Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Tola'at Shani

There is an interesting specimen in God's creation that was once raised for a very specific purpose.  It is called the "tola'at shani" worm, or more commonly called the "tola worm," or the "crimson" or "scarlet" grub.

In ancient times, the worm was bred and cultivated by the Jews and other nations, specifically for the purpose of dying cloth.  Once the worm reached maturity, it was crushed and dried and its deep-red blood was used to dye the temple garments prescribed by God.  The color that would permeate the cloth would never fade or wash out.  But the most interesting fact about the tola worm is in its stages of growth and how it continues life after its death.

The tola, which is quite rare, begin as larvae that morph into a small worm.  At this stage in its life, it inches itself up into the branches of an oak tree and attaches itself there where it lays its eggs.  The blood from the dying adult worm incubates the eggs and when they are hatched, its body becomes food for the newly arrived larvae.  All that remains from the giver of this life is a deep crimson stain on the branch of the tree.
Are you ready for the best part?  After three days, the blood red stain on the branch turns white and falls from the tree like snow.

"But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people." Psalm 22:6
It is extremely hard to think that our Savior would ever be described as a worm.  Because of a worm's position in creation, it is often referred to as the least of God's creatures, crawling along the ground to be trod upon by man's feet, and is often used as a derogative in conveying disgust or disdain for a certain person.  Scripture also uses the term to demonstrate the condition of mankind and the eternal ruin of which they will be a part (Isaiah 14:11; 66:24).  But in Psalm 22, verse 6, the implication is related to how mankind will look upon Jesus Christ when He entered the world.  He would be viewed as having the attributes of a worm: hated and despised, and the things He came to preach would be ridiculed and rejected (Isaiah 53:2-4).

I have always thought that the metaphor was a striking one in relation to the death of this lowly worm and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The poet in me sees the beauty of one of God's smallest creatures helping to fulfill required functions in the temple and the scarlet color adorning the priest's garments as they offered their sacrifices upon the altar, depicting what was to later come (Ex. 39:27-29).

Although we must view this merely as a metaphor, when one meditates upon the resemblance, the distinctions between the two are striking:

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him, in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)

Much like the worm, Jesus Christ entered this world as a lowly babe, born in a stable of animals that even the poorest of men would look upon as unacceptable. 

"For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect  suffering."  (Heb. 2:10)
As the worm gives up its life for the sake of its offspring, Jesus, reaching the age of His life to fulfill God's plan, willingly crawled upon a tree, the cross, and fixed Himself firmly there to sacrifice His life for His children. 

"For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."  (2Cor. 5:21)

Jesus poured out His blood in order for His children to be reconciled to God and be given eternal life.  As the worm became food for its eggs, Jesus Christ, the Bread and Water of Life, is given to us as a surety of God's promise. 

"And He had took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body which is given for you Do this in remembrance of Me.' And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood...For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined...' "  (Luke 22:19-20, 22)

And three days later, He rose, robed in the pure whiteness of righteousness, forever defeating death and securing life eternal for all who will believe. 

" 'Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.'  And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest."  (Luke 24:5-9)

From the Temple Institute
The tola worm truly does fascinate me, but only because its life and death so closely mirrors that of our Savior's, and that its blood is used to dye garments worn by the Jewish priests in the Temple.

We should be careful how we view Scripture and the minute details contained within it by avoiding the error of applying metaphors where they have no place.  However, I think it's okay to occasionally take a closer look at the little things that pique our curiosity.  At the very least, it can be a reminder of the sacrifice that was made, and the tremendous love He has for His children, by viewing this tiny creature as an example of the death, resurrection, and ascension of our LORD Jesus Christ.

Besides, anything that reminds us of Jesus and His work on the cross is a very, very good thing.

I would like to end with the following story, told in J.C. Ryle's book, "Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrance, Difficulties, and Roots."  

"Man," said a thoughtless, ungodly English traveler to a North American Indian convert, "Man, what is the reason that you make so much of Christ, and talk so much about Him?  What has this Christ done for you, that you should make so much ado about Him?"
The converted Indian did not answer him in words.  He gathered together some dry leaves and moss and made a ring with them on the ground.  He picked up a live worm and put it in the middle of the ring.  He struck a light and set the moss and leaves on fire.  The flame soon rose and the heat scorched the worm.  It writhed in agony, and after trying in vain to escape on every side, curled itself up in the middle, as if about to die in despair.
At that moment, the Indian reached forth his hand, took up the worm gently and placed it on his bosom.  "Stranger," he said to the Englishman, "Do you see that worm?  I was that perishing creature.  I was dying in my sins, hopeless, helpless, and on the brink of eternal fire.  It was Jesus Christ who put forth the arm of His power.  It was Jesus Christ who delivered me with the hand of His grace, and plucked me from everlasting burnings.  It was Jesus Christ who placed me, a poor sinful worm, near the heart of His love.  Stranger, that is the reason why I talk of Jesus Christ and make much of Him.  I am not ashamed of it, because I love Him."



mike wooten said...

In regard to "being born in a stable," Yeshua, (YAH saves) more than likely was born at Sukkot and was born in a sukkah.

fanny rumthe said...

I am very Blessed.