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Lessons From a Fig Tree

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
November 20, 2022 6:00 pm

Lessons From a Fig Tree

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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November 20, 2022 6:00 pm

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On the following day when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree and leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves.

It was not the season for figs. And he said to it, May no one ever eat fruit from you again. And his disciples heard it. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we have many in our congregation right now that are going through extremely tough times physically. I pray, Father, for Pat Huntley, as discovered this morning, that she has had to go to the hospital for a heart condition. Pray that you'll be with her and help her to recover. Lord, we continue to pray for Esther Carroll, that you would be with her as she has struggled for months now and just desperately needs your touch.

Pray for Kitty Clay this morning. Father, I thank you for the turnaround that she had in the middle of the week. And I thank you, Lord, that they are giving her much more hope now.

I pray, Lord, that you would strengthen her and encourage her. And, Lord, we just praise you for answered prayer. Pray for Jim Belt this morning suffering with a spinal infection. Pray for John Key and Shelby and C.N.

Taylor, who are suffering with COVID. Lord, I especially pray for Nicole Lohse this morning and her family as they have experienced the passing away of Nicole's father this morning. Heavenly Father, we are looking at a miracle this morning that most people consider minor, fairly unimportant. It doesn't leave us in awe as much as when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead or gave Bartimaeus his sight. But, Lord, you did this miracle to teach. You cursed the fig tree to teach us about the importance of bearing fruit. In Galatians 5, Paul taught us about the fruit of the Spirit. He said the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. In other words, the fruit of the Spirit is the character of Christ. Jesus, what I've learned from this passage is that you did this miracle to teach us how to be like you.

Help me to get that across today. Keep my lips from error, for it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that I pray. Amen.

You may be seated. This morning, we're going to be looking at a miracle that Jesus did that exudes more truth than any of the other miracles that Jesus performed. Maybe not as glorious, maybe not as powerful, but it's one that exudes truth.

And yet, this particular miracle is the one that is preached on the very least. Why is it that Jesus cursed the tree and caused the tree to wither up from the roots? Notice I didn't say that Jesus cussed the tree. He cursed the tree.

And to curse means to speak judgment on something. And Jesus said, may no one ever eat from you again. I've got five points that I want to share with you in this passage this morning. And number one is, why the fig tree? Look with me again at verses 12 through 14. On the following day, when they came from Beth and he was hungry, seeing in the distance a fig tree and leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. And he came to it, found nothing but leaves. For it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, may no one ever eat fruit from you again.

And his disciples heard it. I want you to stick with me for just a minute as I begin to share with you some different passages in the scripture that emphasize figs. I mean, it's amazing when you go through the scripture and see how much it has to say about figs. In Genesis 3, verse 7, the first reference that we have, we find this great illustration there that I think is the reason that Jesus used the cursing of the fig tree to teach us so much.

In Genesis 3, 7, that's the passage that Adam and Eve had sinned. They realized that they were naked. They went to the fig tree. They made themselves fig leaf clothes for what purpose?

To try to cover over their sin. In Numbers chapter 13, we read about the 12 spies going over the Jordan River, going to spy out the Promised Land. And they came back, and they came back carrying fruit with them. What was the fruit? It was figs and pomegranates and grapes.

Folks, figs is one of the primary fruits of Israel. In Numbers chapter 20, the Israelites are in the wilderness. They're wandering in the wilderness. Things are rough. It's hot. It's desolate.

And they don't like the situation that they're in. But you know what the greatest complaint was? They said, we have no figs.

I thought that was interesting. In 2 Kings chapter 18, Sennacherib, who's the powerful leader of Assyria, sends a message to Judah. And this is the message. Bow before me, and don't resist my authority. And when I rule over Judah, then every man will sit under his own fig tree. 2 Kings chapter 20, we see the fig used as medicine. Hezekiah the king had a terrible boil. It was making him sick.

It could cause his death. And prophet Isaiah says, take a poultice of figs, put it on that boil, and it will draw the infection out. And it did. It's amazing. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, and Micah all used the illustration of figs. Folks, the fig tree is just as much a part of Israel as the Jordan River.

So why is it so important? First of all, the fig tree blooms and produces fruit twice a year. It blooms and produces figs in the early spring, and then it blooms again, producing more fruit in the late fall. Eight to ten months out of the year, you can find figs on the fig trees in Israel.

