I Kings 19:1-4
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
What in the world is a retem tree? Well, it is called by other names in the Bible. I have a program on my computer I loaded from a CD called e-Sword – the Sword of the LORD with an electronic edge. I highly recommend it for its use as a study tool. On my 10.4 edition, there are 17 complete versions of the Bible.
- Six of them identify the retem tree as a juniper tree.
- Seven name it a broom tree or a broom plant.
- Three others just identify it as a bush or a tree.
- Only one, 1898 Young’s Literal Translation says it is a retem-tree.
Although there are two other Scriptures that mention a juniper/bush tree (see Job 30:4; Psalm 120:4), the Scripture that is most identified with such a tree is I Kings 19:1 through 4:
And Ahab told Jezebel...that Elijah... had executed all the [false] prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And ...he...ran for his life, and went...a day's journey into the wilderness, and...sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die....
Pictured above is the type of tree under which Elijah sought refuge in the Judean desert. It really isn’t much of a shade tree, as the photo shows. But it does offer some shade and comfort in a place where little is found! It was there that the prophet despondently lay for about a full day! According to verses 5 through 7, an angel came twice to serve Elijah meal cake and water, and to encourage him. Verse 8 says, “So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.”
So how are we to be like a juniper/broom/retem tree?
- We are to supply shade, rest, and refreshment for ourselves and others!
✡ It is as David wrote in Psalm 63:1 – “God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” ✡ In Psalm 121:5 and 6 – “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.”
Wait a minute! These two passages refer to God, not us! Why would I state that we are to supply shade, rest and refreshment for ourselves and others?
- Is it not written in…
✞ ...I Corinthians 12:27 that we “...are the body of Christ, and members individually.”? ✞ ...Colossians 1:18 that Jesus Christ “...is the head of the body, the church...”?
- What does this mean? (I laid it out in five Gems entitled The Body Of Christ, starting on July 12, 2013). It means that we are only the body!
✞ The individual members of the body are to be only controlled by the direction of the brain, and not on their own. ✞ The head houses the brain. So the head is to be in control of the body! ✞ Since Jesus is “...the head of the body...,” He is to be in total control of the members of His body, you and me! ✞ On earth, Christ lived as a human being, totally filled with, and empowered by the Holy Spirit (see John 3:34; 8:28) – the same resource that is open to every Christian! (See Ephesians 5:18). As it says of Jesus that He is God, come in the flesh (see John 1:1, 14; 14:9; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 1:3), we are now His representation of God in the flesh – the only such human representation on earth!
What did Elijah need that day under the retem tree?
- He was threatened by Queen Jezebel, and he was taking her threat very seriously:
So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life [Elijah] as the life of one of [the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the groves]... by tomorrow about this time.
So he ran for his life! Elijah needed rest and refreshment, and he needed someone to come alongside and give him assurance that God was overseeing his life.
✡ The retem tree provided a place to rest and be refreshed! ✡ An angel was sent to him, and by giving him bread and water – twice, the prophet was given reassur- ance that God was aware and there!
I wonder how many people feel threatened today, even facing the very real possibility of death from Covid 19? They need someone to come alongside and…
✞ ...feed them with God’s Word! (See Job 23:13; Jere- miah 15:16). ✞ ...give them the rest and refreshment (encouragement) they need! (See Jesus’ encouragement for His disciples in John 14:1-3; 14:16; 15:11; 16:33).
- The prophet was mentally and emotionally drained and very low! Having battled clinical depression myself, I can understand some of what Elijah was going through.
✡ He had just been through a tremendous high on Mount Carmel when he defeated 850 false prophets and turned the hearts of the Judeans back to God! But he was drained physically, and that led to being drained mentally and emotionally. ✡ Not only did an angel minister to Elijah, but when he got to Mount Horeb, God Himself spoke to Him! (See I Kings 19:9-18). God’s words must have min- istered strength and peace, lifting the prophet from the depths of despair! It must have been something like Daniel experienced in Daniel 10:19 when the angel Gabriel touched him and spoke: And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!” So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” ✞ I remember watching the movie The Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson. The church I was pastoring sponsored it on a Sunday evening. It was graphic – too graphic for me, since I was coming out of a serious bought of depression! I crashed! That next Thursday I knew I wasn’t up to leading the Sunday service. I called my area minister, Dave, a busy guy with a lot of commit- ments. I told him my dilemma. He promptly came back with, “Don’t worry about Sunday. I will handle it for you.” And he preached for me (or provided speakers) for the next six Sundays while I healed enough to preach again! Dave was the retem tree for me! ✞ How many people are down emotionally and mentally as they try to survive through this pandemic? Sta- tistics tell us that suicides are increasing, mar- ital and child abuse are on the rise, crisis hot- lines are busy – people need help! They need the shade, comfort, and refreshment of the retem tree! You can be the one who helps lift then up!
- Elijah thought that not only might his life be soon over, but also his ministry, his life’s work, was of no use, and coming to a swift end! He cried out when he first arrived at the retem tree, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (I Kings 19:4).
✡ He had worked so hard for God for years! Miracles had happened at his command! There were many high points in his ministry, but now it all seemed to be crashing down! However, the LORD was not done with Elijah! The angel fed him and strengthened him, and God let him know he still had a ministry of importance in the days ahead! (See I Kings 19:15 -17). And as important as his own ministry still was, he was told in verse 18, “Yet I [the LORD] have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” The prophet was not alone! ✞ In many cases across the country, businesses are failing. The life’s work of many people are crumb- ling to an end! They need encouragement that life is not over, that God still has plans for them! This is part of being a retem tree.
So to any ‘Elijah’ that needs it, we are to be shade, rest, and refreshment for others, as well as for ourselves! Although the interpretation of Isaiah 32 is for the millennial kingdom, it can be applied to God’s people now:
A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock [or juniper/broom /retem tree] in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:2).
Now go be a retem tree!