Worms: The Sequel
“But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8
With no inherent sense of direction, I am terrible at reading maps. I still struggle with the basic kindergarten skill of knowing my left from my right. Often, you’ll see my hands by my side making an “L” to verify the direction I should be going. Last summer, after hiking in a nature preserve, my GPS was not picking up any signal, so I turned right (or was it left?). By the time I picked up a satellite signal, I was going in the completely wrong direction, driving about 45 minutes of out my way. Although I was lost, I genuinely enjoyed the drive, looking at old farmhouses, seeing a new apple orchard, and driving through a new town.
When writing for my blog, I often get lost in my research, running down rabbit trails to places I never expected. My husband often helps me focus my thoughts, both verbally and through editing, just like he does when relying on my navigational skills (GPS technology has tremendously blessed our marriage). In my last post, I started researching the lifecycle of worms. I admit part of my fascination with worms stems from finishing the book The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. The book is the memoir of a woman who was incapacitated by a neurological disorder and spent hours watching a snail in a terrarium by her bedside. Her observations inspired me to be more attentive to nature and the creatures around me. Snails are cuter than worms, but God did not inspire me with a shriveled snail, so I researched worms instead.
My research led me to a fascinating scripture in Psalms 22. This psalm, written by David, is considered a prophetic psalm since Jesus spoke the exact words found in verse 1 while hanging on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” David later makes a strong statement in verse 6, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by people.” It is natural to conclude that both David and Jesus are metaphorically referring to themselves as worms, conveying the importance of humility. Most people, except for fishermen and gardeners, pay little attention to the simple worm. These invertebrates get little news in the press for being an essential worker. But after studying the verse more deeply, I discovered some amazing information that has led to this blog, “Worms: The Sequel”.
The Hebrew word “towla”, translated as “worm” in Psalm 22:6, is specifically referring to the coccus ilicis worm, sometimes known as the scarlet worm, found in the Middle East. This is not the ordinary humble earthworm. Instead, David purposely referred to this specific worm, or grub, which has some interesting characteristics. To start with, the red dye excreted from this grub was used for the outer tents of the wilderness tabernacle. It is also likely the same dye used for the scarlet thread stitching in the veil separating the Holy of Holies. The symbolic implications seem obvious thus far, but we have only scratched the surface!
When the female worm is ready to lay her eggs, she climbs up a tree or fence and attaches herself to the wood by forming a hard crimson shell. The shellac she uses to attach herself is so strong one would have to actively scrape her off the wood, killing her in the process. She then lays her eggs underneath the protective shell of her body. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the living body of the mother for three days until she dies. In her death, she secretes a crimson dye that permanently stains her offspring. Her final act is to pull up her tail onto her head, forming a heart-shaped body that is no longer crimson, but has turned into a snow-white waxy shell attached to the wood. It flakes off, dropping to the ground like snow, while her offspring leave their place of birth to start their new life.
The implications of “I am a worm” are so profound, even a great writer could not have so thoroughly connected the details of Jesus’ life to the life of this worm. Jesus, like the mother worm, willingly attached Himself to the cross. Throughout the whole ordeal, Jesus did not struggle against the beatings or the act of the crucifixion. Instead, He knew that the cross was they only way to redeem a lost world. Like the mother worm, Jesus sacrificed his life, including every drop of blood, for our sins. The internal crushing of the mother’s body causes her crimson dye to be secreted on to her offspring just as Jesus “was bruised for our iniquities”, leaving a mark on our lives. Even as the white flakes of the dead worm fall to the ground, scripture declares in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool.” Our sins are made clean! As the death of the worm signifies new life for her offspring, Jesus’ death and resurrection signifies new life for us and hope for eternity!
Today, scientists have discovered some new purposes for this insignificant worm that parallel the life of Jesus. For example, the crushed worm has been used in medicines that help regulate the heart. We often come to Jesus with brokenness and use phrases like “broken-hearted” to describe our pain. Scripture declares in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in Spirit.” Jesus’ death was not just for our redemption from sin, but also to heal those who were broken. Also, the white wax shell has been used in making shellac to preserve wood. Through the infilling of His spirit, we have a natural protection from anything that would harm us! This does not mean we will not experience pain, hurt, betrayal or sin. It just means, our hope Is not of this world!
Sometimes, we follow rabbit trails that lead to nothing, but my “worm” trail has reinvigorated my love for scripture. I find myself opening my Bible and anticipating new discoveries that verify the authenticity of the inspired word of God! I would love to hear about some “worm” trails you have found in scripture. Please feel free to share in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog.