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TITLE: Cursable Fig Trees
By Theresa Kissinger

I don't really know what to call this piece, I often write like this. I think Bible Study, what do you think?
I love growing things; in fact I canít imagine anyone who doesnít. Some love flowers, others have a love of trees; some are simply intrigued with the science of horticulture itself. My mother in law is an expert at growing African Violets on a window sill.

Iíve known down to earth folks who garden for the practical result of the harvest, farmers who feed their families and livestock on what they raise. I have seen the seasoned farmer receive as much pleasure from a field of rippling wheat as any woman engulfed in a harvest of blooming, fragrant, painted landscape of her favorite blooms.

There is something deeply satisfying about seeing the fruition of a seed we planted, we watered, weeded, sweated on and fretted over. Its success is my success, in some respects my plantings are like children to me. Actually, Iíve learned a lot about raising my children through the practice of gardening. Iíve learned that until harvest time it is best not to count on the harvest. Anything is possible between now and then.

As a farmerís daughter, grand daughter and great grand daughter, Iíve often said dirt flows in my veins instead of blood. I am deeply satisfied at the end of harvest time when I survey all that was produced and preserved and prepared for the next season. I am satisfied and humbled, who but God can see the mystery that takes place after the planted seed dies and before it becomes life again?

This is hard work, no matter what the goal. I knew a man once who lived to graft rose bushes, fascinated because most men I knew werenít interested in flowers. My own father would plant fields of wheat, barley and alfalfa. He would go looking for empty, dormant fields someone would rent him. I have a cousin who lives in South Carolina who has a harvest event in her area for lavender. To that gardener there is not one who doesnít worry about the effects of too much or not enough rain, an unseasonable cold snap, insects or the relentless heat. The crop may be different but the threat is always the sameÖ..destroy the harvest.

When we built our first house the landscaper planted the shrubs and trees of my choice. Little did we know it would be another six weeks before we actually settled that property! Due to a water problem and the drought that had been sneaking up on our state one of my trees died. My best efforts to keep that tree alive, as met with the stubbornness of the sun and the very dry clay soil. Every few days I would arrive on the site with jugs of water that the ground lapped up greedily. I even pruned back the dying branches so that whatever the tree was able to drink wouldnít be wasted on the incurable. I re-dug the ground, used compost, mulched and prayed but my holly was in shock and nothing would turn it around.

I have often wondered how Jesus could curse a fig tree that didnít bear fruit. Was He having a bad day? John 1:3 {KJV}; ĎAll things were made by Him {the Word}; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.í

Now, I can understand killing poison ivy and yanking out weeds but Jesus cursed something He himself had created. He knew the mystery of its very existence and the reason for its lack of fruit. Mark 11:13 tells us it wasnít even the time of figs. Figs werenít supposed to be on that tree. Was Jesus implying that the fig tree should have recognized the creator of trees and burst into fruit? If I planted tomatoes in April and expected a tomato harvest in May and they didnít produce it wouldnít it be foolish of me to rip my tomato plants out of the ground?

Of course it would, if I plant seed in season then I must expect produce in its season and not before. The Ancient of Days, times, and seasons created it to be just this way.

Jesus recognized something that perhaps would be missed by any of us who were not with Him that day. The time for figs were not yet {Mark 11:13}. I found out that figs come on the fig tree before the leaves, if it wasnít time for figs, leaves should not have been on that tree.

Those fig leaves were most likely from the old growing season; the foliage had remained and missed its cycle of change. Missing a cycle of change can signal a problem. My washing machine for instance, if it misses the rinse cycle then we call a repairman. Ask any woman who misses a cycle what sort of thoughts are going through her mind.

The cursed fig tree promised much more than it could deliver. It attracted the hungry but did not satisfy. Imagine, a hungry Jesus walking the country side and He sees in the distance a fig tree.

Have you ever been hungry and knew you would eat soon only to have that knowledge make you even hungrier? That promise of fulfillment causes desire to be heightened instead of satisfied.

