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Friday, August 22, 2014

What's the Meaning of "A Reed Swayed by the Wind?"


First of all, congratulations to Jeanie,who is the winner of Uprooting Anger. Thank you to everyone who submitted your name into the drawing. 

Jeanie: Please send me your email address and mailing address privately to Kathyspeak AT aol DOT com. I will pass it along to Kay so that she can send you your autographed copy. Please also let us know who you want the book autographed to. 

Now for this post's content:

Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by "A reed swayed by the wind"? I certainly have. Remember the story we've been examining where Jesus is defending John the Baptist? Here's Matthew 11:7:

As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (NASB)

Commentators offer several ideas of what Jesus meant:
It could refer to John's manner of speaking. Did he gesture with his hands in such a way that it reminded people of reeds? Or maybe he used his body in a way that  resembled reeds or weeds in a breeze?

Remember how we talked in our last post about how Jesus suggested the crowds only went to see him for the entertainment? Could it be that John's physical techniques was unique, entertaining or mesmerizing? 

Another possibility, commentators wonder, is whether "like a reed" refers to John appearing to be "unstable" or "inconsistent." Like a patch of reeds being blown about like the wind, you couldn't be sure of what John would do or say. The thrill was wondering if he would come up with something surprising or worthy of repetition.

I can just picture and hear it now. One person telling another, "Hey, have you seen that new preacher yet? You know, John the Baptist?"

"No, I haven't seen him yet. I've been meaning to head out there, but you know how going into the wilderness is. Such a pain."

"You haven't? Well, I have—several times! Well, let me tell you, you gotta see him. It's quite the show. I'm one of his disciples now!" (Said with pride).

"Really? That sounds impressive. I'll be sure to go on my day off."

Interestingly, one commentator believes the phrase, "a reed shaken in the wind" is actually a phrase used to indicate the complete opposite. A person described like that is actually consistent and firm, not wavering in what he said or did. 

Commentator Gill writes, "The Jews use this comparison of a man to a reed, in a sense just the reverse, and make it to signify constancy, and not inconstancy, as well as tenderness, in opposition to roughness, severity, and stubbornness." (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible.)

As for the reed itself, there are a few possibilities of reeds known to be available during that time. Maybe Jesus and the crowd were in close proximity to a pond, lake, or body of water with a kind of reed. I often think Jesus refers to the area around Him and His listeners more often than we realize. 

As for the reed itself, there are several possibilities. One kind of known reed in the area is described by J. Macgragor who penned a book in 1869:

"There is first a lateral trunk, lying on the water and half-submerged. This is sometimes as thick as a man's body, and from its lower side hang innumerable string-like roots from three to five feet long, and of a deep purple colour .... These pendent roots... retard much of the surface-current where the papyrus grows. On the upper surface of the trunks the stems grow alternately in oblique rows; their thickness at the junction is often four inches, and their height fifteen feet, gracefully tapering until at the top is a little round knob, with long, thin brown, wire-like hairs eighteen inches long, which rise and then, recurving, hang about it in a thyrsus-shaped head." 

He also says, "The whole jungle of papyrus was floating upon the water, and so the waves raised by the breeze were rocking the green curtain to and fro." 

There was also "a most curious hissing, grinding, bustling sound, that was heard like waves upon a shingly beach" as "the papyrus stems were rubbing against each other as they nodded out and in."

(The Rob Roy on the Jordan, Nile, Red Sea & Gennesareth, &c. : a canoe cruise in Palestine and Egypt, and the waters of Damascus). 

If that was the kind of reed Jesus referred to, then maybe John's voice sounded like those reeds rubbing against each other. 

Pulpit Commentary has this opinion:

"It is, however, much more probable that the reed referred to was "the Arundo donax, a very tall cane, growing twelve feet high, with a magnificent panicle of blossom at the top, and so slender and yielding that it will lie perfectly flat under a gust of wind, and immediately resume its upright position." It grows especially on the western side of the Dead Sea." (Natural History of the Bible).

I personally find these ideas fascinating and I hope you do too.

But regardless of what reed or sound Jesus is referring to, the most important thing is that Jesus wanted to impress upon the people to examine their motives. If we're going to church or some event just to get a thrill, or for any other impure motive (visiting with friends or wanting to be seen as good?) then we need to change our heart. We will indeed be held accountable for what we hear and the actions we take. It's a hard message to hear but a good reminder.

 








5 comments:

  1. Thanks so much, Margie, for stopping by and reading; also taking the time to let me know the Lord used it. God bless you!

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