Sounds like: pa-rawk or fa-rawk
This past week Jewish, Messianic Jewish and some Christian congregations celebrated Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks). Shavuot celebrates the first fruits of the harvest, given to us from God (in particular, the wheat harvest). Today observers also use this Feast to officially celebrate the receiving of the Torah. According to the Torah, (Deuteronomy 16:9-12), the Feast of Weeks took place 7 weeks (or 50 days) after Passover.
Yeshua (Jesus) would have grown up attending all of the Feasts, including Shavuot. His own death occurred during the week of Passover, but He was raised up from death and ministered to His followers over a course of forty days (Acts 1:1-5). After He ascended into the heavens, His disciples only had to wait a few days to celebrate the next feast following Passover, the Feast of Weeks.
But it must have been hard to joyfully celebrate this next feast without their Rabbi. Did they remember that, while Yeshua was alive, He had promised to send a Helper after He was gone?
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
This promise of a Helper was fulfilled on the first Feast after Yeshua’s death and resurrection. Jerusalem was filled to the brim with Jewish people who followed the risen Yeshua and those who did not. It was the perfect place and time to reveal the Holy Spirit to a massive gathering. This first celebration of Shavuot after Yeshua’s death would be extraordinary:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…
Clearly great things happen during the Feasts of YHWH!
The Greek word for the Feast of Weeks was Pentekostes and today Christians celebrate Pentecost as the day of receiving the Holy Spirit, although many are unfamiliar with its connection to the Jewish Feast of Weeks.
Today’s word, parakh, means to sprout, bud, blossom and to flourish. With Yeshua rising from the grave and the Holy Spirit flourishing within His people, parakh seems like a fitting word for the week following Shavuot/Pentecost.
We’re also experiencing a beautiful Spring here on Prince Edward Island. My husband has been in a gardening mood… planting saplings, transplanting flowers out of his rose garden and into new beds, and putting grass-seed down in the sparse spots. Our magnolia bushes are out in bloom and the crab-apple tree is covered in buds ready to break out in blossoms. The yard is thriving, and our Hebrew word of the day encapsulates the entire concept, from little sprout to flourishing garden.
But it’s not all pretty. The word was also used to describe the sprouting of leprosy (Leviticus 13) and one of the plagues of Egypt was “boils breaking out [sprouting: po’reakh] with sores” (Exodus 9:8-10).
Of course the more common, and much prettier, picture was the breaking out of blossoming flowers, the buds on the trees, the sprouting grass, and the flourishing garden.
One of the earliest stories about budding/blossoming was the miraculous story of Aaron’s rod. The wandering Hebrew tribes were having some serious domestic issues. A rebellion against Moses was led by Korah and his accomplices Dathan and Abiram. After the rebels were suppressed, a plague infected the Korah sympathizers and threatened to destroy them until Aaron stepped in and offered of atonement for the infected people (Numbers 16:46-50).
Following those shocking developments, YHWH decided to settle the issue of who would present offerings and tithes in the Temple; a clear choice from God would, hopefully, diminish the grumbling of the people.
Then YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and get from them a rod for each father’s household: twelve rods, from all their leaders according to their fathers’ households. You shall write each name on his rod, and write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi; for there is one rod for the head of each of their fathers’ households. You shall then deposit them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony, where I meet with you. It will come about that the rod of the man whom I choose will sprout [yif’rakh]. Thus I will lessen from upon Myself the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you.”
And so twelve rods were gathered, one from each tribe and they were placed in the “tent of the testimony” (tabernacle).
Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted [parakh] and put forth buds [ferakh] and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.
YHWH made it very clear, to all the tribes, that Aaron was His chosen priest. This miracles was not to be forgotten:
Moses then brought out all the rods from the presence of YHWH to all the sons of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. But YHWH said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.”
Aaron’s stick, that went from bud, to blossoms, to almonds, was a beautiful statement declaring YHWH’s chosen priest. The the whole event was to be remembered so that YHWH’s people would not die. A sprouting stick was a reminder of life against all odds, and the sign of miraculous sprouting would find its way back into this epic story of humanity at a later date.
According to the author of the book of Hebrews, Aaron’s rod was housed in the Ark of the Covenant, along with a gold-covered jar holding manna and the stone tablets of the covenant given to Moses (Hebrews 9:4). It was a sacred reminder of God’s emphasis on Life.
The Flourishing Righteous
In the Hebrew language blossoming, budding or sprouting, was equivalent to flourishing… good life was about growing and prospering. In particular, those who were righteous would flourish (or blossom) as human beings:
Proverbs 11:28 (see also Proverbs 14:11)
He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish [yif’rakhu] like the green leaf.
Solomon prayed that his reign be one of goodness and righteousness and abundant peace. He wanted his people to flourish:
Psalm 72:1, 5-7
A Psalm of Solomon. Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son… Let them fear You [God] while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he [the king; Solomon] come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may the righteous flourish [yif’rakh], and abundance of peace till the moon is no more.
