Psalm 22:6 – But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. (KJV)
Recently, I began teaching a Bible study series that focuses on the Old Testament tabernacle. I use slides and other materials to explain its significance in Israel's history. In every detail, there's something fascinating to be learned. Even the colour scheme of the tabernacle — white, blue, purple, and scarlet — had a profound symbolic meaning. For example, scarlet was made from a dye produced by a special type of worm, and this little worm provides remarkable parallels to the gospel story.
Psalm 22 is called the psalm of the cross. Amazingly, it depicts the crucifixion of Christ a thousand years in advance. Moreover, in today's verse, the Messiah is described as one of the lowliest creatures on earth: a worm. However, the word for worm in the Hebrew is not rimmah, which refers to a maggot, but rather it is tola'ath, referring to the scarlet worm, a scale insect of the species Kermes vermilio.
This particular insect is quite interesting. Before the adult female is about to lay her eggs, she attaches herself firmly to the trunk of a tree, usually the low, shrub-like Palestine Oak. With a waxy secretion, she builds a hardened shell around herself, and lays her eggs under her body. When the larvae hatch, not only does her shell provide them protection, but they also receive nourishment from her dead body. After a period of three days, the larvae leave the shell, and the lifeless body of this tiny creature can be scraped from the tree and used for scarlet dye. When it's crushed, it gives off a fragment aroma.
Food for thought: In what ways does the scarlet worm illustrate our Lord's sacrificial death on a tree and the new life that He has brought forth as a result of His sufferings?
Let us stop for a moment and reflect on the story of tola'ath. During this Lenten season, may it inspire us to dig deeper, exploring other hidden nuggets of truth contained in God's Word.
Prayer: Lord, we acknowledge that You are the great "I AM", yet You humbly came to us declaring, "I am a worm, and no man." In Your manifold wisdom, even a lowly worm provides a beautiful picture of Calvary's cross and the fragrant offering of Your sacrificial love. Now, O God, open our eyes to the unsearchable riches of Your grace and the treasures that are ours in Christ Jesus before the world began. In His precious name, we pray. Amen.
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