Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sycamore of Ground Zero

[This is a transcript of a speech I gave to our church men's club in 2013.  Minor details were edited and references added to accommodate the written and visual form]

Sycamore of Ground Zero

On September 11, 2001, a steel beam falling from the north tower of the World Trade Center would have damaged a small church named St. Paul's Chapel if it had not struck a Sycamore tree. Instead, this Sycamore tree was cut off and gave its life to protect the Chapel [ (1)].  St. Paul's Chapel, across the street from the World Trade Center site on Church Street soon became a de facto 
St. Paul's Chapel (3)
dormitory and relief center for rescue workers in the days after 9/11. What's so special about St. Paul's Chapel?  Was this coincidence?  Or can we see God's hand at work?  Does God care about church buildings?

God is at work, and He does care about this building.  Let me show you why.

The next day, September 12, 2001, then Senate majority leader Tom Daschle spoke to the combined Senate and House of Representatives, to the people of the United States and the world. He didn't yet know about the "sycamore of Ground Zero", as it came to be known.  In his speech he quoted Scripture. 

But there is a passage in the Bible from Isaiah that I think speaks to all of us at times such as this:
'The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees (sycamore in KJV and most translations) have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.' That is what we will do. We will rebuild and we will recover. [youtube (4)]


That’s from Isaiah 9:10.  And it is meant to sound encouraging, that we will face this trial and come out better at the other end. The Sycamore isn't a strong tree, not highly regarded for building or furniture. But the Cedar (or pine tree) is – it grows tall, some species have straight grain, good for building, smells nice, good for furniture. But read the verse in context. Let's go back to verses eight and nine.
8 The Lord sent a word against Jacob,And it has fallen on Israel.9 All the people will know-Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria-Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:10 “The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones;The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.”
That's not heeding the warning in verses 8 & 9 - that's defiance.  One Bible commentary [W. Clarkson (5)] even said "thus they breathed the very spirit of defiance".  Don't take my word for it, or the commentary's word for it, listen to what public officials said. That same day, September 12, 2001, Senator John Kerry stated in a speech on the Senate Floor.
I believe one of the first things we should commit to - with federal help that underscores our nation's purpose - is to rebuild the towers of the World Trade Center and show the world we are not afraid - we are defiant.  [ (6)]

July 4, 2004, Then governor of New York George Pataki said this at a ceremony at the floor of Ground Zero "today, we, the heirs of that revolutionary spirit of defiance, lay this cornerstone …" [ (7)]

This is what President Obama stated in his second inaugural address Jan 20, 2009.      
…We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken -- you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you… [youtube (8)]
September 11, 2004, then Democratic Candidate for Vice President John Edwards spoke the same curse upon America using the same verse at a prayer breakfast for the Congressional Black Caucus.  He said

Good morning. Today, on this day of remembrance and mourning, we have the Lord’s word to get us through. 'The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.'
... And let me show you how we are building and putting cedars in those three hallowed places - the footprints of the Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. ... [prophezine (9)]

Like a chess game, God’s next move was determined by America’s response to the warning of 9/11 – humility or defiance.  The Sycamore of Ground Zero was uprooted. Quoting from [trinitywallstreet news (10)], let’s see what happened to the Sycamore of Ground Zero.
“In September 2005, a bronze sculpture memorializing the surviving root of the fallen sycamore tree that shielded St. Paul’s Chapel from debris on 9/11 was installed in the south courtyard of Trinity Church. Created by noted artist Steve Tobin, the Trinity Root, as the sculpture is known, is a favorite attraction in the churchyard, fascinating young children, community members, and tourists alike.”

The sculpture sits at the head of Wall Street on Broadway, in a courtyard of Trinity Church, the Episcopal parish that operates St. Paul's. 

Remember the prophecy "The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.” The Hebrew for cedar just means pine tree.  In ancient times, destroying the trees symbolized the uprooting of a kingdom and adversely affected the rebuilding.  The Sycamore of Ground Zero was not just cut down, it was uprooted.  In the spirit of defiance, a pine tree was indeed planted at the very spot where the Sycamore fell. Of course there was a public ceremony.

The Rector of St. Paul’s Chapel at the Tree of Hope dedication in late November 2003 said:
Tree of Hope (13)

This Ground Zero Tree of Hope (a Pine tree) will be a sign of the indomitable nature of human hope...The Tree of Hope is planted in the very spot where the 60 year old Sycamore stood the morning of September 11, 2001.[pepperhawkfarm (12)].