Flourishing humans were like prospering plant life, and the writer of Psalm 92 poetically weaved together both elements:
The righteous man will flourish [yif’rakh] like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of YHWH, they will flourish [yaf’rikhu] in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that YHWH is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
To flourish like the palm tree was an image immediately understandable to the ancient Hebrew people. Judean date palms were notorious for their fertility and abundance, and to grow like the cedars of Lebanon meant to be tall, strong, and long lasting. Lebanon cedars do not blossom until 25-30 years of age and can live to be over 1000 years old, bearing fruit well into their ancient age.
Planting the Wrong Garden
But not all garden/harvest metaphors pointed to the good in humanity. The prophets described those who had turned against YHWH as those who planted a garden for the wrong gods:
For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the rock of your refuge. Therefore you plant delightful plants and set them with vine slips of a strange god. In the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in, and in the morning you bring your seed to blossom [taf’rikhi]; but the harvest will be a heap in a day of sickliness and incurable pain.
And if they weren’t planting the garden to strange gods, then they were planting it for themselves… faithless self-proclaimed gods of their own destruction:
Israel is a luxuriant vine; he produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, the more altars he made; the richer his land, the better he made the sacred pillars.
Their heart is faithless; now they must bear their guilt. YHWH will break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars. Surely now they will say, “We have no king, for we do not revere YHWH. As for the king, what can he do for us?”
They speak mere words, with worthless oaths they make covenants; and judgment sprouts [u-farakh] like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.
All these twisted gardens produced only wickedness and arrogance, and under YHWH’s watchfulness, they would not last:
‘Behold, the day! Behold, it is coming! Your doom has gone forth; arrogance has blossomed, the rod has budded [parakh], violence has grown into a rod of wickedness. None of them shall remain, none of their people, none of their wealth, nor anything eminent among them. The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller mourn; for wrath is against all their multitude.’
Aaron’s rod had blossomed with life against all odds, but the rod of the violent budded wickedness and only death could be the result.
Rotting Roots & Dying Blossoms
God would not put up with the budding arrogance, the sprouting poisonous weeds, and the harvest of sickness and pain. Blossoming, verdant, humans meant righteous humans, but in contrast rotting roots and dying blossoms belonged to humans who had turned away from their Creator… those who valued chaos over order and life. Much like the burning of blueberry bushes revitalizes the life of the plant, YHWH would metaphorically burn out the bad crops:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!
Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into the flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom [u-fir’kham] blow away as dust; for they have rejected the law of YHWH of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Instead of rich, flourishing, blossoms and buds, followers of the Adversary (ha-Satan) became like stubble and dry grass, easily consumable by flame. Just as a good pruning strengthens the health of a plant, YHWH would prune out the enemies of His people, making His people stronger and healthier:
For thus YHWH has told me, “I will look from My dwelling place quietly like dazzling heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”
For before the harvest, as soon as the bud [perakh] blossoms and the flower becomes a ripening grape, then He will cut off the sprigs with pruning knives and remove and cut away the spreading branches.
They will be left together for mountain birds of prey, and for the beasts of the earth; and the birds of prey will spend the summer feeding on them, and all the beasts of the earth will spend harvest time on them.
God is in control of the gardens, the good and the bad… and He would not let the garden of Evil flourish:
Nahum 1:3-7 (see also Isaiah 35:1-2)
YHWH is slow to anger and great in power, and YHWH will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; He dries up all the rivers.
Bashan and Carmel wither; the blossoms of Lebanon [u-ferakh L’vanohn] wither. Mountains quake because of Him and the hills dissolve; indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, the world and all the inhabitants in it.
Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him.
YHWH is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.
Nahum, like many of the prophets, used imagery associated with local places (Bashan, Carmel and Lebanon). Bashan, in particular, was known for its oak forests (Isaiah 2:13, Ezekiel 27:6, Zechariah 11:2) and towering mountains (Psalm 68:15); and both Carmel and Bashan were known for their rich pastures (Jeremiah 50:19). The cedars of Lebanon were prized for their hardy wood, desired by Egyptian Pharaohs and used by Solomon to build his palace (1 Kings 7:1-3) and the Temple (1 Kings 6). But all the beauty of these places belonged to God. He could make them flourish and He could make them wither.
Habukkuk lived during a time when God’s wrath was heaved upon all the nations who set out to destroy His land and His people. However, Habakkuk recognized that God came, ultimately, not to destroy but to save:
Habakkuk 3:12-13, 17-18
In indignation You marched through the earth; in anger You trampled the nations. You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your Anointed. You struck the head of the house of the evil to lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.
