If you have grown any kind of plants, you realize all plants don’t root or grow alike. Some have deep, spreading, tough roots—like maple trees and weeds like red root and morning glory—while others have very shallow, surface roots.
Some make tubers—food reserves that equip the plant to grow and grow and grow.
This lesson is about the Jerusalem Artichoke, a perennial sunflower grown for its potato-like tubers. These sweet, nutty tubers, produced in abundance, are also known as sunchokes.
The plants grow fast and multiply easily. But sometimes this means TOO fast and TOO easily.
I don’t remember why or when we decided to try growing Jerusalem artichokes. But I surely remember the process of getting rid of them! Nothing easy!
The second year, when they started popping up all over an area of the garden where they had been, we realized we had a problem. They were not friendly. We wanted them OUT. Pretty blossoms, but all the rest for us was negative. They were TOO prolific.
We started by pulling up the plants. Easy.
But the next year we had MORE than EVER!
Getting rid of them was a process. No easy pull-and-compost as you would do with weeds like creeping Charlie or Purslane. If you pulled a Jerusalem Artichoke, you wouldn’t likely get it “all” because the tubers underground would break off and pieces be left behind.
You know the rest. Those broken tubers quickly established more and more that would be ready to come up and thrive the following year.
Isn’t this a parable of our old nature, our “animal” nature, and how easily it propagates and spreads?
Moses’ law was designed to keep down this old nature. That was the reason for ths law’s firm “Don’t” or “Thou shalt not.” But didwork? Not unless the people obeyed it.
The law said:
Exodus 23:2 2Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
Doing evil was a lack of integrity. The New Jerusalem Bible makes the last phrase clearer. God knew how strong the pull to be popular. The New Jerusalem Bible words it:
Exodus 23:2 (NJB) 2You will not be led into wrong-doing by the majority nor, when giving evidence in a lawsuit, side with the majority to pervert the course of justice;
Siding with the majority would make anyone “feel good,” like the politicians today. More people would support them to be on the “please everybody” side.
The Jerusalem Artichoke way.
Shall we say evil is contagious? It seemed that way in Israel. And these lessons were written for us to learn from.
The apostle John made the same lesson.
3 John 11 11Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen [known] God.
It is all about who we choose to imitate or follow. “Do not imitate evil” if you want God’s approval. Imitate the good to become good. Imitate what is evil, we soon get accustomed to evil and are ready to do the same. It is the Artichoke lesson.
This lesson is strongly illustrated in Scripture from the days of the kings of Judah. A notorious king named Manasseh. Let’s read to get a little background.
Manasseh was the son of the good king Hezekiah.
2 Chronicles 33:1–2 1Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.
That’s a long reign, 55 years all together.
What did he do that was so evil? About everything a king at that time could do. Let’s read it from the New Living Translation.
2 Chronicles 33:3–9 (NLT) 3He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father, Hezekiah, had broken down. He constructed altars for the images of Baal and set up Asherah poles. He also bowed before all the powers of the heavens and worshiped them. 4He built pagan altars in the Temple of the Lord, the place where the Lord had said, “My name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” 5He built these altars for all the powers of the heavens in both courtyards of the Lord’s Temple.
As if this wasn’t enough, he went further. How could he be so wicked!
6Manasseh also sacrificed his own sons in the fire in the valley of Ben-Hinnom. He practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the Lord’s sight, arousing his anger.
And there was more.
7Manasseh even took a carved idol he had made and set it up in God’s Temple, the very place where God had told David and his son Solomon: “My name will be honored forever in this Temple and in Jerusalem—the city I have chosen from among all the tribes of Israel.
Everything possible to DIS-honor God! God had said,
8If the Israelites will be careful to obey my commands—all the laws, decrees, and regulations given through Moses—I will not send them into exile from this land that I set aside for your ancestors.” 9But Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land.
Multiplying evil. Think of it – they were doing WORSE than the pagan nations God had destroyed when they entered Canaan. How? By setting the worst possible example, Manasseh let them deeper and deeper into sin.
Now the Lord speaks:
2 Chronicles 33:10 (NLT) 10The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings.
They ignored God’s warnings. It was time for action.
2 Chronicles 33:11 (NLT) 11So the Lord sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.
God’s patience with them was spent. Time for protection was past. God was working with this little nation, and making them a lesson for all to come. The proud, God-defying king was led to Babylon like a wild animal.
Reaction? Manasseh started to think!
2 Chronicles 33:12 12Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
A change of attitude. What we call a 180.
2 Chronicles 33:13 13[Manasseh humbled himself] and prayed to [the Lord his God]; and …
God heard him? Do we know the meaning of God’s MERCY?!
13[Manasseh humbled himself] and prayed to [the Lord his God]; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom.
After all that wickedness God would hear and bring the wicked king back! What MERCY!
2 Chronicles 33:13 1Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
Manasseh made a REAL change and started taking definite steps to turn the nation back to God. We read:
2 Chronicles 33:15–16 15He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. 16He also repaired the altar of the Lord, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.
Now comes the Jerusalem Artichoke lesson. Can you imagine what it is?
2 Chronicles 33:17 17Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to the Lord their God.
Those underground tubers of evil, hundreds or thousands of pieces of them, all broken up, were still there, and kept on growing. The people were so deep into sin, they could not leave it. It was in their hearts, they did not have a heart for God.
Just like the tubers we easily plant but NOT get rid of, so Manasseh with all his good turn back to God could not pull out the evil he had planted in the nation.
It is the reality of BAD INFLUENCE.
This is why it is so important NOT to expose OUR minds to the evil that is all around us. It is easier to fall into sin than to get out of it.
We have to be diligent to keep our own thoughts on track. What does the proverb say?
Proverbs 4:23 23Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
Manasseh changed himself, and God granted him mercy, but the people did NOT change. Evil continued to thrive.
The story is summarized for us:
2 Chronicles 33:18–20 18Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, his prayer to his God, and the words of the seers who spoke to him in the name of the Lord God of Israel, indeed they are written in the book of the kings of Israel. 19Also his prayer and how God received his entreaty, and all his sin and trespass, and the sites where he built high places and set up wooden images and carved images, before he was humbled, indeed they are written among the sayings of Hozai. 20So Manasseh rested with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house. Then his son Amon reigned in his place.
The next chapter was more evil, more trespass, with Amon his son, until the next generation. We can see why Josiah had to make so great an effort to return the people to God.
It is the reality of bad company, bad associations, bad media, entertainment, and all the rest. It is the inborn love of “blend in,” follow the crowd, “do as we please and forget God” that we see today. Evil influence is deep, and hard to pull out. And how easily it spreads.
The blossoms may be bright, but the end is death. God WILL have the last word. As the Psalmist says,
Psalm 9:17 17The wicked shall be turned into hell [the grave, death, sheol], And all the nations that forget God.
This earth is HIS property! He will have HIS people, and the rest will be GONE. The Psalmist says it again,
Psalm 50:22 22“Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:
But from the other side, the very next verse of promise:
Psalm 50:23 23Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”
Sin is deadly. We don’t ever want to plant it or take hold of it in any form, lest we can’t let it go; remember Adam and Eve; remember Solomon.
There are many parallels in life where it is easy to plant, hard to pull, or easy to grab and hard to let go. Once established, it is hard to irradicate.
Prov. 14:12 12There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”
Sin is exciting, but addictive. Think twice before you grab hold of it. Vengeance, lying, adultery, drugs, alcohol, and the list goes on and on.
But it is all DEADLY!
When sin is tempting, turn away, pass it by, don’t even look at it! We want LIFE, not Death!