You seem skeptical! Try skipping a couple of meals and get into your car and the first place you come to has golden arches; are you with me? You find yourself in the drive-thru, roll down your window and a sudden waft of burgers and fries gets into the car with you. Now, imagine there are six cars ahead of you; everyone is waiting for French fries, and the person taking orders is a trainee with some difficulty in the language. Besides being frustrated you are most likely much hungrier now than when you started. Your patience may be short because your expectation has gone unmet.

I remember thinking about this account when I was going through a difficult time, a wilderness period, a spiritual drought when I began to think of myself as a potential fig tree. That was scary! Would the Lord ever curse the barren fig tree in me?

David did; 2 Samuel 6:11 recounts how King David went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the ark of God into Jerusalem. The story tells of a very large procession and the work, and bustle involved in preparing for such a grand event. King David was wearing a linen ephod; an apron or skirt with shoulder straps which is what the High Priests wore. David set aside the title of King to worship the Lord as a priest. It means he would have followed the order for sanctifying and cleansing as the priests would before they ministered before the Lord. He made sacrifices before the Lord and danced with all his might.

David and all the house of Israel took part in this celebration, all with the exception of Davidís wife Michal. Saulís daughter looked out of the window to see David then blessed all the people and gave out mementos to the whole nations. This event probably lasted a month.

When David went home, Michal went out to meet him. Actually, Michal went out to mock him. I can almost hear Michal in a sarcastic tone berate his kingship, his clothing and his intentions. She accused him of exposing himself in front of the handmaids of his servants. {I Chronicles 15:27 tells us David was clothed in a linen robe and an ephod.} Letís see did she leave anything out? Oh, yes she said he was vain.

Have you ever been around people who just missed it? Michal missed it big time. She missed the point, she was so far removed from the heart of David and the heart of God that she saw everything that David did as being contrary to his motivation. Here was a cycle and she missed it.

Now Iím skipping a few details in Michalís life that may shed light on why she reacted in this way, thatís for another study and a psychologist.

Laying aside first his own personal feelings about the Ark of God, remember David left it in the house of Obed-edom for three months because he was a little upset with God over the death of Uzzah. {2 Samuel 6:8} We donít know when in the three months that David realized that they had not followed the protocol set out by Moses or how not being obedient had its consequences; in fact it rained on Davidís first parade, so to speak.

David laid down everything on that day; his crown, his royal robes, his rings, everything that would have identified him as a king to proclaim that he was willing to be made base and contemptible in his own sight. It was not to draw the attention of the handmaids, and not because of his vanity. His statement to Michal was that he danced for the Lord only.

The last verse in 2 Samuel chapter six reads this; Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. Michal was second generation royalty, like her brother Jonathan. Her father Saul was anointed by God to be King of Israel, as was David. She was royalty married to royalty. When she spoke her disdain to her husband she was saying all those things that are not wise for a wife to say to her husband; ĎMy father was a better kingí; ĎMy father would not conduct himself in such a mannerí; ĎMy father knew how to be a kingí; ĎMy father showed more decorum, more clout, more class, more everythingí. Michal was bitter, angry, deluded, legalistic and judgmental.

Here was a woman offended by her husbands worship of God but when her father gave her to another man to be his wife while she was still married to David we do not see her indignation. There is nothing recorded indicating she resisted or even protested. Michal doesnít appear grateful for her return to David later in 2 Samuel chapter three.

Michal was like a flourishing tree, she looked like she had the goods, but on closer inspection she was barren. That is exactly how she remained, barren.
This was a curse in itself to be the wife of a King and not to bare children, no heir, and no prince to ascend the throne, her father and husband could claim.
In the end Michal probably became more bitter and resentful, everyone gossiping about her and Davidís concubine laughing at her. She no longer had the protection of the king; he had nothing to do with her. Her life dried up, her womb dried up; we can even speculate her looks dried up, and she withered from the inside out.

The fig tree held onto its leaves out of season to cover the fact it didnít produce fruit. The leaves were just a good cover up for the barrenness of the fig tree.