…Though the fig tree should not blossom [lo tif’rakh] and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in YHWH, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
Even through drought and famine, Habakkuk held onto the great hope of God’s salvation. YHWH would one day save the people and His Garden would flourish again.
Bearing Good Fruit
All was not lost. YHWH was in control and He had beautiful plans for His Garden. He would replant all His springs and twigs and revive the lowly and parched trees:
Thus says the Lord YHWH, “I will also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will know that I am YHWH; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish [w-hif’rakh’ti]. I am YHWH; I have spoken, and I will perform it.”
YHWH: “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom [yif’rakh] like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom [w-yif’r’khu] like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.
O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of YHWH are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.
From YHWH comes our fruit… all that is good in our lives is a gift from our Creator. And the greatest gift of all was the gift of Salvation.
Yeshua and the Sprouting Parables
Yeshua, whose very name meant Salvation, came to earth to be the Messiah (Mashiach), the Anointed One, from the line of David, the Saviour of God’s people. In His short ministry on earth He took much of the rich imagery supplied in the Tanakh and applied them to His parables.
And He [Jesus] was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts [Greek: blasta] and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
We are the seeds of God’s Kingdom. How we live and grow, and thrive again and again is a bit of a mystery, but we are being prepared for the harvest… the chance to go home, back to the Garden of Eden.
Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted [Greek: eblastesen] and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’
The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’
But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
Although many of the parables were given without explanation, this one Yeshua explained to His disciples:
Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
At the harvest there would be a reckoning and a final pruning of evil out of His kingdom. Those left standing were the righteous ones of God and they would shine forth at the end of the age.
All this garden talk stems back to the very beginning of the Biblical narrative. Eve (Life) and Adam (Human) made a terrible choice in the Garden of Eden, and as a result of their decision (to disregard God’s rule and to make their own rule) they were expelled from the Garden (Genesis 3). From that moment on, YHWH set a plan into action to save them from the result of their choice: eternal death.
YHWH had intended for us to walk in the Garden with Him, to see Him daily, face to face, but we took a very wrong turn. The whole story of humanity, outlined in the Bible, was the epic adventure of humankind’s journey to return to the Garden. YHWH would get us back on the right path, back to the Garden where we belonged.
Death was a terrible fate. It was a final and permanent exclusion from the Garden, with no hope of reuniting with God. Job was very aware of the finality of death. Prophetic blossom/sprout imagery was highly metaphoric and poetic, but Job presented a picture of a sprout that prompted a very direct question:
Job: “For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish [yaf’riakh] and put forth sprigs like a plant.
But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he? As water evaporates from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dried up, so man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, he will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.
Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, that You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, that You would set a limit for me and remember me! If a man dies, will he live again?”
Job was insightful. When a tree was chopped down it had a great chance of sprouting again. If a tree can do that, by the grace of God, cannot mankind also?
Yeshua claimed that yes He could… and He would:
Luke 18:31-34 (see also Mark 10:33-34)
Then He [Jesus] took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”
But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.
Like the tree described by Job, Yeshua claimed He would sprout again. He would die, and go to the grave, but death would not conquer Him. He would rise up and return to the Garden of God. His disciples, however, couldn’t quite comprehend what He was saying, and when He was crucified on the cross they mourned Him as if He was gone forever.
The female disciples that had travelled with Yeshua came to His grave with spices for His deceased body. What they found, or rather what they didn’t find, was astounding:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marvelling at what had happened.
Many do not believe in a risen Yeshua; it seems like nonsense. But if a felled tree can sprout again, who’s to say that Creator of all things cannot raise up His chosen from the grave. In fact, I would think that to God, death is the more unnatural thing.
YHWH is a God of life and order; His opponent values death and chaos. Yeshua was sent to conquer death so that we can all rise up and return to the Garden. YHWH has always had a plan for our story…. we just need to get onto, and stay on, the Garden path.
YHWH, the Gardener of the Nations
We may live in a time that seems to be anything but flourishing, but we can rejoice in the salvation that YHWH has provided for every human that seeks Him. We are sad little struggling blossoms, but YHWH is a Gardener who saves!
In that day, “A vineyard of wine, sing of it! I, YHWH, am its keeper; I water it every moment. So that no one will damage it, I guard it night and day. I have no wrath.
Should someone give Me briars and thorns in battle, then I would step on them, I would burn them completely. Or let him rely on My protection, let him make peace with Me, let him make peace with Me.”
In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout [u-farakh], and they will fill the whole world with fruit.
What a beautiful picture: God, the great Gardener, sowed the seed of salvation in Israel, so that the whole world could flourish and be filled with abundant fruit!
For thus says YHWH, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad, and your bones will flourish (sprout) [tif’rakh’nah] like the new grass…
Be comforted. YHWH is waiting for us all to come home to the Garden where we will blossom and flourish, face to face, with our Creator.
Next week: Let (My people) Go!