TODAY’S READING: 2 KINGS 19-21
“And this shall be the sign for you: this year eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs of the same. Then in the third year sow and reap and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord will do this.” – 2 Kings 19:29-31
Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was had come against Hezekiah to conquer Judah. Hezekiah prayed that Sennacherib’s attack would fail. He conclude his prayer in 2 Kings 19:19, saying, “So now, O Lord our God, save us please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” Ultimately, Hezekiah’s prayer was not for himself, for his kingdom, or for the people of Judah. Hezekiah simply prayed that all the kingdoms of the earth would know God.
Isaiah told Hezekiah that his prayer was heard. Then, Isaiah spoke a word from the Lord concerning Sennacherib. And, Isaiah gave Hezekiah a sign that his prayer – that all the kingdoms of the earth would know God – would be answered. We read that sign above in 2 Kings 19:29-31.
EAT WHAT GROWS OF ITSELF
The sign given to Hezekiah contained a period of three years. The number three symbolizes many things in scripture. But, one meaning of the number three is that is the period between death and life. Obviously, this is most clearly seen in that Jesus died and was resurrected, made alive, three days later.
In the first year, Hezekiah was told to eat “what grows of itself” and “what springs of the same.” “What grows of itself” is one word in Hebrew. The Hebrew word is saphiyach (not sure I have the spelling right), which means second growth, a self-sown crop, volunteer plants, after growth (what grows of its own accord in the sabbath year), or growth from spilled (poured our) kernels. According to one Hebrew dictionary, it is what springs up of itself in the second year and serves as food when no grain could be sown.
Saphiyach is used only four times in scripture. Once in 2 Kings 19:29 and once in the parallel passage in Isaiah 37:30. The other two times the word is used are in Leviticus 25:5, 11 in reference to the Jubilee.
In the second year, Hezekiah was told eat “what springs of the same.” This is a very similar word, sahis. It is used only this one time and means self-seeded plant.
What Hezekiah was told to eat during these first two years is an amazing picture of Jesus. For, Jesus is the self-grown crops, the volunteer plant, the self-seeded plant. Speaking of his impending death in John 12:23-34, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
These two years represent the period of time from Jesus’ death and resurrection until the day of Pentecost. This was a period of 50 days, which is related to the year of Jubilee. During this time, the disciples fed on the self-seeded plant. It was during this time that Jesus was teaching the disciples how the scriptures prophesied about him and pointed to him. And, it was in Jesus that the disciples could find eternal life (John 5:39-40).
SOW AND REAP AND PLANT VINEYARDS
Having fed on the self-seeded plant for two years, Hezekiah was told that in the third year he could “sow and reap and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.”
The disciples had fed on the self-seeded plant. They had fed on Jesus who willingly, voluntarily, died for them to show them the love of God. Now, in the third year, the disciples would receive life. It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples. They had received life. Having received life, the disciples were ready to go out and “sow and reap and plant vineyards.”
The disciples were only ready for this because they had fed on the death of Jesus. By feeding on the self-seeded plant, the plant voluntarily died, they understood what brought life.
Therefore, Jesus told them in John 12:25-26, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
Jesus was calling the disciples to be self-seeded plants like. He was calling them to plant themselves in the ground like he died so that life would spring up for others.
ROOTED DOWNWARD, BEARING FRUIT UPWARD
The disciples were the surviving remnant of the house of Judah. They would take root downward and bear fruit upward. The disciples took root downward as they grew in the love of Christ. And, as they grew in Christ, abiding in his love, they were able to bear fruit for God.
Paul spoke to this in Ephesians 3:17-19, which says, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.”
Of course, Jesus spoke directly about this in John 15:1-8. Jesus said if he abide in his love and his word that we would bear much fruit. By bearing much fruit, we would prove we were his disciples and glorify God. Glorifying God is bearing fruit upward.
THE ZEAL OF THE LORD WILL DO THIS
Isaiah told Hezekiah that “the zeal of the Lord” would cause this sign to happen. Isaiah prophesied about the zeal of the Lord in Isaiah 9:6-7 as well.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord will do this.”
This passage speaks of Christ’s government twice. His government is founded on love. We know this because of the two commandments Jesus gives – love God and love your neighbor (including your enemy).
Love is the zeal of the Lord. Love is what caused Jesus to be the self-seeded plant. 1 John 4:9-11 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Did you catch that?
God sent Jesus into the world, not just into believers, that we might live through him. He didn’t send Jesus to kill people. God sent Jesus that the world might live through him.
Therefore, those that truly believe Jesus are called to eat of the self-seeded plant so that they will love one another, their brother, their enemy, as God loved us. In other words, we will become self-seeded plants so that the world might live.