So what's the big deal about this Chapel anyway? Why is it the only building near the World Trade Center that escaped damage? 

History lesson

Early Dutch settlers on the island of Manhattan built a wall to protect themselves from Indians and Pirates. Merchants set up shop along this wall, which became the center of trade for the area. The British tore down the wall, but the street retains the name "Wall Street". [wikipedia "History of Wall Street" (14)]

Depiction of traders under the buttonwood tree [wikipedia {15)]
And how did it go from a wall to the world's leading financial center? It started on May 17, 1792, 24 leading merchants of the day signed an agreement which would eventually become the New York Stock Exchange. This was called the Button Wood agreement, because it was signed in the shade of a button wood tree – an 18th century term for Sycamore tree. So the Sycamore is the symbol of America's financial power, more accurately the symbol of the origin of its strength [wikipedia "Buttonwood Agreement" (16)]. 

Unlike the Sycamore of Ground Zero, this symbolic sycamore of America's strength has not been uprooted yet, but let me show you how it is being cut down.

The NYSE closed for six days after 9/11.  When it reopened on September 17, 2001, it suffered its largest one day loss in history up to that time. [ historical data (17)] This was the eve of Feast Of Trumpets [ (18)], the day and year of the Biblical year of release (every seven years). 

Because of government policy to jumpstart the economy with low interest rates, the stage was set for a greater stock market crash on September 29, 2008, again the eve of Feast Of Trumpets, and the year of release.  Exactly seven years apart on the day [ (18)]. The NYSE dropped $700 billion, 7%, 777 points [ historical data (17)]. Do you see God's hand?  I make no predictions what will happen in 2015, but I would like to point out there will be four lunar eclipses 2014 & 2015, aka a Tetrad, and a partial solar eclipse the day before Feast Of Trumpets (Sept 13, 2015). [NASA (19)] [wikipedia "September 2015 lunar eclipse" (20)]

Why was St. Paul’s chapel spared?

One more history lesson.

On April 30, 1789, after George Washington's inauguration in our nation's
Federal Hall, St. Paul's Chapel, Ground Zero

capital as our first president, and after delivering his first presidential address, he led the Senate and House of Representatives on foot in a procession through the streets of the capital from Federal Hall, the site of the inauguration, to the place appointed for their prayers, to a little stone church, called St. Paul's Chapel [ (21)].You see, New York City was the nation's capital in 1789. Federal Hall was on Wall Street, across from the New York Stock Exchange. [wikipedia "Federal Hall" (22)]

Bells rang all over the nation that day to remind people to pray for the country.  Pres. Washington and all the congressmen gathered at St. Paul's Chapel and prayed for two hours. They dedicated the United States of America, (which the Pilgrims that landed at Plymouth Rock saw as new Israel) to the God of heaven. They consecrated it if you will. Pres. Washington said "the propitious smiles of Heaven cannot be expected on a country that disregards the eternal rules of order and right that heaven itself hath ordained". [ (23)]

This nation was founded at Federal Hall and dedicated to God at St. Paul's Chapel. 

When the towers fell, a shockwave cracked the foundation of Federal Hall National Memorial.  Is this symbolic of a crack in the foundation of the United States of America?

Ezekiel 13:14  So I will break down the wall (Wall Street?), you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.

St. Paul's Chapel sits on a little piece of land now, but used to own a field between the Chapel and the water to the west (see map above). Today this field is known as Ground Zero. St. Paul's Chapel was the Ground Zero for the founding of America.  That’s why God cares about this building.

If you enjoy conspiracy theories about the fall of the World Trade Center, you will have to accept that the God of heaven is in on it.

What’s next? Let’s read the next verses, Is 9:11-12.
11 Therefore the Lord shall set upThe adversaries of Rezin against him,And spur his enemies on,12 The Syrians before and the Philistines behind;And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth.
End of speech

Some of you may recognize this as derived from the writings of Jonathan Cahn, author of The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America's Future (24), on the NY Times bestseller list for 100 weeks.  He goes into vastly more detail than I could do in a ten minute speech.  Some object to his writing style, “The Harbinger” is written as a narrative with fictional characters.  Personally, I liked his method, it may attract more readers than it repels.  For those who want the message in sermon format, check out (25) – warning: Cahn does not hold back.  Cahn has appeared on TV on the Sid Roth Show (26).  He has delivered this warning to national leaders at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast [youtube (27)], again not holding back.  He has his own blog and Facebook page too.

