Have you Ever Considered the Lilies of the Field? - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonArticles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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The human mind cannot fathom what God has done in creation from beginning to end. It is unfathomable. Men are unable to comprehend the works of God even in the finite universe. At our best, we apprehend a fraction of His general revelation and creation. This limited universe holds out innumerable wonders before the scientific prowess of human beings. In this arena we are able observe the qualities of the Creator’s powers in everything that is made. The universe declares God’s invisible attributes and divine power with an unhindered temper (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:18ff). In the great scheme of God’s handiwork, there is much we take for granted. Oftentimes, we do not stop to smell the roses, much less wonder about their design. Yet, considering such “trivial” matters as the lilies of the field may help us to appreciate the care of God over the everyday necessities of our lives.
In dealing with the providence and government of God, the Lord Jesus says that we should consider the lilies of the field. “And why ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the fields, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29) The word “consider” refers to meditation and close scrutiny; to learn thoroughly, examine carefully. The Greek literally reads, “katamanthano” (kat-am-an-than’-o) meaning “to consider well.”
” Here we may become scientists in order to empirically observe the design and care of the Creator over the whole life-schema or phase of a simple plant. Jesus uses the lily as an illustration. Close scrutiny on plants ought not to be limited to just the lilies. They served the example of Christ, but the principle is certainly not restricted to the lily. The principle runs through this vein: if we were to understand the “raiment” of a flower, and God’s government over its intricacies, we would then, understand the care of our Heavenly Father for His children as something infinitely more valuable. He is providing all things for us. Here we take a moment to consider the lilies of the field.
Flowers are given to people for all kinds of reasons: weddings, funerals, births, hospital stays, anniversaries, birthdays, and varied special occasions. We see flowers all over God’s creation. But how much do we really stop to meditate on the wonders of that creation? We could wonder over the ant as Solomon so pondered, or a horse, or a river, or a flower, such as a lily. Yet, with our busy lives we hardly slow down to really appreciate the wonder of God’s creation. Could we take but a moment and think about a flower? Could we become more infatuated with the Maker of the flower instead of simply its pretty appearance? Have you ever thought about the parts of a flower, and the intricacies of their design as a magnificent and wondrous spectacle of God’s power and creative ability?
The beautiful design and components of the varied flowers we admire is actually the reproductive section for flowering plants. Flowering plants are more scientifically known as angiosperms. Flowers (like lilies) are collections of reproductive and sterile tissue arranged in a tight whorled array having very short internodes. The stem with its leaves is the tangible flower itself. It is a branch with nodes which are generally close together and may be spaced apart bilaterally. There are four types of leaves on the plant itself called petals, sepals, stamens, and carpels. There is a short stem or branch called the receptacle. From this receptacle the four kinds of leaves protrude from the base. These leaves are attached in a whorled display which means there are more than two leaves per node.
The four sections of the flower are made up of a variety of intersected parts at those intervals. The stigma, style, locule, ovule, and ovary are at the carpel whorl. The pollen, anther and filament are at the stamen whorl. The petals are attached to the receptacle which is at the corolla whorl. The leaves under the petals, attached right above the pedicel, are in the calyx whorl.
Beginning from the top of the flower, the first whorl on the receptacle (the stem holding the flower) houses the female parts of the flower called the gynoecium. It is composed carpels that may be fused together into a single, complete pistil. Carpels are made up of three parts: an enlarged base called the ovary, a stalk termed the style, and the tip called the stigma (they are usually called pistils in general). The stigma functions as a accessible surface on which pollen lands and germinates its pollen tube. The style serves to move the stigma some distance from the ovary. (This distance is species specific.) The ovary contains a chamber called a locule. Inside this chamber houses the ovule. The ovule (or ovules depending upon if there are more than one) contains an embryo sac. This embryo sac contains the egg of the plant that easily distinguishes the female aspect of the plant.
The next whorl down on the receptacle houses the male parts of the flower. This is termed the androecium. It may be comprised of few, or many, stamens. These stamens are particular leaves having two distinctive sections. The first section is called the filament, which is a long stalk. This filament holds the anther at its end that usually includes four sacs containing the flower’s pollen. What exactly does a filament do? Its job is to boost the anther to a position where it may effectively release the pollen of the flower to the pollinator. It also serves to provide the anther with xylem and phloem connections to the rest of the plant. The xylem and phloem are veins that act as nutrient carriers to these areas of the flower. The anther’s main responsibility is to house the production of pollen grains. As the ovule is the female aspect of the plant, so the pollen grains, which ultimately manufacture sperm cells, are the male aspect of the plant.
The word “pollen” comes from the Greek word palynos meaning “dust.” Pollen grains contain the male gametophyte (microgametophyte) phase of the plant. Pollen grains are produced by meiosis of microspore mother cells that are located along the inner edge of the anther sacs (microsporangia). The outer part of the pollen is the exine, which is composed of a complex polysaccharide, sporopollenin. Inside the pollen are two (or, at most, three) cells that comprise the male gametophyte. The tube cell, which may also be referred to as the tube nucleus, develops into the pollen tube. The germ cell divides by mitosis to produce two sperm cells.
