Sunday, January 15, 2017

ANISE: Bible Plants Series

Anise plays an unusual part in the Scripture. Most often in modern times we see its familiar star shape in potpourris because it adds visual interest, but in Biblical times anise was used to treat indigestion and other internal needs. The Romans would make cakes with anise in them for the end of a gluttonous feast to reduce the consequences of taking in a lot of rich food.

One of the most surprising uses for anise, of which our scripture reference alludes to, is that it was used as currency. People would pay in anise for goods and services rendered. My loving husband chimed in here: “Aha! Money does grow on trees!” Well, it did in Jesus’s day and He had something to say about it.

Jesus speaks of anise smack dab in the middle of his accusation and sentencing of the Pharisees. You remember the “Woe to the scribes and Pharisees” part of Matthew 23, well lets look at verse 23:
  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23)

They paid their tithes with anise! That’s bananas! Well, it’s actually anise! That’s anise!

Why would this be something that Jesus commented on? It’s pretty specific.

Matthew Henry elaborates in his commentary that Jesus was saying that the Pharisees paid their normal tithe, but on top of it they paid with these herbs and seeds. It wasn’t that they did this that bothered Jesus, it was their motive behind it. They did it to be seen. They did it to show off. “Look we tithe of everything we have even our plants tithe.” They did it to influence the priests and defraud the congregation. Why was it fraud? Because it basically cost them nothing to pluck it from their gardens and deposit it at the Temple.

When King David faced a similar dilemma in 1 Chronicles 21:24, we see him basically saying I will not offer God anything that costs me nothing.

Jesus wanted the scribes and Pharisees to continue keeping the law, but he did not want them to forsake the things that were most important to God. Like, “justice and mercy and faith.” The entire letter of the law is important to God, but some parts are weightier than others. These are the parts that deal with our internal beliefs, our self-denial, and our posture before God.

The Pharisees were walking by people that were hurting and hungry everyday to deliver their tithes. Then they were condemning the people for not following the law like they did. Jesus always called out the hypocrites.

Jesus referred to the “weightier matters of the law” from Micah 6:8:

“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?”

To obey is better than sacrifice. Mercy is also preferred before sacrifice.

“God will be honored in His truths as well as His laws.” – Matthew Henry

I want to examine my own heart and life and ask, “Have any of my ‘sacrifices’, my offerings to God, become anise? Are there things that I am offering that cost me nothing but I am using them to get me out of a true sacrifice? Have you any anise?

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