Sunday, April 24, 2016

I Am A Worm - Gospel In A Grub

"I am a worm, and not a man
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
All who see me sneer at me;"
Psalm 22:6

When I read that, I always pictured an earthworm, the kind we use for fishing around here. And it struck me as a statement of utter humility, after all, what could be lower than an earthworm? We also know that Psalm 22 was on Jesus' mind while He was on the cross. He spoke only seven times (at least that's how many are recorded), and the fourth thing He said was "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" which is Psalm 22:1. Some speculate that Jesus recited the entire Psalm 22 to leave no doubt it referred to Him.

Coccus Ilicis

But, Jesus was not thinking of earthworms in Psalm 22. Digging deeper we learn that there are two words for worm in Hebrew, one meaning maggot (rimmah), and the other meaning crimson worm (tola'at shani) - Lori Pagel [1]. Apparently no earthworms. The word in Psalm 22:6 is tola'at shani. Shani is another word for red, tola'at is the actual worm, a grub that is red in color, even used for dye. Its Latin name is coccus ilicis. People used to think it was part of the plant - Chris W. Clark [2]. What is so special about a red grub worm that Jesus would liken Himself to it?

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The Gospel In A Grub Worm

Let's look at how this grub worm has parallels with the life and death of Jesus. We can start with what I mentioned above, that for centuries, people did not realize the  tola'at was a worm. And for centuries, many people have not realized that Jesus is the Messiah, especially in His time here on earth.

Feed On Me

When the female tola'at is ready to lay eggs, she climbs an oak tree, a fencepost, or a stick, and attaches herself so permanently that removing her would kill her. She makes a crimson shell at this time that stains the wood and her eventual young - Discover Creation [3]. On the cross (wood), Jesus spilled His blood, no doubt staining the wood. We, His spiritual children, symbolically wear His blood inside and out which protects us.

The tola'at lays her eggs under her protective shell, and the larvae are nourished by eating the living flesh of their mother Discover Creation [3]. Referring to Passover,  Jesus said we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood - John 6:53. During His final Passover, He made the connection that the wine (always red wine) served represented His blood of the New covenant.

Passover Wine and Matzo

John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."

But "consuming Jesus" is not a one time event, it's a daily thing. He is the Bread of life, He is the Word. Man is to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. He is our daily bread. He is our manna from heaven. You might say the Bible is Jesus in print.

From Crimson To White

When the larvae can fend for themselves, the mother tola'at dies. After three days, her body turns into white wax and falls to the ground like snow - Chris W. Clark [2]. After Jesus' death, He was three days in the tomb. And then what happens?

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 

Be Healed 

The tola'at historically had medicinal value too - Omega Mann [4]. In the Old Testament, we read of God as YHVH Rapha, Yehovah our Healer. We recognize that healing takes place because of the sacrifice of Jesus.

Isaiah 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

Be Cleansed

Slaying the Red Heifer
Most people don't eat worms. I, like a lot of people, would consider them Biblically unclean. Yet the tola'at worm is an ingredient in the cleansing ashes made from the red heifer. These ashes were used to cleanse a person who was defiled by a corpse. Where it reads "scarlet material" in Numbers 19:6, the Hebrew actually says tola'at shani, the scarlet grub. I have not uncovered an explanation of why an unclean worm should be part of this particular sacrifice. [A friend sent me a link to an article by chabad [5] which says we can't understand this command. Obey even if you don't understand. Apr 25, 2016]
Numbers 19:6 The priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet material and cast it into the midst of the burning heifer.

All of nature points to God in some way, but this little grub worm is called out specifically as pointing to Jesus our Messiah, from the blood color to the life saving properties to the way it nourishes its young. Yet another wonder hidden in the Torah.