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Query for the Month

of June 1998

Next up-date: July 1st 1998 (God willing).

 


Query:

"He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbers it the ground? And he answering said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung [manure] it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that you shall cut it down". Luke 13:6-9.

To whom do these words apply?

Response:

Here Christ in His mercy is linking the thought of judgement with the invitation of mercy. He doesn't want us to follow the way so many have already gone in thinking that mercy overrides judgement. We are told:

Psalm 85:10
"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other".

Here the fig tree is bearing its fruit as the Spirit told the Jesus the gardener. Both mercy and judgment should have equal weight for both are required in God's kingdom.

The "certain man" here obviously represents the Father, and the "tree" is either the individual or the group known as the visible church for the parable has two clear meanings.

"God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world (i.e. the people of the world); but that the world through Him might be saved". John 3:17. He had been warning the people of the coming of the kingdom and had sharply rebuked their ignorance and indifference. They were quick to read the signs in the sky but slow to see the signs of the times. Men were as ready then to consider themselves favorites with heaven and that the words of reproof must be for another, as they are still today. Revelation 3:17.

The fig tree was planted in the midst of a vineyard. So Israel was one special group amongst many but it had become a "cumberer" or space-waster of the ground. Isaiah 61:3. Its time had come as we now know from history, but the end did not have to be as bad as it proved to be when the city was destroyed in 70AD by the Roman armies.

Some of those present at this scene had just told Jesus about some Galilean worshippers in the temple whom they considered were obvious sinners because they had been slain by Romans in the very act of killing their sacrifices in the temple courtyard. Luke 13:1-2. They thought that God was just in doing this and that Jesus would agree with them. They were surprised when Jesus, horrified at the thought of His father being classed as a murderer, told them this parable.

Then, as He talked with the disciples and the multitude, Jesus looked forward with an eye based on the prophecies of Moses, Isaiah and others and saw Jerusalem besieged with armies. Luke 21:8-22. The calamities that had fallen upon the individuals in the temple grounds, He used as warnings from God to a nation equally guilty of rejecting protection, not seeing them as punishments. There was still time for them to know the things that belonged to their peace. Luke 19:42.

By the parable He was telling them that He had come for three years trying to help them avoid this situation but that they were refusing and would therefore have to take the penalty. There was no question of the sentence if the tree failed to bear fruit - only the time of it. All understood the application of the parable. David had sung of the vine brought out of Egypt. Psalm 80:8. Isaiah had written centuries before of Israel as a plant. Isaiah 5:7. And many other prophets had spoken likewise. Daniel had admitted in his prayer that their predicament was their own fault. Daniel 9:11.

The owner and the gardener are one in their interest in the tree. Note that the gardener does not refuse to work for so an unpromising tree. On the contrary, He begs for more time and promises greater care, and in this way Jesus illustrated His and His Father's anxiety for sinners. As with Peter and Judas when He worked hard to save them from destruction, so He would have saved Israel, but they would not let Him. Matthew 23:37-39.

Jesus did not in the parable tell the result of the gardener's work. At that point His story was cut short for its conclusion rested with the generation that heard His words. Upon them it depended whether the irrevocable words should be spoken. Revelation 22:11.

The warning sounds down through history to our time. Are you, O careless one, a fruitless tree in the Lord's vineyard? How long have you received His gifts and given nothing in return? If you have taken the name of Christ, but are not producing the actions of Christ, what are you? A cumberer of the ground! But take heart from the parable. He will work with you yet another "year" or season, and endeavour to produce the "fruit". It all depends on you!!

In the same way, He speaks to those churches which profess His name or character, and yet do not do His works. There is no "punishment", only a "result". See Hosea 11:8-9 and then read the whole story of Hosea and his wife, replacing Hosea with God the Father and Gomer with yourself or your church. Then you will the kingdom of God as Jesus saw it.

Conclusion:

THE FIG TREE in the vineyard:

This is a representation of a church or an individual from whom God expects a "harvest" of good works. He digs and manures it for a time, but if it fails to produce a crop them He must allow it to be cleared off the ground to make room for another.

"[You] have borne, and had patience, and for My name's sake have laboured, and have not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent". Revelation 2:3-5. Notice that even here Jesus does not threaten destruction as a punishment, but only the removal of the light which is their protection, and that because they have allowed it to go out. See Matthew 25:8. This is what will bring the destruction.


Spiritual Dictionary.
THE FIG TREE in the vineyard:

Luke 13:6-9
This is a representation of a church or an individual from whom God expects a "harvest" of good works. He digs and manures it for a time, but if it fails to produce a crop them He must allow it to be cleared off the ground to make room for another.

"[You] have borne, and had patience, and for My name's sake have laboured, and have not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent". Revelation 2:3-5. Notice that even here Jesus does not threaten destruction as a punishment, but only the removal of the light which is their protection, and that because they have allowed it to go out. See Matthew 25:8. This is what will bring the destruction.


Next thought. To be discussed from July 1st 1998.

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