Does anyone know the difference between a briar and a bramble? There isn’t any except the spelling. Where do I start? I think I will begin with blackberry bushes. These bushes provoke rich images for me growing up in South Georgia. They grew along the fence rows that separated our land from the dirt road that runs through the memories of my mind. To get to the delicacies of the blackberry you had to beware of the briars and the rattlesnakes. Walking back from the blackberry patch there would be bloody hands mingled with the blackberry juice and stories about rattlesnakes. Our lips were also stained with the succulent juice. My mother would strain the juice through a muslin cloth and make blackberry cobbler. My wife does too, except she won’t strain out the seeds as my mother did. Enough said. Another memory of briars and brambles was getting stuck in a patch of them, often barefooted, and the painful process of getting untangled. Now my mind jumps to the Johnny Horton song about the Battle of New Orleans where the enemy was routed through the briars and the brambles and the bushes where the rabbits wouldn’t go which reminds me of the Uncle Remus story about Bur Rabbit and the Briar Patch. I feel better now that I have gotten all my briar references out of my system.
Hosea wrote, “Briars will take over your treasures of silver; brambles will fill your homes.” (Hosea 9:12) Okay one more briar reference. The scene is set in either the jungle or some dense wooded area. Explorers or those simply lost will stumble on some old home or mansion that has been taken over by vines, bushes, briars, brambles, birds, and snakes. The jungle has a way of reclaiming its territory. This happened at my grandfather’s house. The yard grew up and engulfed that old house where I had sat with my grandfather eating boiled peanuts and drinking sweet tea. I watch a YouTube video recently about Gary, Indiana which is named after Mr. Gary who established a steel mill on the banks of Lake Michigan. Most of the town is boarded up. They showed an old dilapidated Methodist church. In its day it was beautiful rivaling churches in New York in their architectural construction. It was sad to see what the years and the graffiti artists have done.
Israel is heading in the direction of Gary, Indiana. Their cities are going to be destroyed. Vegetation will reclaim the space. There will be no one to cut the grass and weed eat. No one will edge the sidewalks. No one will trim the hedges. Israel’s plight was not neglect. It was war. When buildings are bombed out and burned it influences property values. If the property loses its value, then no one wants to invest in keeping it up. In fact, there may be no one left to keep it up. When there is a hole in your roof from a missile strike you are not thinking about the briars that are slowly growing up around your house. Hosea was painting a picture for the people of God who had shacked up with Baal and who were facing destruction at the hands of Assyria. To the Assyrian’s credit, they did bring in some foreigners to help take care of the land. These foreigners intermarried with the poor folks who stayed behind after the invasion creating the Samaritan people.
Too many people are being taken over by spiritual briars and brambles. These weeds are choking out the word of God (Matthew 13) and making a productive harvest impossible. We tolerated the blackberry bushes with briars because at least they gave us blackberries. But most briar bushes only give you bloody legs and fingers. We each need a master gardener to tend our property so that the briars and the brambles do not take over.