Our almond tree had a slow start last year. Maybe, like us, it was in lockdown! What with possums chewing its fresh shoots, and being crowded out by the lasiandra growing beside it, it produced no fruit.
I thought it looked odd. From where I usually observed it, one branch down near the bottom was grotesquely bent behind the main trunk.
I asked Maurie why he hadn’t pruned it into a better shape, and he said, ‘It was larger than the usual plants from the nursery, so I couldn’t change it’. Later, when I stood on the lawn, instead of the verandah, I realised that the branch was alright; it was just the way I’d been looking at it.
This year the tree began to blossom before all our other espaliered trees. The flowers were beautiful after winter, and the bees from our garden-hive loved them! In Bible days, the almond tree’s blossom was the harbinger of Spring: new life, renewal, and hope in the coming harvest. I’ve also discovered that the almond nut is really a kind of stone fruit, and related to the peach. They’re technically called drupes.
All this made me think about almond branches in the Bible. Aaron’s rod for instance. That amazing story is from Numbers 17: 1-11. You can read the reason for the whole event in the previous chapters of the book of Numbers. Here God was dealing with people who thought they knew more about how things should look than he did. Their view was from the verandah; His was from the lawn!
In the story, among all the walking sticks belonging to the leaders of the tribes of Israel, Aaron’s was the only one that developed buds, blossom, and ripe almonds overnight – all on the one branch! God instructed Moses to place Aaron’s rod in front of the Covenant Box so the Israelites would always remember not to complain against the Lord. Every time they saw that miraculous almond branch, they’d recall the terrible cost of rebellion.
And there’s also the scripture where God showed an almond branch to Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 1:11). God used these examples to teach his people that he sees what they’re doing. He knows them better than they know themselves. After reading Jeremiah’s story, I asked Maurie if he could tell the difference between a branch from an apple tree and one from a pear. ‘Of course’, he replied.
‘So what would you be looking for?’ I asked. ‘Can you explain it to me?’
‘No’, he said. ‘I just know’. I thought about that, and wondered whether his answer was the same reason for Jeremiah’s answer to the Lord. God had asked him, ‘What do you see?’ and he’d replied, ‘A branch of an almond tree’.
Was Jeremiah like my husband, raised by his father on an orchard? Or had he been familiar from childhood with the menorah, a gold lampstand crafted like an almond tree, with blossoms incorporated into it, and all from one piece of gold? (Exodus 25: 31-40). I think it’s the latter because Jeremiah’s father, Hilkiah, was a priest. What we’re familiar with often becomes a part of us, but we can’t always explain why. We just know.
Aaron’s rod is also mentioned in the New Testament – in Hebrews 9:4 – where the writer explains the difference between Jesus’ sacrifice and the old way of dealing with sin. My ‘better view’ of our almond tree continues to remind me how God sees me. The lovely blossom makes way for the next stage of growth – God’s perfect growth.