I believe the message in the book and the sermons.  But I also did my best to verify the facts.  I tried to quote primary sources, but sometimes the references get circular and point back to Cahn as the source.  There is lots more out there.  Use search terms like “Sycamore of Ground Zero”, “Harbinger”, “Jonathan Cahn”, “Tree of Hope”, etc.  You can also verify eclipses, Hebrew calendar, stock market indices, etc.



Additional links


Friday, March 18, 2016

Paradise Pi - A Slice Of Heaven

Most Bible believers recognize that the Scriptures are deeper than the words on the surface, that is, the text has layers of meaning. Christian commentaries however seldom dig past the surface meaning of the words written. Not that they're wrong (well, sometimes they are), but that they usually don't dig deeper into the text. The Jews teach that every passage has four levels, from simple to hint to insight to secret. These are the descriptions of the four levels from Wikipedia Pardes  [1]
  • Peshat (פְּשָׁט) — "surface" ("straight") or the literal (direct) meaning.
  • Remez (רֶמֶז) — "hints" or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
  • Derash (דְּרַשׁ) — from Hebrew darash: "inquire" ("seek") — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
  • Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in 'sore') — "secret" ("mystery") or the esoteric/mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.
Take the first letter of each Hebrew word, and you get the unpronounceable acronym PRDS, add a couple vowels and make it Pardes. In English, we could add some different vowels and make it PaRaDiSe. Pardes in Hebrew means garden or orchard, and paradise is etymologically related to it - Wikipedia Pardes [1].  "The journey into Pardes also represents our journey into deeper levels of intimacy with God our Father. It represents our journey into the relationship we once had in the Garden of Eden, hence the word Pardes ~ Paradise." - yesheva4me  [2]. In the words of Woodstock "And we got to get ourselves back to the garden." - CSNY Lyrics [3]. But remember, WE can't get ourselves to the garden - DIY Salvation [4]. Note that Pardes is not just about Bible knowledge, it is about restoring the relationship with God our Father. As we study the Bible deeper, we draw closer to God, He draws closer to us (James 4:8), we build our relationship with Him. Pardes tells us how to draw closer to Him.

The Bible also says "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." - Ps 12:6. Does this mean there are seven levels? And if that weren't enough, Jewish commentaries say "the Torah has seventy faces" Shivim Panim  [5], meaning seventy levels of interpretation. I can hardly get my head around four levels of meaning, much less seven or seventy.


The Mirror Image of Pi is Pie...

Let's look closer at these four levels of meaning - P'shat, Remez, D'rash, and Sod; or Simple, Hint, Insight, Mystery.

P'shat (Simple) is where we all begin. Take the words of scripture at face value. There are certainly figurative passages, for example when God said to Israel "I bore you on eagles' wings" (Ex 19:4), keep in mind they walked. But mostly the text says what it says. One rule of Pardes is that a deeper level cannot contradict the plain meaning of a passage. For example, when Jesus said ""Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." - Mt 5:18. You can't twist the word fulfill to mean that He did abolish the Law and the Prophets. "Fulfill" cannot contradict "not abolish".

P'shat implies to me that the text will be understood in any language, the Simple meaning will come through in a translation (531 languages so far - Wikipedia Bible Translations [6]). Not everyone has to be a Hebrew and Greek scholar.  It is my opinion that P'shat understanding is sufficient for salvation. However, understanding the text at face value is harder than it first appears, people disagree all the time over the Simple meaning of Biblical passages. According to David Barrett [7], Christianity has split into 33,000 denominations. I suspect most of the splits are over authority, not doctrine. The caution to all of us is to make sure you understand the Simple first.

Remez (hint or allegory). While the text has a Simple meaning, it alludes to something deeper. For example, Paul writes "For it is written in the Law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.' God is not concerned about oxen, is He?" - 1 Co 9:9. Paul is saying plainly the text alludes to something more than oxen.

Events, places, things, and people are often "types" fulfilled later in history or prophecy. Here is another example by Paul, writing about Sarah and Hagar, "This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar." - Gal 4:24. He comes out and says the two women are allegories of two covenants. Take that as a hint to look for other parallels between  Hagar typifying the Old Covenant and Sarah typifying the New Covenant. He continues the analogy by stating that Hagar is Mount Sinai and also the present Jerusalem, but Sarah is the new Jerusalem.