Adam and Eve also tried to cover their nakedness. That nakedness was a lack of Godís own glory. His robe of righteousness was removed through the act of disobedience, or sin.

After Jesus cursed the fig tree, he went on to the temple to overturn the tables of the merchants, bankers and shopkeepers. Why did He get so angry? One reason may have been that they gave the appearance of productivity. The fig leaves of sight, smell, sound covered what would have been obvious in the silence; that the barrenness of prayer and repentance and worship had caused the removal of Godís presence. In the flurry of activity, no one noticed.

Activity is the imposter of productivity; where it may look like there is a great deal of excitement or busyness that should never be the standard for determining fruit.

Orchards sit by the side of the road anywhere you care to look for them; there are no parades, no brass bands, nothing to herald a growing season; except the buzzing of bees. Life just silently goes on day after day until one day a sign goes up and you realize its harvest time.

I believe another reason for Jesusí indignation was that life went on at the money changers tables and they had just missed a change in the season. A King had ridden into their midst on a donkey and nothing in their lives changed. Business as usual; much the same way the world missed the advent of redemption except in this case the Ďchurchí missed it. The Bible tells us in John chapter twelve the multitude came out to meet Jesus with palm branches and the Pharisees said that the world had gone after Him, instant change of seasons.

In the area where I live we usually experience four distinct seasons; I say usually because there have been times when weíve missed one. Life can be progressing as usual when suddenly one day its spring and the next we are plunged into the sweltering heat of summer. My favorite time is the changing of the leaves in the fall but there have been many drastic seasonal changes that takes us from fall to winter, causing all the leaves to drop to the ground all too soon.

Gradual change is nice; however we can get into a comfort zone and miss an advent. Those in the temple didnít expect anything different than what they were used to, their focus left little room for any possible change.

We will wrap ourselves up in our own leaves of good works, accomplishments and intentions. All of us want to hold onto what makes us better than we are, makes us somebody, and gives us significance. The truth is while we are holding onto the leaves that should have been shaken in a previous season we are not making room for real fruit.

No matter our appearance to the Ďnot so hungryí; there is a Gardener who is interested in our produce so that He can pick it for a famined world. God is very interested in feeding His children.

Clinging to the leaves of personality rather than exposing the nakedness of our character, will not produce fruit. If we hold onto the external we arenít allowing room for fruit, and we are cursing ourselves.

I Corinthians 6:20 {KJV} says we are bought with a price; the expectation is that it yield something that can bless rather than the bitter fruit of barrenness. Nakedness is very revealing; it can expose our lack or it can uncover our fruitfulness.

After Jesus cursed the fig tree; his disciples, having passed by the next day, wondered at the speed that the fig tree withered. Jesus said to them, if we have faith and do not doubt, what happened to the fig tree can happen for us, Ďbut if we say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be cast into the sea; it shall be doneí, Mathew 21:21.

Whatever we ask for in prayer, believing, we will receive. (Verse 22) I believe that Jesus might have been referring to our own soulís condition that stands in the way of fruit bearing. Our own selfish desires, those mental strongholds and mountain fortresses that hinder us from being used to the potential that God had intended.

Joseph is the example of one long pruning process; he was called a fruitful bough in Genesis 49:22.
Wouldnít this be a great inscription on his tombstone?

In Memory of
A fruitful bough

We had apple trees on our farm and year after year we would can apples, make applesauce and apple butter and of course apple pies. Several seasons went by and one season the apples werenít as large or as sweet. They were deformed and wormy, what happened? They needed pruning. I have also seen the hottest, driest summer give way to the sweetest produce. Joseph refused bitterness. That doesnít mean he didnít struggle with it but at the final chapter of his life the evidence is in, he was fruitful.

God would much rather prune us than curse us as we see in John chapter fifteen, not to harm us but to produce much fruit in our lives. It takes our co-operation by abiding in Christ and not missing a change in the seasons. Letís not hold onto our leaves, shake them loose and give room for fruit; someone may be hungry.


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