The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Psalm 19:1
I am sure we all have seen some beautiful places on this earth. Places that seem to emphasize God’s glory more than others. Living in “almost heaven,” I see them every day! But before I begin describing another almost heaven, I would love to hear about a place you have seen that fits the Psalm 19:1 description. Please leave a comment and let me know.
One such place for me was Maui. It has been over twenty years since I was there, yet its beauty and grandeur will always be etched in my mind like it was yesterday.
As I watched videos and looked at pictures from the fire that swept through the island last year, my heart broke. Especially when I saw Lahaina and the 150-year-old banyan tree, which stood as a cultural landmark on Front Street, consumed in flames (see pic below).
The fig tree was much like this banyan tree. It was a beautiful tree in the middle of a beautiful landscape. It stood out among the other trees. A tree that produced such fruit caused even those who had been warned by God not to eat of it to rebel and do so anyway. At that moment, the fig tree lost its beauty. It was destroyed, not by fire, but by sin.
If you have been following this study of the Myrtle or Olive tree, you have probably assumed the fig tree would show up at some point. How could it not? After all, the fig tree is the first tree mentioned in the Bible. It might even have been a fig that Eve did eat (above introduction assuming it was a fig tree). This fig tree that brought forth sin failed miserably in covering it. No wonder Jesus cursed the fig tree!
In the first century, the fig tree was both cultivated and grew wild in the Holy Land. It was a familiar sight on the landscape. The fig tree was a sign of approximation. When its branches became tender and put forth their leaves, all knew summer was getting close. Similar to the Robin letting us northerners know spring is on the horizon.
It indicates summer is getting close but does not reveal the “day or hour” of the it’s coming.
Some commentators have used this connection of approximation to explain Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree in Mark 11. Jesus cursed that which brought sin and death into the world just days before the crucifixion when Jesus would conquer death.
It was also the tree Nathanael was resting under when his brother called him to meet Jesus. Nathanael said to Jesus, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” This possibly shows again the approximation of what or who was to come.
Jesus refers to the fig tree as a fit emblem of Israel. Its peculiarity is that the blossoms of the fruit appear before the leaves.
At this point, approximation was not an assumption but a perceivable reality. “Jesus had come, and instead of a heart of acceptance, Jesus found an outward show of celebration, tumult, crowds, and singing. Like this barren tree, they were empty, leaves with no real fruit. Naturally, Jesus from their ‘leafy profession’ would expect to find fruit on the tree of their national life, and when He found none, He cursed them for their HYPOCRISY (Matt. 23:1-33).”
Using certain attributes of the fig tree, the Lord also taught a spiritual principle: “So likewise ye…”(Matt. 24:33). This is a lesson for Israel and, specifically, Jerusalem. Mark records Jesus using the image of the fig tree to make plain that Jerusalem will fall and the Jewish nation be brought to an end before their generation passes away (Mark 13:28).
The fig tree carries a significant lesson and application for us today as well. 1) We have no idea the day or hour the Son of Man will return, but God has told us of certain signs much like that of the fig tree (Matt. 24:6-7). We should be eagerly anticipating our Lords return! 2) Like the Jewish people, many of us are masters at making sure the outside looks good. When others see us, they think we are full of fruit in abundance. Only those closest to us are aware of the fact that we are without fruit. This hypocrisy is as disappointing in the eyes of Jesus as a fig tree without figs.
There is hope! Lahaina residents were not about to let the tree die. Volunteers and local contractors have been pouring more than 5,000 gallons of water on the tree daily in an attempt to rehydrate the roots. What is amazing is this has “about 75% of the tree right now showing new growth (see article here).
Our Father is the farmer (John 15:1). Allow him to begin doing His work in and through you! With careful planting and pruning, you will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water bringing forth fruit and eagerly anticipating His return.