Parables are Remez. How many times did Jesus say "the kingdom of heaven is like ..."? One goal was to impart a truth (actually the point was to hide the truth Mt 13:10-11), another was to get the hearers to think. It is said that Jesus spoke to the crowds in Remez (Parable), but spoke to the Pharisees in P'shat (Simple). He spoke the D'rash (Search) only to His disciples, and the Sod (Mystery) only to James, Peter, and John - yesheva4me [2].

D'rash means to dig or to search. Pardes levels can overlap - just like Remez hints at a deeper meaning, something in a verse causes one to dig deeper. According to Wikipedia Midrash [8] "Presence of apparently superfluous words or letters, chronology of events, parallel narratives or other textual anomalies are often a springboard for interpretation of segments of Biblical text." yesheva4me [2] describes D'rash as "peering into the very core and nature of the individual words of the Bible by going back into the original languages, and other texts for the purpose of discovering and understanding intent and ideas." Yet others describe D'rash as a teaching or even a sermon, emphasizing the moral lessons revealed - yashanet [4].

Let me list several examples that might be Remez or D'rash. Perhaps it depends on how deep you dig.
  • Gen 22:3 "So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey." Abraham is about to take his son Isaac to sacrifice him. Why does the Bible record a detail like "he saddled his donkey"? 
  • John 21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn." After Jesus' resurrection, the disciples went fishing unsuccessfully till He came along telling them to throw the net on the right side of the boat. Why does it mention they caught 153 fish?
  • Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness". This verse is a challenge for monotheists who believe God is one being. Who was He talking to then? It can't be the angels, because we are not made in their image.
Sod refers to a hidden or mystical meaning of the text, something not even hinted at by the Simple meaning of the words. Often Sod is associated with Gematria, using the numerical value of letters and words to "hyperlink" words and verses together. The most familiar example is the number or the Beast (666) in Rev 13:18.  Some say Gematria falls between D'rash and Sod. Gematria can be interesting, but also taken too far. Remember, Pardes cannot contradict the Simple meaning of the text. 

Some also teach that Sod is the Zohar of the Kabbalah, the secret of the mystical tradition - Shivim Panim  [5]. I think this leads one away from the intent of Pardes, which is to draw closer to God Himself. I don't believe that one has to seek mysticism to know God, who gives wisdom freely to all who ask - James 1:5.

yesheva4me  [2] argues that the four levels of Pardes correspond to breadth, and length, and depth, and height as desribed by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians. Have you ever wondered why there are four dimensions mentioned here? But notice Paul concludes by saying the love of Christ passes knowledge.

Ephesians 3
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

So What's That Got To Do With π?

One last example of Pardes, in keeping with Pi Day 2016. Consider the following verse.
"And he made a molten sea [tank], ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and its height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did circle it round about". [Holy Scriptures, p. 412]

The observant reader will note that this implies π = 3. Every school child knows that's not (quite) right. Various mathematicians and historians have assumed the ancient Hebrews thought exactly that based on this verse - Belaga [9]. We have a hint (Remez) to dig deeper (D'rash). Possible explanations.
  • Priests aren't expected to know math. Except they did the calendar calculations.
  • The value of π wasn't known then. Except the Egyptians knew it before this.
  • The laver described was an ellipse. Nope, it says it was circular.
  • The value of π isn't the point of the story. True, but ...
  • Dig deeper.
Diving into the original Hebrew, we see the word line is translated from qaveh, but the margin says qav. The margin is what is read aloud, the text is what is written. Additionally, this verse is repeated word for word in 2 Chr 4:2, except that line is translated from qav not qaveh. Diving even deeper (Sod), the gematria value of qaveh is 111, value of qav is 106. The written value divided by the read aloud value becomes a correction factor for π = 3. The understanding of this correction factor is attributed to Rabbi Max Munk, 1962 - Belaga [9] (who gives much more detail than I give here). It is unclear whether Munk rediscovered it or whether it was passed on to him.

π = 3 x 111/106 = 3.1415094...

Remarkable isn't it? On a 10 cubit circle, the error in circumference (about 47 feet) from true π is about a half inch or ten millimeters.

Of course, it might be coincidence.