Monday, May 4, 2009

Whoso keeps the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof

Proverbs 27:18 is a clear promise of not only natural food but also spiritual food for those who "keep the fig tree." In scripture, the fig tree is symbolic of Israel.

I only have one fruit tree on my property and it is a fig tree that my father-in-law in Delaware gave me before he died a few years ago. My husband is Italian and I don't think there is anyone native to the Mediterranean Sea region who does not hold a special place in the heart for the fig tree.

My father-in-law certainly loved his fig trees. He had about 200 small fig trees on his normal-sized residential home in Wilmington. It was labor-intensive, but a labor of love to keep all those fig trees in Delaware where winter could mean snow on the ground from Thanksgiving to the end of May.

To winterize his trees, PopPop would dig some up, pot them and store them in his garage after all the leaves began to fall off. Some he would dig a trench beside, lay them down horizontally in the trench and then cover over with a mound of dirt. Then in the Spring he would upright them, replant the others and off again they would grow.

My father-in-law was one of the most meticulous gardeners you could ever meet. He poured out a lot of tender, loving care over his fruit trees. He told me not to ever use commercial fertilizers because it would be too much for the trees, but use manure only. He also carefully pruned the trees each season because, he told me, "The fruit only blooms on new wood." A tree might get taller and taller, but it was only the new wood each season that would bear fruit.

Of course the secondary reason he kept them pruned back was that he needed to keep the trees a manageable size. Unless he went to great lengths to winterize the trees they would not survive Delaware winters.

He would tell me of his boyhood memories in Italy of climbing into towering trees to get up to where the fruit of the fig tree had blossomed. There he would eat figs to his heart's content. In his late Seventies he was again eating fig trees to his heart's content - now only from many, much smaller trees. It was physically hard work for a man in his late Seventies, so as he entered his Eighties, my mother-in-law made him start giving away his fig trees to family, friends and neighbors. That's when I got the fig tree I now tend in Dallas.

Tending the Spiritual Fig Tree

Many Christians who don't believe that Israel holds any special role anymore in the plan of God among mankind often point to the scripture passages where Jesus cursed the fig tree. They believe this was the symbolic cursing of Israel forever.

One of the things that I believe they fail to grasp is that the cursing of the fig tree was a demonstration of "mountain moving" faith. They also miss a very important statement in one of the gospel accounts, Mark 11:13 "When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs."

There is a season for the "fig tree" to bear fruit, as the apostle Paul later explained in Romans 9-11.

The cursing of the fig tree was not the symbolic cursing of Israel "forever" from bearing fruit. What would that say about the justice of the LORD? What Paul explains in Romans 11 certainly speaks of God's justice better than the explanation of so many in the Church that Israel was cursed forever by Jesus.

In Romans 11:1, Paul addresses this idea directly, "I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!....God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew."

In verses 7-8 Paul begins to explain the situation to the Romans,
"What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written:
“God has given them a spirit of stupor,
Eyes that they should not see
And ears that they should not hear,
To this very day.”

In verse 11, the apostle reveals that Israel's God-spoken blindness to the awaited for Messiah is all part of the plan, to open salvation to the nations (Gentiles).

In verses 19-20 Paul says to the Romans, "You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear."

The fig tree that Jesus cursed was a demonstration to His disciples about faith. In Romans 11, the apostle Paul is telling the Gentile Christians that Israel was broken off because of unbelief.

Paul quotes Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4 which both explicitly say: "Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day."

Is this some kind of cruel joke God is playing on a people that He called out to follow Him as His "chosen people" as it seems some Christians believe? I don't think so, but rather believe that Paul explains that it is a mystery - the plan of God that has been hidden from understanding throughout the ages.

God answers that question Himself through the prophet Isaiah (45:19):
"I did not say to the seed of Jacob,
‘Seek Me in vain’
I, the LORD, speak righteousness,
I declare things that are right."

The Mystery of the Plan of God

Paul tells us in Romans 11:25-26, "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written..."

Blindness is the allotment that has befallen Israel, until the completion of the Gentiles is entered into.

In Job 41:15, we are told that Leviathan's scales are pride. It is the scales of pride that fell off of the apostle Paul's own eyes when Ananias laid hands on him to return sight to his blinded eyes.

The warning of Paul to the Romans is "Do not be haughty, but fear", or don't fall into pride about being grafted into - because it is this same kind of pride that blinds us to God's truth.

Most of this writing I have been speaking of the down side of these issues but there is an upside, which is the one I started with. He who keeps the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof.

The Lord wants us to understand His plan, or He would not have given the apostle Paul the understanding of it to include in his writings, especially Romans 9-11 where he speaks most comprehensively about it. But there is also a timing involved for the fig tree to bear its fruit in season. That time is before us according to the answer Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew 24:3,

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"

Skipping to verses 32-33: Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors."

Remember, the fruit of the fig tree grows only on the new wood. Today there is not only tender leaves on the new wood of Israel's branches but there is first fruit growing, as well.

Those who tend the fig tree of Israel, watching over it, keeping it so that it bears much fruit in its season, are those who are interceding for the fruit already ripening on the fig tree and the fruit that will continue to form in this due season.

The scales of pride will keep us from seeing God's intentions for Israel to bear much fruit, but for those who gladly receive that God is going to do a mighty work of salvation among His people, Israel, those have the promise they will partake of that fruit.

Even as pride is the blindness that keeps us from entering into the powerful promises of God by faith, Jesus said in Matthew 13:11-15,

“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears Bare hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I £should heal them.’

The fruit of tending the fig tree today is being given more understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom. With this rather lengthy introductory explanation, this is the purpose of this blog, to share the spiritual fruit of one who tends the fig tree.

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