Word pictures. God loves to use word pictures. If he wants us to remember something, He often teaches a truth through an image or an event. We see this over and over again in the book of Jeremiah.
In the first chapter of Jeremiah, God calls Jeremiah by touching his mouth and telling him that he has put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth. He uses words such as pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow, build and to plant. Just these words fill me with the image of a farmer growing crops in a field and the amount of intensive work that it takes to successfully grow a plant from seed to fruit. This mission that God is sending to Jeremiah will be incredibly difficult. So God needs to give Jeremiah an image that will bring him assurance throughout his life.
In verse 11, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. God asked him what he saw. Jeremiah said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.” In verse 12 the LORD said to Jeremiah, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.” Hebrew writing is filled with alliterations and literary devices that we, who don’t know Hebrew, often miss out on. The Hebrew word for almond is shaqed, and the word for watching is shoqed. They are both from the same basic root of “to watch” or “to wake” which has the meaning “intent on doing”. The LORD is telling Jeremiah that He will bring about His word. He will be intent to do what He promises.
Jeremiah would have been very familiar with the almond tree and its branches, flowers and almonds. Almond trees are the first tree to bloom usually at the end of winter, right before the spring comes. But the almonds are the last fruit to develop of all of the fruit trees. It takes months for this process to occur. God’s judgment of Judah would be long, and, if they did not repent, the judgments of the LORD would finally occur, just as He said.
Interesting that God didn’t show Jeremiah a bloom, but the rod. Blooms remind us of new beginnings and hope. Rods are thought of as strong, and used for discipline, strengthening, and comfort. Lamentations 3:1-3 mentions the rod of God’s wrath, and it is quite scary. “He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely against me He has turned His hand repeatedly all the day.”
However, Psalm 23:4 gives us a different picture. It reminds us that when we are walking through the valley of deep darkness, we don’t have to fear evil, for the Lord is with us. His rod and staff comfort us. The picture in Psalm 23 is of the shepherd touching the rod to a stray sheep to move him back on the path or to let him know that the shepherd is guiding him.
God’s people had rejected him. They were not walking on the right path. I am sure that as Jeremiah hears the voice of the LORD calling for His beloved people to repent and God’s absolute intent on bringing them back to Himself, this image of the rod of the almond tree came to Jeremiah over and over.
Jeremiah would also remember the rod of Aaron and the miracle that occurred in Numbers 17 when the people were in the wilderness and complaining against Moses and Aaron. The LORD almost wiped them out except for the quick work of Moses and Aaron to make atonement for the people. God wanted to show the people whom He had chosen to be the leaders of His people. He had all the leaders of the twelve tribes give Moses a rod for each tribe. They were placed before the LORD in the tent of the testimony. The next day Aaron’s rod, from the tribe of Levi, “had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” (verse 8)
Talk about miracle of miracles.
The process of blooming to almonds takes months and months, but in one night God did it all. He showed that He appointed whomever He wanted to do the tasks that He desired in the time frame that He chose. There is great hope in this word picture.
Think about it.
Every time in the next forty years of Jeremiah’s difficult ministry, whenever he would look at an almond tree, what would he remember? He would know for sure that God had chosen him for this task “to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow,” and for this purpose “to build and to plant.” No matter how hard it was, Jeremiah would be assured that God’s word was true, and He would bring to pass what He said.
How about for us? What can we take away from this word picture that God gives Jeremiah?
When I am writing this, it is spring in New England. The trees and bushes are budding and blooming. It is a time of renewal. But we are in the middle of Covid-19. A few months ago, we were busy living our lives. We got up, checked our computers, wrote some emails, quickly ate some breakfast, and were out the door to our jobs, or getting the kids to school or whatever we had planned.
Did we choose to spend time with God? Did we even check what Jesus wanted us to do that day. Did we ask Him about our plans and His plans?
Who would ever have thought a year ago, or for that matter, even a few months ago, that the whole world would come to a standstill? And now we have time to reflect on who God is and what He’s doing.
You have time to take a walk outside. Every time you see a tree budding or flowers blooming, think about the almond tree and the hope it brings. God is intent on doing what He promises.
Think about giving honor to God.
Think about how much Jesus loves you that He would stop the world through this pandemic so that we have time to consider Him.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Spend time in God’s word, and pray about your day, and get to know God. He has so much for you, if you will just take the time to repent and love Him back.