The next whorl, as we work our way down the plant, is called the corolla. It may be prepared with a few petals, or sometimes many petals; this may be seen as with a tulip (which has few) or a daisy (which has many). The petals are usually vibrant and attractive in most flowers, though tastes differ as to the manner of one’s likes and dislikes. I personally love tulips (especially theological tulips!), and my wife loves miniature pink roses. The petals are obviously the most attractive part of the flower since they are often ostentatious and brilliantly colored. Although we are often infatuated with the brilliance of a flower’s petals, God has so designed these petals to attract pollinators from various many species. The pollinator may range from a hummingbird, to a bee. The pollen itself is visible to them in an ultraviolet manner that humans are unable to detect under normal circumstances. The pollinators see this clearly and are able to work effectively as a result. Sometimes the petals of a flower may be quite fragrant, such as with a red rose. And sometimes they made hold a special gift for the pollinator at the base of the flower’s petal: a spur providing a varied amount of nectar which may be eaten or carried away. After the pollinator is finished with his work, he may stay for a treat a while longer, or store it up until he reaches his own home.
The last whorl on the receptacle is the calyx. It is composed of sepals that can vary from just a few, to many. In some varieties of flower sepals are green and may have photosynthetic properties that produces food for the plant and ultimately exude oxygen for human beings. In others they may blend into the petal’s base being virtually undetectable from petals to the untrained eye – they may simply look like petals.
The shape of the flower depends on the attachment of the “organs” of the flower. Some flowers have ovaries in the superior position that means all the other parts of the flower are attached below the ovary on the receptacle. Some flowers may appear to have the ovary entrenched deep into the receptacle; so deeply that the other parts of the flower look as if they are connected on the top of the ovary. In a flower designed in this manner, the ovary is in the inferior position. Flower parts joined below a superior ovary, which are below the female parts of the flower, are called hypogynous. If the flower has parts that are joined above the ovary, these are called epigynous. The ovary contains one or more ovules, which in turn contain one female gametophyte, also referred to in angiosperms as the embryo sac. Some plants have only a single ovary that produces two ovules and only one ovule will develop into a seed.
Interestingly enough, some flowers (in a great number of classes) have both male and female parts. Flowers designed in this way are called “perfect.” These “perfect” (or bisexual) flowers have the ability to self-pollinate. Other flowers not designed by God in such a manner must rely on cross-pollination. These flowers have a built in capacity to recognize their own pollen (amazingly enough) and thus, they do not allow the pollen to grow within the style. This self-incompatibility process forces the plant to be pollinated by another process that requires a pollinator.
There are perfect flowers, and also imperfect flowers. Imperfect flowers are not necessarily imperfect as one would think. I do not mean by some deformity the flower looks odd or strange. “Imperfect” simply infers that they are unisexual flowers. These types of flowers have both male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers in their respective genus. These may appear on the same plant (monoecious), or possibly on two different plants (dioecious) of the same kind. So we see that the range of diversity in a flower’s reproductive organs can be varied and extensive. Yet, in all of this, some flowers also have been given a capacity to change their sex. God’s manner of creation is diverse even in the reproductive aspects of a simple lilium longiforum, or lily.
Now you have a general knowledge of a flower, a lily of the field. We did not discuss the roots or bulb of the plant that sits under the soil and germinates under specific weather conditions. But what has been said in considering the “raiment” of the lily is that which sits above the soil not beneath (though the Lord does tell us to consider how it grows – but that may be saved for another time). If flowers are so clothed in all their beauty, how much more care does the Lord place upon the lives and actions of His elect? If we pause to consider the lilies, then the much larger and more important aspects of a man’s never-dying soul is of almost infinite worth to the Creator. If God is so concerned with a flower, which can be cut down and withered away in a day or two, how much more concerned is God for His people?
In considering the lily, or of any flower, we should pause to think about the Creator of the flower and His providence over our lives. If God has taken such measures to array the flowers with such beauty and mystery, as Jesus so points out, what right do we have in grumbling against the Creator about how we wish things were different for us than providence has allowed. Are we like Tevye from The Fiddler on the Roof, who sang “If I Were A Rich Man,” and constantly grumbled against God’s providence, though he denied that his grumbling was complaining. Rather, we ought to remember that God is intimately acquainted with us in every detail and in every respect; He has so ordered and created us perfectly, even in the Savior Jesus Christ. He orders our steps, and He leads us down every path of righteousness for His name’s sake. Sometimes these paths can be difficult, but worrying about what we shall wear and what we shall eat, and the daily necessities which the Lord has promised to provide is something wicked men do, not redeemed men in Christ. We, then, ought to continually and completely trust in His power to provide all things for us, especially our daily bread. All things are working for our good, even the occasional lack of bread. We are clothed in a righteousness that no lily could ever claim, and so we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. Jesus Christ is our lily of the Valley and bright and morning star. All our needs have been, are, and shall be provided by Him for His own glory. Might we glean all this from considering a lily?