dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Category: Bible

Thoughts on Balance

I was just thinking on and off that if the sunlight represents God the Father, the air/wind represents God the Holy Spirit, and rain/water represents God the Son (Jesus Christ), and too much or too little of each can kill any/every plant (the balance varies for each species but still, a balance is needed), does that indicate that too much or too little emphasis of each member of the Trinitarian Godhead is a recipe for spiritual disaster?

NoID Plant—Finding Home

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This pretty little plant is a NoID—it’s the first tillandsia I ever bought, and the seller didn’t seem to have any idea what it was. He just kept telling me, “Miss, it’s an air plant.” Being new to air plants at the time, I didn’t think to pursue it further, and only after I’d gone home and done a search online did I realise that I had no idea what my new pet really was.

Since then I’ve seen this tiny bit of green grow new layers of leaves and enlarge its circumference rather significantly. I’ve asked some tillandsia experts what they think he is and they’re not sure—he’s still very small and they can’t really tell until adult size and shape is achieved and he flowers. Till then, we think he’s either some sort of ionantha or capitata, or a variant or hybrid of either.

The little guy hasn’t always looked like this. Six months ago when I first brought this plant home in its mini clay pot, and from there to the office, it looked like this:

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For the first few weeks I really thought I would end up killing him by accident. He was so tiny, and seemed so fragile, and from my research I realised that he was only a pup (of whatever species), and possibly a little on the small side to have been separated from the mother plant and sold. But over the months he flourished, and has been growing roots profusely (I’ve trimmed them off twice now)… and as my confidence in handling and caring for him grew, so did my confidence in keeping tillandsias in general. In short, it’s because this plant has been a success that I now own 50 plants.

What has he taught me so far? To never despise the little things, and small beginnings, and to speak life over the living things in my charge. Realising that we are “the planting of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:3) also made me think about how, from the plant perspective, we are dependent on our Gardener. And because His care is faultless, all we need to do is enjoy the sunlight (love), water (His Word) and wind (the presence and touch of the Spirit) He provides in order to flourish, set down roots, and grow. And ultimately, flower and produce fruit (seeds and/or pups in the case of tillandsias).

It’s a beautiful reminder of our relationship with the Lord every time I look at my little beauties.

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The Fall of Man and The Curse—Part 1

Okay, I’m supposed to be writing one post every week but clearly I have problems with both discipline and clarity of thought when it comes to writing, these days. It’s been way too long since I took time out specifically to research and write, so I supposed it will take a while for me to get into a good rhythm.

A question that has been flitting in and out of my mind for the past few weeks has been the actual consequence of Adam’s (and Eve’s) first sin—what, really, were the contents of that terrible first curse?

Death, some say. God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of every tree in Eden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, adding that in the day they ate of it they would surely die. And they died a spiritual death as a result of their disobedience, resulting in the need for Jesus’ eventual redemptive sacrifice. And as a result of their sin, too, women are cursed to be in subordination to men, and to suffer in childbearing, and men are cursed with hard labour when before, work was not work as we know it but a joyful and relaxing activity… and all the earth was also cursed, and all life has been degenerating through the ages to this day, groaning for the Day of the Lord.

Sound familiar?

But… really? I don’t want to appear heretical and I’m not saying this just to be controversial, but when I sit down and read the passages slowly and carefully, in not just one but a few translations of the text, that doesn’t quite seem the case. My favourite study version is the Amplified Version, but here I’m referencing the old King James Version and the New American Standard Bible.

 Genesis 2: 16–17 (KJV)
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

 Genesis 3: 14, 16–19 (KJV)
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Genesis 2: 16–17 (NASB)
The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Genesis 3: 14, 16–19 (NASB)
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life;
To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

For those who need a reminder of what humanity was given food-wise from the beginning, or who are just interested and want to know:

Genesis 1:29 (NKJV)
And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.

A curse is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something”. There are two Hebrew words for “curse”—arar and qalal—and it is arar that is used in the passage above. Some scholars say arar is the more formal and more serious term.

General reading on the Hebrew concept of “curse” reveals that it’s usually used to indicate one’s position in relation to a lack or absence of God’s favour, and more rarely the presence of His disfavour. Qalal apparently also carries the idea of being made light and contemptible, or to be dishonoured and lightly esteemed.

Clearly the original Hebrew meaning and the modern English meaning don’t quite match. Our English understanding involves the addition of a negative; in the original Hebrew, it actually involves the removal of a positive. There’s a big difference!

