A Time to PruneMar 22, 2023
Pruning the Branches of Rebellion
John 15:1-5 '“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He trims so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. The branch cannot itself produce fruit, unless it abides on the vine. Likewise, you cannot produce fruit unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.'
The Israelites' journey in the wilderness was a time of refinement and pruning as a nation. They had to learn how to put their flesh aside to work together in submission to the Holy One, take correction from Him, and trust in Him to provide for their needs when the circumstances looked impossible. Unfortunately, there were some people who refused to put their own appetites and desires aside, and they needed to be cut off, pruned, from their people. Zimri and Cozbi are great examples of necessary pruning, and we can find a lot of detail by looking into the meaning of their names.
Cozbi was the daughter of the Midianite prince, Zur (rock), and her name means ‘my lie’ (H3579). These names paint a picture of a lie stemming from a false rock that will ultimately lead to death as opposed to the true Rock of our salvation.
Zimri, a Simeonite, means ‘my music’ (H2174) and comes from zamar (H2167) meaning to sing, sing praise, make music. Zamar (H2168) also means to trim, prune, in the context of pruning a vine. It can be compared to semer (H6785) which means wool. The meanings don’t seem to have much of a connection but stick with me as I help you connect some dots.
In Deuteronomy 22:11, we are commanded not to wear clothing that is mixed with wool and linen, but why? In the book Strength of a Woman, Lauren Crews makes an interesting comparison between the two materials and what they can represent.
Linen is made from fibrous flax stems that are rough on the hands and can even draw blood. Flax must be threshed out and then soaked in water to separate the fibers and make it easier to work into linen. Even then, linen only becomes soft after much use. Wool, being from an animal, represents the flesh. The lanolin in wool is soothing to the hands as it is spun. (Crews, 2020, pg. 35)
It is very natural for us as humans to want to take the easy way out of anything and react based on our current emotional state. If you had to pick between being a linen maker or spinning wool, based off of the quote above, I can admit that initially, I’d choose to spin wool. Paper cuts are some of the most annoying wounds to me and who in their right mind wants to deal with pesky cuts on their fingers?! However, we are called to be set apart and put on the garments of righteousness. That takes a lot of consistent effort and dedication on our behalf and most often comes with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. During this threshing, we have to make a lot of separations within ourselves, our community, and even the things we enjoy and it is quite painful sometimes! Regardless, there is no room for compromising with the emotions and desires of our flesh because it never works out to our spiritual benefit. I’m sure that no tree wants to be pruned, but I think we can all agree that pruning keeps the tree healthy and productive. It would be much easier short term for the tree to just grow however it wants, but that small amount of pain is exactly what it needs to keep growing and thriving.
Simeon, where rebellion is rooted.
Simeon, Jacob’s second son, had a pretty rocky relationship going on between his flesh and his spirit, and most often his flesh won the battles. When the issue of Shechem and Dinah arose, he and his brothers deceitfully set up Shechem, his father, Hamor, and their people for destruction. They waited until the men of Shechem were healing from their circumcision they agreed to, and on the third day, Simeon and Levi went and killed every male with the sword. Jacob was not happy with their decision. Instead of allowing Shechem, his family, and people to come into the covenant with Jacob, Simeon acted out of his own emotions and put an end to Shechem, who we can argue was truly repentant for what he had done to Dinah and wanted to make restitution for his poor choice.
There is no denying that Simeon has a serious problem with anger and rage. Rashi even suggests that Joseph decided to imprison Simeon because he was the one who threw Joseph into the pit. Also, it is speculated Joseph may have wanted to separate Simeon from Levi because they could conspire to kill him while they were back in Canaan. When Jacob was on his deathbed and speaking over his sons, he cursed the anger and rage of Simeon and Levi when they were together. He wanted them to be dispersed and scattered among Israel since trouble seems to follow when they are together for too long. In Korah’s rebellion, sons of Reuben and Korah, a descendant of Levi, were the offenders, but they were all camped in the south along with Simeon. The anger spread like wildfire!
In Numbers 25 we read about the seduction of Israel by the women of Moab and Adonai was very angry with them because of it. He ordered Moses to have the judges of Israel round up the ringleaders and hang them facing the sun, the direction of their false worship. Imagine watching your friend, brother, or cousin be enticed by the false worship of ba’al and then having to watch them die? I bet that was very heartbreaking for most people who had close ties to these ringleaders. Zimri also appears to have a big problem with this.
Why did Zimri bring the Midianite woman to the tabernacle?
Zimri seems to have inherited the attitude of Simeon. Now imagine growing up in a tribe that most likely shared that same attitude for generations. It’s a pretty sobering thought, right? His attitude and defiance was not something that happened overnight, but most likely something that had been festering in him and the generations before him for quite some time.
There is another interesting factor to consider. In Exodus 6:25, Eleazar is married to one of the daughters of Putiel. There are many arguments about who exactly he is, but one theory is Putiel is another name for Jethro, Moses’ father in law, a Midianite. If this is the case, Pinchas would be the son of a Levite and Midianite. Moses was also married to a Midianite woman, Tzipporah. Perhaps Zimri saw the instruction from Adonai to kill all those who had immoral sexual relations with the women from Moab as ridiculous since Pinchas was next in line to lead the priesthood. Perhaps Zimri had a huge problem with some leaders of Israel being married to Midianites and he couldn’t reconcile why it was ok for them and not ok for others.
His defiant act with Cozbi shows how his heart was very cold and hard towards Adonai and His ways. Regardless of what was going on in his mind, it's very clear that he was letting his emotions and desires rule him. Either he didn’t care about what he was doing or he lacked the ability to discern right from wrong. Instead of doing what was right, he chose to believe his own lie, Cozbi, and indulge in his flesh, which ultimately led to his death.
