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The New Testament On Roots
25 August 2014
Throughout the New Testament, the speakers and authors used the earthy analogy of roots to communicate spiritual realities. Because the Greek words for the noun root, the verb to be rooted, and the verb to uproot occur only 23 times in the entire New Testament, I think it would be enlightening and profitable to take a look at each occurrence and see what God wants to teach us by considering roots.
Let's start off by getting right to the root of the matter (sorry!). If you have read even part of the New Testament, it should be obvious that the entire New Testament is all about Yeshua (Jesus). But even the Old Testament is about Yeshua, as He Himself explained — see John 5:39 and Luke 24:27. So it should be no surprise that when the Bible talks about The Root, it is referring to none other than Yeshua.
We don't have to rely on interpretation or some sort of mystical understanding in order to know that Yeshua is The Root, because the concept comes straight out of His own mouth:
"I, Yeshua, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16)
Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." (Revelation 5:5)The apostle Paul, quoting from the Old Testament, wrote:
And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, One who will arise to rule over the nations; in Him the Gentiles will hope." (Romans 15:12)It's worth taking a look at that verse in Isaiah, because there are noticeable differences:
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10)Isaiah also referred to Yeshua as a root later in his writings:
For He [the Messiah] grew up before Him [Yahweh] like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. (Isaiah 53:2a)To take just a little side trip, it's interesting to note that Yeshua is referred to as both the Root of David and the Root of Jesse. Most of us are familiar with the famous King David, and the fact that the Messiah was promised to be a descendant of David. You may not remember who Jesse is, but it's not too difficult — Jesse was King David's father. So, in a sense, being the Root of David and the Root of Jesse are pretty much the same thing. You can see Yeshua's genealogy for all the details.
But how can Yeshua be a branch, a descendant, from David's family tree, and yet at the same time be the Root of that tree? Yeshua Himself posed the same question, rhetorically, to His listeners:
While Yeshua was teaching in the temple courts, He asked, "Why do the teachers of the Law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: 'Yahweh said to my Master: "Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your feet."' (Psalm 110:1) David himself calls Him 'Master.' How then can He be his son?" The large crowd listened to Him with delight. (Mark 12:35-37)How indeed? The unspoken answer, of course, is that Yeshua is not just an ordinary human being, but God Himself come to earth in a human body. In this way, Yeshua is both David's descendant and also his Master, his Root.
In the spiritual dry ground of degenerate Jewish religion during the Roman era, Yahweh planted His Son Yeshua, to take root, to be The Root that would glorify God by bearing much fruit (John 15:8a). Because Yeshua is The Root, He is the only one worthy for us to sink our roots into:
Just as you received Yeshua the Messiah as Master, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Messiah. For in Yeshua all the fullness of God lives in bodily form, and in Messiah you have been brought to fullness. (Colossians 2:6-10a)Roots were part of the object lessons when Yeshua was teaching His followers about faith:
According to the riches of His glory may He grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith, rooted and grounded in love, in order that you may be empowered... to know the love of Messiah with surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16,17,18a,19)
The apostles said to Yeshua, "Show us how to increase our faith." The Master answered, "If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,' and it would obey you!" (Luke 17:5-6)
As they were leaving Bethany, Yeshua was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so He went over to see if He could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Yeshua said to the tree, "May no one ever eat your fruit again!" And the disciples heard Him say it.... The next morning as they passed by the fig tree He had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Yeshua had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, "Look, Rabbi! The fig tree You cursed has withered and died!" Then Yeshua said to the disciples, "Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, 'May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours." (Mark 11:12-14,20-24)
Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone who hears the Good News of Yeshua and seemingly follows Him will actually take root in Him. From Yeshua's Parable of the Sower (see Luke 8:4-15; Matthew 13:3-8,18-23; Mark 4:3-8,14-20), I will extract the relevant parts which refer to roots:
"Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn't have deep roots, they died.... The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's Word." (Matthew 13:5,6,20,21; Mark 4:5,6,16,17)When people embrace Christianity for what THEY can get out of it, they are like the seeds planted in the shallow, rocky soil. Because they are not truly committed to Yeshua, not rooted in Him, when the hard times come, like temptation, suffering and persecution because of Yeshua, their true loyalties are revealed when they turn away from Yeshua. Truly, great is the danger of shallow roots!
"Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture.... The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation." (Luke 8:3,13)
If we love ourselves, or anything else, more than we love Yeshua, we are not worthy to be His followers (Matthew 10:37-39), and we will not enter the Paradise of God, but rather be cast into Hell where the deadwood is burned. This is what John the Baptist was talking about when he preached:
"Even now the ax of God's judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9)Yeshua Himself said something very similar: "Every plant not planted by My Heavenly Father will be uprooted" (Matthew 15:13).
Father God, in His patience and mercy, does not bring this uprooting judgment during this life. In order to give mankind time to turn from their evil and turn to Him, He is reserving judgment until King Yeshua returns at the end of this age. Yeshua explained it like this:
Referring to these people of the Evil One who infiltrate the church, Jude wrote:
"God's Kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up too. The farmhands came to the farmer and said, 'Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn't it? Where did these thistles come from?' He answered, 'Some enemy did this.' The farmhands asked, 'Should we weed out the thistles?' He said, 'No, if you weed the thistles, you'll uproot the wheat too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I'll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn." (Matthew 13:24-30)
Later, Yeshua explained, "The one who sowed the good seed is Myself, the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear." (Matthew 13:37-43)
These people are blemishes on your love-feasts, feasting with you without reverence, caring only for themselves. They are waterless clouds, swept along by winds; autumn trees without fruit and uprooted — completely dead; wild waves of the sea, casting up their shameful deeds like foam; wandering stars for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved for eternity. (Jude 1:12-13)But it's not only those who follow the Evil One who have bad roots. Even followers of Yeshua can be led astray by the Evil One to put down roots into something other than Yeshua:
People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)Before we bring our survey of roots in the New Testament to a close, I think it is definitely worthwhile to look at a couple of poetical yet weighty passages from the Old Testament which fit right in with the verses we looked at above. One of them specifically mentions roots, while the other, similar passage simple implies roots:
Take care that no one forfeits the grace of God; and that no root of bitterness grows up and causes trouble and by it many are defiled. (Hebrews 12:15)
Well, we've just about covered every verse in the New Testament which mentions roots. But if you are familiar with the apostle Paul's writings, you may have noticed that I skipped a passage in Romans 11:16-18 which mentions roots four times. The entire chapter in which these verses are found is so important that we really need to take an in-depth look at it, and carefully consider the full import of what God is saying through Paul.
This is what Yahweh says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from Yahweh. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in Yahweh, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of Yahweh, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For Yahweh watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1)
In my previous article, I shared the entire eleventh chapter of Romans from The Message version of the Bible. If you haven't read it yet, be sure to take the time to study Romans 11 — The Olive Tree. Then, in my next article — see The Olive Tree and the True Vine — I will share my observations, comments and insights about that chapter. That will bring our New Testament survey of roots to a close.
This article is 21st a series of articles on this Web site related to Exploring New Testament Realities which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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