Ahhh.. yes, figs have been on my mind (and so has the Anjeer Badam ice cream in India -which means fig and almond). Jesus rebuking the fig tree because it had no fruit had got me wondering – it wasn’t the season for the figs to have fruit but yet He cursed it and the tree withered completely. A couple of days ago, while walking on the road it suddenly hit me why and I was like, how did I miss that simple point! Yes this is how the Holy Spirit illuminates making everything simple that you wonder how you didn’t even think of it earlier!
Anyway it did trigger a desire to do a thematic study with the Bible and figs and figgy stuff… so I did do a word search on a few different versions (NIV, NASB, and ESV). Each gives out different verses according the way they are translated and it gives a good picture!
The fig tree and the vine tree are paired up numerous times and became symbolic of security and prosperity. While the vine offered the wine, the fig offered the fruit which was also dried and used as fig cakes etc. In the parable of the trees in the book of Judges, when the trees asked the fig tree to reign over them, it responded “Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ Fig cakes were also used as a poultice for boils.
Jesus states in the lesson of the fig tree, “As soon as the fig tree branches became tender and puts out leaves, the people would know summer is near” (Mark 13:28). The writer of the Song of Solomon also refers to the fig tree to know the season.
The fig tree was generally planted in a vineyard and if properly taken care of grows up to about 30 feet providing with much shade (imagine in that climate of the Middle East). Is it of any wonder then that Jesus was seen seated under the fig tree? It was the culture to seek ‘shade’ from the fig tree and hence it became symbolic of security. The leaves were large enough to serve as a ‘loin covering’ (NASB) and hence why the disobedient couple reverted to fig leaves to cover their ‘shame’ (and sin). The tool for hiding began with this very fig leaf and then behind the bush!
Throughout the Bible, through pretty much all the major and minor prophets, God’s blessing included fig trees while punishment for sin included the taking away of this blessing. In fact, in Numbers 20, we read of the people of Israel refer to Kadesh as an evil place – it was no place for figs or vines!
We also read of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the two baskets of figs. To the basket of good figs, the exiles of Judah, God promises,
“My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” – Jeremiah 24:6-7
Yet to the basket of bad figs, were not given a word of hope (turn to Jeremiah 24 and read up on it).
Jesus narrates the parable of the figs on another occasion. The owner of the vineyard observed the lack of fruit on the fig tree for 3 years and wanted it chopped down. In response the worker promises to tend to it and to give another chance of a year.
We also read of Jesus being the vine, and we the branches with our Heavenly Father the gardener. Like a gardener would do in the natural, God prunes the branches that bear fruit, and He cuts off and burns those that don’t. If we don’t abide in Jesus we can’t bear fruit.. and those branches will be cut off and burnt – implying hell when it comes to judgement day.
Through the cursing and withering of the fig tree that didn’t bear fruit, Jesus was passing judgment, taking away the blessings of security and provision despite it not being the season for the fruit. Whether in season or not in season, are we abiding in Jesus and bearing the fruit of the Spirit? This is not about the ministries we do, but rather how our walk is! It’s not being all nice and hypocritical, its about being truthful but all done in love, and being in the world but not of the world.. it’s about walking along the narrow path.
Jesus warns us through the fig tree what would take place in due time (or even instantly) if we disobey God.. and the blessings when we yield to His will with love!