Why Pinchas of all people?
Pinchas means ‘mouth of brass.’ He knew that if no one stopped the rebellion from Zimri and Cozbi, the people would slowly start to believe any act of defiance would be acceptable. Like mold on a piece of fruit, any bad fruit must quickly be removed before it starts spreading to the entire bowl. A diseased branch on a fruit tree must quickly be pruned away before it begins to spread and eventually kills the entire tree.
The interesting thing with us as humans is we have the ability to recognize when we have mold and can remove ourselves from the rest of the fruit. If we don’t, then someone else needs to step in and do that job for us for the sake of the rest and that is exactly what Pinchas did. He brought life to Israel by the death of Zimri and Cozbi.
Brass, or bronze, often represents judgment. In the outer court of the tabernacle, there is a bronze laver. The laver and its base was formed from the bronze mirrors of the women who served at the entrance of the tabernacle. Mirrors are very important to people as they help us know how we are presenting ourselves to our community. We are all unique and there are many ways we can do our hair, make-up, jewelry, and put outfits together that express our individuality. The way one woman may style herself can make another feel very uncomfortable and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if we focus too much on ourselves, it sows a seed of vanity and soon enough we are too caught up in how we look to ourselves that we begin to care less and less about how Adonai sees us. The desires of the flesh begin to be our central focus instead of walking in His paths of righteousness and we begin to sing praises to ourselves like the root zamar we looked at above suggests.. We become blind to those branches of disease or rebellion that are beginning to stem from us. The Word of God is no longer our litmus test, but our own mirror and once we realize this there is a sacrifice that needs to be made for forgiveness. We have to let go of that mirror of vanity.
Each time there was a sacrifice that needed to be performed, the priests would wash their hands and feet at the laver. They would wash away their fleshly appetites, desires, and emotions in order to become a reflection of Yeshua by doing the work of the Father, helping their brothers draw closer to the Father or make atonement for their sins they had committed. Remember when Yeshua washed His disciples feet? Our heels represent our nephesh, the part of the soul that holds our desires, appetites, and emotions; our flesh. Yeshua washing their feet symbolizes Him cleansing us from the desires of the flesh and walking in His ways established from the very first day of Creation. It’s pretty powerful!
Any gardener regardless of their level of expertise knows that trees need to be pruned. If not they will grow all kinds of crazy and out of control over time. New olive trees don’t need to be pruned until they are at least 4 years old. Does that ring a bell?
- Leviticus 19:23-25 '“When you come into the land and have planted all kinds of trees for food, you are to consider their fruit as forbidden. Three years it will be forbidden to you. It is not to be eaten. Then in the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, for giving praise to Adonai . In the fifth year you may eat its fruit. So it will yield its increase to you. I am Adonai your God.'
There are many trees that symbolize Israel and each of them require pruning under unique circumstances. One of the most well known trees associated with Israel is the olive tree. Like most trees, when its branches become very dense, it opens the tree up to issues like disease and not bearing any fruit. Because of this, one of the main reasons to prune a tree is for a more even exposure to light and is typically done at the end of winter and before the flowering in the spring. Doing so allows the tree to produce more fruit! It also allows better airflow, and in a spiritual context, it allows more room for the Holy Spirit to move. If you’re a student of Dr. Hollisa Alewine, you are familiar with the idea that the crushing of the olives produces oil to light the menorah, the source of light within the Tabernacle. If we have no fruit to be pressed, we will be without any oil like the foolish virgins who did not have any extra oil to light their lamps.
Interestingly though, if we don’t prune trees at the right time, we leave them susceptible to all sorts of issues like waterborne diseases and other issues. This will ultimately lead to the death of the tree which is not what any gardener or even the Master Gardener wants. He wants to bring us joy, fruitfulness, and life!
Those dark areas where the Ruach cannot move and light does not penetrate is a breeding ground for disease. When all is said and done the Master Gardener will find those hidden, dark spots that have been causing us harm and inhibiting our growth. Whether we like it or not Yeshua tells us whatever we have hidden away will be revealed and come to light. In Zimri’s case, Pinchas, the mouth of judgment, acted on behalf of Adonai and brought judgment on Zimri and Cozbi.
- Mark 4:22 'For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, nor anything kept secret except that it would come to light.'
So what are we to learn from Zimri’s rebellion?
The enemy, the serpent, our flesh is very cunning. No matter what path we take in life, sin will always be crouching at the door. Most often our nephesh, which is composed of our desires, appetites, and emotions, is our biggest enemy. Zimri had no self-control and chose to believe the lie that led to indulging in an act of rebellion. Instead of continuing to thresh out the fibers from the flax to make his linen garments of righteousness, he chose to spin the wool and soothe his fleshly desires with the lanolin. He didn’t even see the branches of rebellion that had begun to grow so he could allow the Holy One to prune them away in order to bear good fruit.
Are there any lies that you are believing that stem from a false rock? Has that lie convinced you that you are good in your own eyes? Sister, I encourage you to allow the Master Gardener to prune your tree so you can bear His fruit! Take joy in the Torah and that refinement! It may be hard, uncomfortable, and even heartbreaking, but He sees what you will become! He will not prune you out of season just to let you die.
Be pressed and be blessed!
- Psalms 52:10 'But I—I am like an olive tree flourishing in the House of God. I trust in God’s lovingkindness forever and ever.'
- Isaiah 41:19-20 'I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, the myrtle and the olive tree. I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine together with the box tree— so they may see and know, consider and understand together, that the hand of Adonai has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.”'
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