 25:31- 39).

In Ezekiel 28:13, it lists the precious stones that were present in the Garden of Eden.  These are the same stones that are worn by the priest in the Tabernacle (Exodus 28:17- 20), painting another picture and parallels of the 2 places.

The complete Tabernacle was erected on the New Year’s day (Exodus 40:17), which signified a new era, a new beginning for God’s people.  This mimics the creation story, which was, of course, the new beginning for mankind.  God was saying in Genesis and  Exodus ,”this is a new creation”.  The Tabernacle is, in some many ways, the renewed version of the Garden of Eden.  God was, again, trying to live with his people.

Compare the Scriptures: Genesis 2:1 with Exodus 39:32.  Both use similar language and say “all the work was completed”.  Compare Genesis 1:31 with Exodus 39:43– both God and Moses saw what was done and said “it is good.”  Compare Genesis 2:2 with Exodus 40:33.  The Bible says in both verses, Moses and God “finished the work.”  So much of the creation language is used again in the building of the Tabernacle.

To summarize, when God had the Israelites construct the Tabernacle, He was re-creating something that was already in place in heaven.  He was just making a smaller version of the furnishings in heaven.  And the Tabernacle was also a re-creation of the events at the creation.  God was starting over, in another attempt to dwell among his creation. God continued  this theme with his final act to dwell among his creation when he sent his son Jesus to earth to dwell among men (John 1:14).  Now He lives among us, in our hearts, instead of in a tent made by human hands. Amazing grace!