So what I now understand from the passages is this (and I’m not saying that anyone should agree; just that this is what I get):

One: Death takes a few forms and occurs at different levels as Adam and Eve clearly lost (gained?) something when they ate the fruit, but they obviously didn’t fall down dead. Physical death is arguably part of it, but in what way and to what extent? What I do think, however, is that mankind wasn’t created immortal—why else would God put the Tree of Life in Eden and later remove Adam and Eve from its presence, citing immortality as the reason? My guess is that we had a lifespan to begin with, but maybe ageing and decay wasn’t a part of the original deal…

Two: It seems like death wasn’t a pronounced curse per se, but a natural result/consequence of eating from that particular tree. God never said “If you eat it I will curse you”; He just said hey, if you eat from that tree, you’ll die. And He didn’t say, “Because of this sin you will return to the dust.” He said, in effect, “You’ll continue to suffer the effects of the curse I’ve spoken over the ground, until the time comes when you return to the dust.” And returning to the English/Hebrew translation issue, I get the feeling that it’s about the disobedience (and what was behind it) and not the eating-from-the-tree per se that resulted in God’s blessing/favour being removed.

 Three: Women are more prone to emotional lows and depression than men, fertility is increased, and childbirth has become laborious and painful, as a result of the curse — there’s no question that this was a pronouncement over Eve because of the part she played in the Fall. So womankind is cursed. “Properly” so.

 Four: Adam/Mankind was not directly cursed. It was the ground that was cursed for Adam’s sin — not him. For all that we have been taught about the man’s sin being greater than the woman’s because he was the one to receive that one rule directly from God and he was there when she received and gave in to temptation, we’re faced here with the fact that based on a simple literal reading of the text, God held Adam less culpable than woman… or at least, it seems so.

 Five: The ground — the earth — is cursed. And man’s “curse” is really much more of a consequence than an actual curse… at least it looks that way right now, I freely admit that my research is only just starting on this topic.

So… what significance does this ultimately have? Well, I don’t know yet. But I’m going to be continuing this study because I feel that to truly understand what Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary meant, and what we are saved from, we need to know what we fell from.

A Conservationist Approach

I’ve had a slower start to this blog than I initially wanted, partly because I’ve been occupied with nursury visits and ensuring that my five new plants get acclimatised with minimal shock and damage, and partly because I’ve been reading this book:

A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders
Usually it takes me only a day to finish a book of this size, but Prof Sanders’ material is taking me a long time to get through because I am emotionally and mentally challenged by it. Some parts are downright depressing; he starkly lays out in black-and-white all the evils that our species has done to our planet, and just by looking around you on a everyday basis, you can tell that he is right.

It’s great, however, to know that there are amazing minds out there who also feel the same way that you do, and who have already written about it at length and who therefore can help you crystallise your own thoughts and convictions on the subject. (Click here for a good review of the book.)

The main thing I’m thinking about this weekend is this: We aren’t the only species on Earth that matters. When God created the universe, He did it because it pleased Him to do so. When He created the earth, He did it because it pleased Him to do it. When He chose to create man in His own image, it was because it pleased Him to do so.

God didn’t create the earth or the universe for man, nor did He give everything to man to be used as man saw fit. In fact, according to Genesis, these are the very first things He said and the very first job that He gave to man (who was the last species to be created):

Genesis 1: 28, NKJV
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 2: 15, NKJV
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

To have dominion over something, or to subdue it, is not about having the right to do anything you wish to it and with it. It is the right to rule over it, and to exercise the power to take control of chaos and violence and effect harmony and peace.

We have been given divine authority to rule this world and maintain its health and prosperity as a whole, not to destroy it in pursuit of our own selfish desires. That is a charge. It is not a licence to do as we will. The earth does not belong to us. It belongs to the Creator. It hasn’t even been leased to us, to use a term that some preachers have been known to us. We aren’t renting space from a divine landlord (even if we were, we still wouldn’t have the right to trash the place!), we are merely put here to do a job because He knew that we need to have something to do to give us purpose and direction, and that left to our own devices we are unable to find a good one on our own.

I think that’s why we are all so obsessed with the notions of fate, destiny, and calling. Whatever term you prefer, it all comes back to the desire (secret/closet in the case of those who publicly deny it) to know what your existence is supposed to mean and what is is supposed to effect in the grand story of eternity. We want to choose our own paths, but we still wonder what we’re “supposed” to do with our lives.

Look at it seriously and objectively and I’m sure you will have to admit that the communities that are the most contented and fulfilled, who have the most drive and passion, and who have the best relationships, are those who are in some way involved in stewarding Creation. If you don’t agree with this statement, it probably just means that our definitions of some terms differ.

Why do I want to keep plants in my home? Why did I search until I found a species that I can tend successfully?

Because taking care of something that my Lord and my God created gives me a small opportunity, here in our steel-and-concrete city, to practice stewardship of the earth.

Because being responsible for the well-being of something that He made on a daily basis teaches me so much more than sitting in a plush modern “pew” in an expensive new building listening to one man telling me what he believes God wants me to know.

As to what I feel about church — that’s a matter for another post.