Summary: Isaiah speaks of the crocus, lending hope to the people of ancient Israel and to us as well
Behold the Crocus!” Isaiah 35: 1,2
Writing in 700 B.C. about the return of the people Israel to their homeland following what would be a time of Exile in Babylon, the prophet spoke about the desert bursting into bloom. But he doesn’t just speak in broad terms about “flowers”—he speaks specifically of the CROCUS, which will spring forth from the land causing it to “REJOICE.”
The crocus that is mentioned is of the species “colchium autumnale; ” in the Hebrew, “Habazeleth.” It is otherwise known as the “autumn crocus” or “winter crocus.”
It is one of the earliest plants to bloom in Palestine, after the long hot days of summer. It only stands between one and three inches high, little more than a small flower on a stem, in the colors you’d expect of a crocus, basically yellow or purple. It’s not a particularly large flower, nor does it have an exceptionally long period of bloom, but makes quite a splash in mass!
What makes the crocus UNIQUE among the flowers is when and where it blooms. It blooms in the desert, and at the end of what is normally a long, tough, dry summer in Israel. Its bloom is heralded by the autumn rains, and sometimes even blooms in anticipation of the rains; almost miraculously, it seems to sense when the life giving rains are coming.
Understandably, the appearance of the crocus for the people of Palestine was a welcome sight, after a long, hot dry summer. We can relate to this somewhat given our experience with our spring crocus. In our part of the world, the crocus is usually the first of the flowers signaling the end of winter, often emerging through the last of the winter snows. As such, it is the first sign of new life; a hopeful sign of life, at a time when MOST of the world is still frozen and grey.
As I’ve already mentioned, in Israel, crocus bloom during the fall and winter, in dry and rocky desert places. A COLORFUL CACOPHONY of life where life just days earlier seemed in impossibility.
The people of ancient Israel would have been well acquainted with the bright yellow and purple blooms. And they would have known the HOPE that is birthed of the sight of such bloom. Such hope was much needed, of course. Upon their return, they would find their homeland destroyed. It would be a long, tough process of reclamation and rebuilding for the “ransomed of the Lord’ returning to Israel. But the crocus represented to them a future bright with possibilities.
Of course, this prophecy concerning the crocus, and the blossoming of the desert, as a word of Prophecy, looked ahead to the coming of the Messiah, and the new life Jesus would bring though the forgiveness of sin by way of his life, death and resurrection. And it will reach its ultimate fulfillment when Jesus returns in glory.
We of course live in between the first coming of Messiah and his coming again, but these words have profound implications for us as well. For all practical purposes, these are desert dry times in which we live, and many have lost hope or are losing hope. These words are meant for us too, to comfort us and inspire us.
In February, 1883, the famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, wrote to his brother, Theo: “If one looks closely, one sees that there’s a kind of gospel on the first day of spring. On such a day, so many grey, withered faces come out of doors, not to do anything in particular, but as if to convince themselves that spring has indeed come. All kinds of people that you wouldn’t’ expect, crowd around a spot in the market where a trader is selling crocus.”
So perhaps there is a sweet spot in all that we are currently enduring, that some will come out to see what all this hopeful talk about Christ, so often overlooked, is about!
And for us, too, who need encouragement: God’s Word imparts hope for the future, and lends us eyes to see signs of life springing up around us.