"New Life!" Pastels on black board drawing by Leigh.
With its early buds and delicate white and pink flowers, the Almond tree provides a startling and seemingly precarious introduction to a winter landscape. While being an ornamental tree, it is also the earliest flowering stone fruit, blossoming as it does in late January, in Israel and the Northern Hemisphere. Besides its cultural importance, the Almond is highly symbolic in the Bible.
In Exodus 25, God commanded Moses to construct the Menorah (Lampstand) for the Tabernacle. It had to be beaten into seven branches from one piece of pure gold. The branches all had a specific design: they had bowls shaped like almonds, with a ‘knop and a flower’. This lamp was filled with pure oil and was to burn continually and is generally agreed to represent God’s Word, which gives light to all and endures forever!
Next, we remember the story of a rebellion stirred up against God’s ordained priest, Aaron (Numbers 16 and 17). God judged the insurrectionists (ch. 16), but the rest of the nation still murmured against the Lord. To confirm His choice of Aaron, the Lord called for the leader of each tribe to take a rod and engrave their name on it, including Aaron (ch. 17). These rods were then placed in the Tabernacle overnight, with the decree that the rod that blossomed would confirm God’s chosen priest. The next day, Aaron’s rod was found to have put forth leaves, blossoms and whole almonds simultaneously! As we’ve said, the almond tree blossoms in VERY early spring – but this took place in autumn, at the time of the first-ripe grapes! This miracle also suggests the continual succession of the priesthood. We’re reminded of the verses in Psalm 110 which say,
‘The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies…The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’ (Psalm 110: 2,4)
Similar language – in fact, the same Hebrew verbs – is used in Psalm 132: 11-18 of David:
"The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore. For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed (Lit, ‘My Messiah’). His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish" (Lit ‘blossom’). This seems to indicate the combination of priest and king, in the Messiah!
The young prophet Jeremiah, who was also a priest and would have been familiar with the Menorah in the Temple, records, ‘Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten (watch over early – Hebrew: shaked) my word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:11,12).
God’s Word is eternal and sure and He will watch over it to fulfil every jot and tittle. His Word comes to us early, as a teacher of His ways and harbinger of His judgements, giving us time to learn of Him and obey Him. We also see, from the above Psalms, that there would come a time when a Messiah would arise as both King and Priest forever, from the tribe of Judah and according to the order of Melchizedek. The Lord has sworn this and has fulfilled this in Jesus (Yeshua), who came from the tribe of Judah and at whose death, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom thus indicating the change from a Levitical priesthood and sacrificial system to a new and living way!