More blue flowers from the book of Isaiah! Succeeding flax’s showy bloom from the last post comes nigella’s star-studded drift, keeping a spring Bible garden full of mesmerizing attraction and its gardener full of insight for God’s next move. A flourishing bed of nigella is sure to please your eye with its delicate, five-petaled flourish and misty-leaved habit, enchanting and graceful to gaze on. Every cottage-style garden needs nigella flowers! This unique plant appears in a special passage of Isaiah 28—sort of. Rarely are these background beauties mentioned by name, an irony we will touch on next. Instead, translators assign dill, caraway, black cumin, fennel or fitches as the spice plant paired with cumin to teach us about God’s know-how.
Yet a quick dig into the Hebrew word qetsach, easily accessible at BlueLetterBible.com, reveals the most probable botanical name, Nigella sativa. Now we can storm seed catalogs with accuracy and draw near to God’s wonder by sowing these dazzling testimonies nearby.
Nigella Flowers in Isaiah 28
Despite the horticultural sleuthing to uncover the right spice-flower, this passage relays straightforward, common sense when it comes to planting and harvesting food crops.
Listen to me; listen, and pay close attention. Does a farmer always plow and never sow? Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting? Does he not finally plant his seeds—black cumin[nigella], cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat—each in its proper way, and each in its proper place? The farmer knows just what to do, for God has given him understanding. Isaiah 28:23-26 NLT
What is the take-away from these Words for us this spring? There are many layers and lessons for reflection, and my favorite detail is the level of precise detail that God refers to in cultivating the various crops: He knows. He is aware and attentive to the appropriate tools, methods, and “proper places” for each kind of crop. When I was first getting to know God, I was astounded to learn that He cared and was cognizant of the details of life on earth—and each of our lives on earth. I had assumed Him too lofty and lordly to pay attention to such miniscule matters.
click to this devotion on nigella, focused on the fact that The Lord Knows: Planting Nigella & Cumin
But today’s take-away is to pay attention—right there in the beginning, verse 23. It is time for each of us to listen for the Lord’s voice and pay attention to what He tells us. Be expecting God to speak or communicate personally: maybe noticing a little flower blooming or a perking up to bird’s song and singing-along; maybe a certain Scripture resounds in your heart or you actually hear His voice. Many other instances in the Bible reiterate the practice of cultivating God-awareness:
“But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say.” Job 33:1 NIV
My child, pay attention to my words; listen closely to what I say. Proverbs 4:20 NCV
Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Proverbs 7:24 NIV
Samuel said, “Does the Lord take as much pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Know this! To obey is better than sacrifice, and to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 EHV
Oh, that you were not so proud and stubborn! Then you would listen to the Lord, for he has spoken. Jeremiah 13:15 TLB
The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.” Ezekiel 40:4 NIV
He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter a time of trial.” Luke 22:46 MOUNCE
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1 NIV
It is the urgency in the Isaiah 28 passage that I am noticing for the first time; never before have I understood these Words in a prophetic way. “Does a farmer keep plowing forever?” presses the Lord through the prophet’s questions (Isaiah 28:24). The passage goes on to relay that though the steps of the harvesting process are intricate and involved, they do not carry on incessantly:
Fennel [nigella] must not be threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin. Grain must be crushed for bread, but it cannot be done so to excess; one maneuvers the cartwheels and the horses but is careful not to grind it too fine. Isaiah 28:27-28 NCB
In this recounting, mindful of the ins and outs of gathering harvests and their processing needs, can you hear the subtle implication of fulfillment? Do you hear the Lord’s hastening ‘enough already,’ his thrust towards progress, but not excessive action? Listen again. Can you hear His hinting that He has shifted things? The time of metaphorical threshing, crushing, and rolling over by the enemy is complete, and we are entering a new era, moving on in His plan.
What happens next? Here the details end, and we are planted in a glorious conclusion of praise, veiling the mystery of His next move but positioning us for His magnificence. Let multiple translations amplify your worship and lead your thoughts to the fullness of His wonder—this is the way to be ready.
