Something ever caught the corner of your eye and lingered in your memory? And then you kept seeing the image, literally, and although your thoughts are a million miles away, you start to catalog the times you see the image?
That's what happened to me last weekend when i was at the Founders Inn. The name of the spa was Flowering Almond, and my Biblical Reference meter chimed, like a dashboard light. Pay Attention, it said.
So here i am, paying attention.
You will understand then that is a matter of great wonder to me to learn that the Hebrew word for 'Almond' shakeid comes from a root word which means "watch" or "wake." Pay Attention.
The Almond is mentioned eleven times in the Bible and is counted as one of the Choicest Fruits. As one of the choicest fruits, the Almond (shakeid) becomes a symbol of the Importance of Watching, Paying Attention.
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds."
You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall
be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its
flowers shall be of one piece with it. And there shall be six branches going
out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and
three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; and three cups made
like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups
made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so
for the six branches going out of the lampstand. And on the lampstand itself
there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and
flowers. . .
~Exodus 25: 31 - 34
Imagine this: there were no windows, no natural light, and no other light in the center area of the Tabernacle save a single lampstand specifically designed by God. It was hammered out of one piece of pure gold and when its seven bowls were lit, it struck a dazzling reflection off gold columns and the three other gold furnishings. Are you as awed as i by this image of the stygian darkness pierced by light reflecting off massive gold columns and golden furniture?
And God decreed that the oil cups on this amazing golden lampstand to be "made like almond blossoms"(Exodus 25:33).
Shakeid. Watch. Wake up.
Pay attention. See!
Moses and Aaron were the focus of a grumbling people who resented their authority. God decided the matter once and for all with an Almond Branch.
On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.
The connection between the meaning of the Almond and the miracle performed for Moses and Aaron perhaps resides in this: Moses and Aaron were the prophets, those who Watch and See. Their authority was settled in no uncertain terms by God, before a jealous people with an Almond (shekeid) branch.
Jeremiah, lovely, bemoaning Jeremiah (how the lamenting Prophet captures my heart) was formed specifically by God in the womb of his mother to be one who Watches and Sees. With this gift he would serve God and his people, and this gift of Seeing would break his heart. Is it no wonder that his first vision involves an Almond Branch?
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah,
what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.”
Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”
~Jeremiah 1: 11 - 12
These then are some of the most precious verses attached to the Almond Branch for me. The beloved child is called by God to Look and See. The child sees a flowering branch called "Watch. Wake." God caresses child's head, "You see well." And then comes the Promise.
It is God Who Watches. He Watches over His Word to Perform it.
Beloved, let this Almond Branch become a by-word for us. Slivered, scented, whole, let the Almond remind us.
Watch. God is unfolding His Word around us. He is Watching to see that what He has spoken, promised, and declared will BE.
And one last image, the ultimate really, to mediate upon this morning comes from Patmos. . .
John, old and exiled, resting in the Spirit, waiting on God, Watching, was pierced when a Voice like a Trumpet spoke behind him, "Write what you See. . ."
Should we be surprised then that within the Vision John was given, there would be Almond branches?
John, turning at the command of the Voice, will be blown to his knees by what he Sees. . .and the vision begins with the glowing lampstand, its cups fashioned like Almonds. . .
Beloved, go read again what John saw among the Almond Blossom Lampstand.
Watch. Wake up.
What is God calling you and me to pay attention to Today? Be quiet. Go slow. Pay attention.