Under the Fig Tree
by De Hai
Bible verses: Jn 1:43-51, 14:12-15
1. The special characteristics of a fig tree
Canaan, the beautiful land which God promised to His chosen people was described as, “a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees…..” (Deut 8:8). Before the chosen people entered the promised land, one of the three samples of produce brought back from the land of Canaan by the 12 spies was the fig (Num 13:23). Though wild fig trees are found in the beautiful land of Canaan, cultivated fig trees could be found in the gardens or the corners of the vineyards of the Israelites. Figs are fleshy and shaped like a pear. The flower is enveloped in the fig and can only be seen when the fig is cut opened. During Summer, the fig tree is covered with luxuriant leaves which provide shade from the scorching heat. Planted near wells, fig trees provide shade to the weary travellers in need of rest and replenishment. Fig trees normally grow up to 9 -12 feet in height but if well cultivated, it can grow up to 30 feet tall. Fig trees have vigorous roots which can penetrate through rocky grounds in search of moisture and nutrients. They can live up to 400 years.
2. The uses of the fig tree
More than a thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Jotham climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and used a parable, in which he described the uses of the fig tree, to rebuke his older brother Abimelech. Figs were good, sweet and fresh (Judges 7:11). During the fig season, figs were made into fig cakes for storage and later use. Fig cakes were good not only as daily food, but could also be presented as gifts (1 Chron 12:40, 1 Sam 25:18). When Hezekiah the king of Judah suffered from boils, God sent prophet Isaiah who prepared the poultice of figs and applied it to the boil. By the wonderful grace of God, he was healed (Is 38:21; 2 Kgs 20:7). Not only could the supple fig leaves provide shade against the scorching heat, when the first ancestor sinned against God, they also attempted to sew together fig leaves to cover their shame (Gen 3:7). The Lord of creation manifested His wisdom in the many uses of the fig trees which are truly astounding and amazing.
3. The fig season
Fig trees usually bear fruit biennially. Winter fruits ripen in the months of May and June while summer fruits ripen in the months of August and September. Often, these seasons overlap and fig trees were found with fruits all year round. Usually, the fig harvesting season stretches between 9 – 10 months. Therefore the chosen people who lived in the beautiful land of Canaan could almost eat of the sweet figs all year round. In December, the fig trees shed their leaves and first fruits are seen in early February. New shoots of leaves appear by the month of April (Mt 24:22; Mk 13:28, 32). Should storms damage young figs the size of cherry, these young figs fall off the tree and perish. These are the “unripe fruit” in (Rev 6:13).
4. The fig tree and the chosen people
In the parable of the barren fig tree (Lk 13:6, 9), the fig tree symbolises the chosen people in the kingdom of God. The believers who never bear spiritual fruits are likened to the barren fig tree wasting good ground and ought to be cut down (Mk 11:13, 26). The chosen people of God must not only bear spiritual fruit, but must at all times be able to present good fruits before the Lord (Rev 22:2; Eze 47:12), otherwise, they risk being cursed and wither (Lk 13:6, 9).
The fig tree was one of the gifts which God gave His people (Hos 2:12), When the chosen people departed from evil and kept the Word, God blessed their days, natural calamities ceased and the people enjoyed peace and prosperity in the land. They were able to enjoy the sweetness of the figs from the fig trees and a joyful life to their ripe old age (1 Kgs 4:25; Mic 4:4; Is 36:16). On the contrary, when the Israelites sinned against God and rebelled against the Word of God, the cup of God’s wrath was poured out in full upon the stiffed necked throughout the days of their lives. Natural calamities befell them and men had no peace for many years. During those days of trouble, the fig tree will not flourish (Hag 3:17) and figs were not found on the fig trees (Jer 8:13). Figs thus, were used to sound warning signals of God’s impending punishment. The enemies were brazen in robbing and plundering, even eating the figs of the chosen people (Jer 5:17). So complete was their destruction that the bark of the fig trees were stripped away leaving behind naked white branches (Joel 1:7). When the end time comes and the wicked sins of the gentile nations are full, the wrath of God will be poured upon the whole earth and the righteous judgement of God will be revealed. At that time, the heavens and earth will be in turmoil and the stars of the heavens will be dissolved like shrivelled figs from the fig tree (Is 34:4). The best indicator of the state of the faith of the chosen people is the blossoming or the barrenness of the fig tree.
5. Under the fig tree
Through Zechariah, God prophesied the coming of the Messiah. “In that day each of you will invite his neighbour to sit under his vine and fig tree, declares the Lord almighty.” (Zech 3:10). Some of the chosen people who awaited the coming of the Messianic kingdom, especially the sons of the law who frequently gathered under the fig tree, vine or olive trees to contemplate the beautiful scenes of the future Messianic kingdom (ref: Midr HL4,4). When Philip told Nathanael that they had found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, Nathanael too was looking toward the coming of Messiah and being well versed with the law, was unable to accept this message. He knew that Messiah must come from the lineage of David and He should be from either Bethlehem or Jerusalem. Hence he responded after much thought saying, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?”. When the Lord Jesus saw Nathanael approaching and before he could say a word, the Lord immediately revealed that there was nothing false in his heart. The Lord had already seen him while he was still under the fig-tree before Philip called him. (Jn 1:45, 48) Nathanael who was exposed before the Lord immediately exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” Jesus was the Prophet, Priests and Messianic King (ref Zech 6:12, 3:8-9, Deut 18:15-19). The astounded declaration of Nathanael put to an end the long years of debate and thought under the fig tree about the coming of Messiah. Nathanael’s declaration also preceded the miracle in Cana (Jn 2:1-12).
The period of deliberation and waiting for God under the fig tree has past, when groups of people gathered together under the fig tree contemplating the future scenes of the Messianic kingdom. Messiah has come and salvation accomplished. The Holy Spirit has established the True Jesus Church of the end times in order to accomplish the entire plan of God for His kingdom. God has called you and I in celebration of this. Fortunate indeed are we! The Lord has given us sight of greater things, of heavens opening and of the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (Jn 1:50), this being the very sign of the works of redemption throughout the heavens. The Lord promised us that we will do greater thing than these (Jn 14:12-15). Dear fellow brethren and workers, let us stand up with raised hands in acceptance of God’s divine promise in these last days.