For months, they have quietly anticipated when their season would come. They have waited patiently, hibernating in the rich soils of the North Carolina clay, certain that winter would eventually be usurped by the slow, steady approach of the sun’s rays. They would begin to stretch their trunks and their limbs. Their buds would become placeholders for flowers and blooms. They would emerge stronger, broader and deeper than before. At this writing, their season has, again, come.
About 50 miles south of the city of Tel Aviv is the Negev Desert. Named from the Hebrew word for “dry,” the Negev covers more than half of the entire country of Israel. Its impervious soil allows only minimal penetration of water, resulting in a brown, rocky landscape with deep craters and dry riverbeds.
For six weeks every year, at the beginning of spring, this otherwise barren desert comes alive with beautiful color. In a much anticipated event, red anemone flowers blossom in a panoramic backdrop of red and green. Israel hosts a five-week celebration, the Red South Festival, drawing thousands of visitors annually to experience firsthand the sea of flowers in their desert homeland.
Named after the Hebrew word for bride, anemones blossom just above the Negev’s drought line. They flower first as males, giving pollen to bees and closing a few days later. Afterwards they open as females, bearing a white ring because they are now “engaged.” In the short span of six weeks they blossom, reproduce and die until the next spring season.
Jesus had been with the apostles for 40 days, approximately six weeks, when He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift the Father promised — that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Under Roman rule, they asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set . . .” After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-10 NIV)
Ah. The promise of the ages. The subject of endless dissertation and theological debate. The long-awaited return of Israel’s Lily of the Valley, her blessed Rose of Sharon, her bright and morning star.
Even more certain than the red anemones that bloom in the Negev Desert each spring is the assurance that Jesus will return. Just as their arrival spawns celebration and joy, Jesus’ promise brings hope and enthusiasm when our faith wanes and our hearts grow weary.
Maggie, Moe, Miss Marple and the rest of the Backyard Gang respond to the order of the Creator, but we can predict their emergence. While some have predicted Jesus’ return, none have discovered it. What we know with certainty is that when everything is ready (John 14:1-3), He will return for us. Until then, we embrace what may be another rich covenant He left for Israel, and our hearts are made glad.
Perhaps Isaiah said it best: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them (the redeemed); and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly . . . and they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1-2 KJV)
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