Under the broom tree
This is a broom tree. Solitary shrubs like this grew all over the desert in biblical times—rugged, resourceful plants that shot their roots deep into the unforgiving dry soil.
1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah who, after defeating the prophets of Baal and prophesying rain after a drought, had his life threatened by the corrupt queen Jezebel.
Exhausted and on the run, Elijah collapses under a broom tree to rest.
Broom trees or similar desert shrubs show up at pivotal moments throughout the Old Testament. Job describes the broom tree as a place of desolation and ruin. The Psalmist connects the broom tree with punishment. Hagar leaves her son under a shrub to die in Genesis 21, after being exiled by Abraham.
The broom tree, like the desert where it’s found, is associated with loss, emptiness, and being exhausted of our resources, and… with hearing the voice of God.
Elijah slept on the uncomfortable rocks and woke up to the smell of bread cooking. Notice the passage:
And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 1 Kings 19:5-7 (ESV)
Under the broom tree—a place associated with waste and desolation, when he was at the end of his rope—Elijah gets the sustenance he needs.
How often has God met you at the end of your rope? How often has God met us in the shade of the broom tree?
Sometimes it is when we’re stripped of the strength of our defense mechanisms, that God leads and guides us the most clearly. It was when Elijah had virtually given up that God spoke to him with a ‘still, small voice’. He often speaks to us in a similar fashion. We expect the booming voice, but he often comes with that still small voice—that often sounds like the voice of a spouse, friend, or confidante.
Are you in the desert today? Are you taking shade wherever you can, even under a scrubby rough broom tree because that’s all that’s there?
Look for the messengers of God who bring you sustenance in this time. God fed Elijah with ravens and angels. Who are your angels and ravens today?
Maybe that old friend who calls you out of nowhere. Maybe kids or grandkids who bring their own oblivious joy. Maybe a verse from scripture that reminds you of God’s love and plan. God is sending you sustenance. He knows what you need. And he sees you, even under the broom tree.
Presented by Greg Williams
About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life’, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.
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