This also is come forth from the Lord God of hosts, to make his counsel wonderful, and magnify justice. Isaiah 28:29 DRA
This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. Isaiah 28:29 KJV
This counsel also comes from Lord Yahweh, Commander of Angel Armies. For his guidance is unfathomable, and the heavenly wisdom he imparts is magnificent. Isaiah 28:29 TPT
The farmer knows how to treat each kind of grain. He’s learned it all from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who knows everything about when and how and where. Isaiah 28:29 The Message
Being a wise, knowledgeable, practical planner, the Lord will surely command a wonderful, magnificent outcome ahead, and it is our work to pay attention and be watching to see it fulfilled (Jeremiah 1:11).
Starry Host in Isaiah 40
Now gardeners, we have additional insight to God’s next move by growing the nigella flowers from Isaiah 28. As the drift blooms with star-shaped flowers tucked among wispy, mist-like foliage, we can easily imagine a vision of the “starry host,” a description drifting to mind from Isaiah 40.
Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26 HCSB
Remember the irony we would find? Nigella, though never quite mentioned by name, or rather, that goes by a confusion of names, has a stellar loveliness, which can remind us of God who knows every star exactly by name. O garden humor! Connecting to this full passage, Isaiah 40:21–31, also confirms the Lord’s command over earthly processes and refers to sowing seeds, this time as a metaphor for the destiny of earthly rulers.
He reduces princes to nothing, the rulers of the earth to emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely their stem taken root in the ground, when he blows on them, they dry up, and the whirlwind carries them off like straw. Isaiah 40:23-24 CJB
This passage also encourages us to listen and leads us to reverent awe and praise:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Was it not told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the founding of the earth? Isaiah 40:21 NABRE
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. Isaiah 40:28 HCSB
Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? Haven’t you heard these stories all your life? Don’t you understand the foundation of all things? God sits high above the round ball of earth. Isaiah 40:21-22 The Message
Concluding Prayer: Almighty Lord, Holy Creator, You work in quietness (Mark 6:31) and dramatic miracles (Exodus 9-12), yet either way you alert your people to your next moves (John 13:19). Bless me to be awake and watchful, with a renewed strength and soaring energy (Isaiah 40:31). Show me where I am working excessively (Isaiah 28:27) and direct me straight to your “when and how and where” (Isaiah 28:29 The Message). Help me to trust you in a more magnificent way and keep me from drifting away (Hebrews 2:1). Lord, I love You—entwine my heart with You* (Isaiah 40:31 TPT). I want to be with You and watch your wonderful works! How wonderful You are. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
Yes, we have the prophetic Word made very certain. You will do well to pay attention to it as to a light shining in a dark, murky place, until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19 CJB
Find “N is for Nigella” in the A-to-Z Primer of Plants from God’s Word
Read about nigella in “He Knows,” a devotion from the Intimacy with God in the Garden series from Garden Stories in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, page 975.
Photo Credits: ©2022 Shelley S. Cramm photos taken this spring in our Texas garden, all of these nigella flowers reseeded from last year’s bloom, what a delight!
CJB notes Scripture quotations taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
DRA denotes the Douay–Rheims Bible is a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English made by members of the Catholic seminary English College, Douai, France. It was first published in America in 1790 by Mathew Carey of Philadelphia. Several American editions followed in the 19th and early 20th centuries; prominent among them the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition Version. This edition of the text has been converted from the 1899 edition of the John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland, and is in the Public Domain.
EHV notes Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version®, EHV®, © 2019 Wartburg Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
HCSB denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
KJV denotes Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version published in 1611, authorized by King James I of England, which is public domain in the United States.
MSG denotes Scripture quotations taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.
NCB denotes Scripture taken from the SAINT JOSEPH NEW CATHOLIC BIBLE® Copyright © 2019 by Catholic Book Publishing Corp. Used with permission. All rights reserved.”
NCV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
MOUNCE denotes Scripture quotations from “Mounce Reverse Interlinear™ New Testament,” a copyrighted title of William D. Mounce. “Reverse Interlinear” is a trademark of William D. Mounce, www.billmounce.com/reverse-interlinear
NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®
TLB denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. The Living Bible, TLB, and the The Living Bible logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers
TPT denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ThePassionTranslation.com
*TPT notes on Isaiah 40:31 reveal “entwine” as a nuance of what happens as we wait on the Lord