Of Almonds, Old Age, and Fruit
This is my birthday month and I am seventy! I have always loved birthdays. Knowing that February comes in the dead of winter has always brightened bitterly cold days. I could celebrate! I know that my parents celebrated. Almond trees waved in full bloom the day they brought me from the hospital to our California home. It was a symbol of life and hope coming out of a tree that seemed dead, naked and leafless. Every birthday my mother reminded me of that day, seeing the reddish, pale pink and flesh-colored blossoms form their canopy of welcome on my special day.
Its Hebrew name, shaked, means "wakeful, hastening." Perhaps that name was given because it put out its blossoms so very early in February. It was one of the first to dare to blossom in such cold. And so I have been thinking about that life, my life that burst forth from my mother's womb on a cold wintry day. And I have thought about Aaron's rod that not only budded, but had blossoms and its fruit all at the same time! (see Numbers 16, 17)
I feel as though my life is as short as a "season." It is going past all too quickly. I want to bear fruit in my old age. And yet I want to be as fresh as a new almond bud that blossoms fully with the fragrance of Christ's life in me. Yes, all three at the same time - bud, blossom and fruit!
The almond tree is referred to in Eccl. 12:5 illustrating the haste with which old age comes. When the blossom is ready to fall it is exactly like white snow-flakes, perhaps a very fitting symbol of old age, with its silvery hair and its wintry, dry, barren, unfruitful condition. In full bloom on a distant hillside it has a certain likeness to a head of white hair. The word shaked comes from a Hebrew root meaning to "watch" or "wait". In Jeremiah 1:11, 12 there is a play on the word, "And I said, I see a rod of an almond-tree (shaqedh), Then said Yahweh unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will watch (shoqedh) over my word to perform it."
Mother would often say, "Without a true death there can be no resurrection!" And so as I look forward to my new year, I want to be dead to my natural self. I want to allow the "sap" to rise within me even in the wintry days, breaking into full bloom with fruit that will remain all because Christ lives in me.
So how do I do that? I need to choose to relinquish my own agenda, to "watch" and "wait" to see how God wants me to live today. Just one day at a time. I need to get silent before God and listen to what He is saying to me out of His Word, allowing that "sap" to rise up inside of me. Only then can the bud burst forth, fragrant blossoms wave, and fruit cover my branches.
Jesus said in John 15, verses 16 and 17, "You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide (remain); so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you love one another." (ESV)
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