WORD STUDY – NO GREEN – ירקלא
Isaiah 15:6: “For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate, for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing.”
Today was one of those downers for me. Going over my future plans, such as they are when you are 66, as well as my financials, such as they are, I really began to wonder just what I really accomplished in my three score and six years. It doesn’t take very long to dwell on such things before you no longer feel a sense of peace and you begin to get stressed out.
I took a walk in the park, but being February, there was little in the way of green. As I made my way down the path I began to imagine the river side surrounded by lush green plantation, all very green. This lack of green caused me to consider why God made so much green. I made my way to a glass house conservatory and was allowed in. I could almost feel the life around me and there was plenty of green so much so I found myself coming out of my funk, my stress level was dropping. I started to feel the peace of God again and began feeling rested.
I thought of Isaiah 15:6 where the prophet is predicting the desolation of Moab. The waters of Nimrim which flows into the Jordan and brings fertility to the area will dry up. The hay will wither away. Actually, there is no word for hay here in this text, it is just the word chatsar which is a dying grass, brown like the grass I saw at the park. I hate a farmer argue with me that this was not hay but to us city slickers, dead, brown grass is hay. Some translations say vegetation. I tend to agree with the World English Bible which says the grass withers and the tender grass fails. The point is that all green plantations disappear such that there is nothing green left. The emphasis is on green.
There is a sort of progression is given. This progression is showing that the green in this valley will begin to fade unto there is nothing green left. In other words the emphasis is not on the loss of a food supply or grazing for their livestock, but on the loss of something green. The loss of God’s gift of a color that heals a troubled mind.
The word green in Hebrew here is ‘iereq which your lexicon will simply say means green or green plantations. This word is also used for the word spittle which has a greenish color. Thus, the emphasis with ‘iereg is not on the object which is green like vegetation and spittle, but on the color.
The Old Testament is filled with color and we, as Christians, simply focus on the symbolism of color. I have always had a problem with Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow.” Why is sin pictured as scarlet? The ancients knew as we know very well today the color scarlet strikes passion. An adulterous woman is pictured wearing Red as red arouses sexual passion. Red has been shown to arouse anger. Film makers know to show a lot of red blood as it arouses violence. In other words color arouses emotions in us. Emotions affect our health. I struggle with high blood pressure and today was a high blood pressure day. Yet surrounding myself with the color green created a relax feeling in me, soothing my stress and when I measured my blood pressure this evening I found it to be right at normal.
Even the ancient rabbis who assigned letters to the word for green Yod, Resh Qop spelled it out so as to show that Green was a color that brings peace and rest. The first letter, Yod, teaches us to be at one with our changing world, to calmly and peacefully embrace it. As the green grass fades in autumn and winter, there will be a spring where it will again return. Yod teaches us to trust our creator’s faithfulness as demonstrated in His faithfulness to give us our seasons. The next letter is the Resh which is the letter for the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called our Comforter (John 14:16) that He Himself would send to us. I indeed receive this gift of the Comforter while surrounded by God’s – iereg green. The Resh is also the letter of healing and it is through this Comforter that we are healed. The last letter is the Qop which is the letter of completion, and fulfillment. The Qop brings us into peace with the changes around us. Thus, God gave us the color green ‘iereg to bring us into peace and to sooth our troubled minds. When I need to find peace, I turn to God’s medication or prescription: “Take two walks in the lush green of My park, sit under My green leaves of My trees and give Me a call.”
I always introduce my Hebrew classes with a lecture on art as you cannot fully understand Hebrew unless you understand what art is all about. I love to tell of my favorite artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh originally aspired to be a pastor and indeed was a missionary to a mining town in Belgium where he began sketching the people in the community. Van Gogh was also a man with a troubled mind who was tortured with depression. The genius of Van Gogh was his ability to take his pain and torment and turn it into color. Well, any artist can do that, but what made Van Gogh stand out for all the rest and indeed is probably the only artist in history to do so, was his ability to take his pain, turn it into color and make something beautiful out of it.
Ever notice that God does the same thing with color. With color he can turn a disaster into a picture of beauty.