When you travel to Israel as a follower of Jesus, you expect that God is going to get your attention. I expected to have my faith challenged … but I didn’t expect to be challenged by a shrub.
On the second day I was there, I was in the Judaea wilderness near the oasis of Ein-Gedi and I literally stumbled onto this plant.
Considering it was 110 degree in the middle of a hard desert, this lush, green shrub got my attention. And as I looked closer, I saw there was fruit the size of a softball growing from the branches.
To a thirsty, hot traveller in the desert, this tree seems like a blessing. It leaves are healthy and green, and the fruit looks refreshing and full of life. But when I opened the fruit, it let out a puff of hot air and dust, and inside it was hollow and dry. The only thing inside the fruit was stringy, inedible webs that secreted a milky juice the local Bedouins warn is poisonous. A bedouin woman told me not to touch my eyes after holding the fruit because I would go blind!
The fruit looks great on the outside, but is lifeless and dry on the inside.
This plant is called an arara. This is what the prophet Jeremiah was referring to when he wrote: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength … They are like stunted shrubs (arara) in the desert, with no hope for the future.” (Jeremiah 17:5-6).
It’s easy for us to become like the arara fruit. On the surface we might look like we’re healthy and have got it all together … but unless we are close to God, we will be dry, hollow and lifeless on the inside.
This shrub challenged me because I don’t want to be an arara. I don’t want to be an arara in my Christian walk. I don’t want to be an arara as a husband. I don’t want to be an arara as a dad. I don’t want to be an arara as a pastor.
What about you?
What are you doing today to ensure you’re healthy on the inside as well as refreshing and life-giving on the outside to those around you?