It's kind of interesting. Even today, in the Kidron Valley, when kids, school kids, are coming home from school, they'll stop off on the side of the road and they'll fill up on figs, climb the trees, get figs, and they'll eat them. And our kids today, when they come home from school, they stop by the Circle K and they get a Reese's Cup or a payday or stop by a McDonald's for a burger.

They have to pay for that. Well, the kids in Israel eat their snacks for free. What do they eat? They eat figs. Even today, one of the main uses of figs is medicinal.

Just like with Hezekiah. They take poultices of figs. They put them on cuts and bruises and rashes and boils and even mosquito bites, and it takes out the infection. They use all parts of the fig tree today in Israel for food, even some of their primary dishes. One of the main dishes in Israel for food is a lamb and rice with little pieces of fig leaf cut up in it. But the fig tree is also unique because it's the only tree that produces the fruit before it produces the leaves. In early spring, you can walk up to a fig tree and you can see the bumps on the limbs, and you think, well, that's the leaves getting ready to pop out.

No, it didn't. That's the actual fruit getting ready to pop out. Now, this is strange because every other plant in nature works the opposite. It's leaves first, and then the fruit comes later. What a wonderful plant of God. The fruit on the fig tree comes out in the spring before it gets real hot, and then that fruit begins to grow, and then as the sun starts beating down on it harder, then the leaves pop out. They shade the tree up in order that the figs won't dry out. You think God knew what he was doing?

He does. Folks, the fig leaves were used in the story of Adam and Eve, and it was used for cover-up. Adam and Eve realized that they had sinned.

They felt and saw their own nakedness. They went to the fig tree. They pulled off these big leaves. They tied them together, and they made themselves fig leaf clothes.

What were they doing? They were trying to hide their sin from God. I'm going to get to that point in point two, but with this in mind, I want you to turn back with me in Mark chapter 11 to the first verse. It says, Now when they drew near to Jerusalem to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples. Now this is a situation where Jesus is getting ready for the triumphal entry, and he is going to ride into Jerusalem on a little colt, the foal of a donkey.

This is to fulfill Zechariah chapter 9, verse 9, that tells us that the Messiah would come into the city of Jerusalem, and he would come very humbly. He would be riding on a lowly donkey. Where did he prepare for this? Where did he get the donkey?

Where did it come from? It came from a little place called Bethphage. Bethphage is a little town on the side of the Mount of Olives.

It has acres and acres of fig trees. Now, what does Bethphage mean? The word Beth is the Hebrew word for house. We heard of Bethlehem, house of bread. Bethany, that's house of poor people. What is Bethphage?

The word phage is figs. Bethphage was called the house of figs. So when the Lord comes down from the Mount of Olives to reveal to the world who he is, I think it is very significant to me that he comes from a place called the house of figs. It's almost like he's saying, I am uncovering myself so that you will see who I really am. Now, in the situation with Adam and Eve, they did the exact opposite.

They tried to use the fig tree to cover themselves so that nobody would know what they had done and how sinful they were so that God wouldn't see it. Oh no, not Jesus. Jesus is making a statement.

He's saying, I am uncovering to you who I really am. And who am I? Jesus said. I am the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I am the Son of God. I am perfectly without sin. I am absolutely righteous. I am the second person of the Trinity.

I am God. I don't know how you read a passage and see the workings here. I don't know how you do that and not understand that every statement, every word, every jot, every tittle in the scripture is not only inerrant and infallible, but it is so, so important.

Jesus could have gotten on the donkey from anywhere, couldn't he? But he chose to prepare everything at Beth-age, the house of figs. I point to the cursed fig tree.

Look with me at verses 12, 14 once again. On the following day when they came from Beth and he was hungry and seeing in the distance a fig tree and leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

He said to it, may no one ever eat fruit from you again, and his disciples heard it. Now remember what I said about the uniqueness of the fig tree? The fruit comes first, then the leaves come out and protect the figs from the harsh sunlight. And Jesus goes to this tree and when he goes, he finds out that there is no fruit.

The leaves are still there. They are green, they are pretty, they're very much alive, and it looks like there ought to be fruit there. Now the scripture says that this was not the season for figs, but that's the point. This tree had an appearance that fig should have been on there.

Big leaves, green leaves, very fresh, it should have been fruit. Jesus goes over to the tree and the disciples think, man, he's going to get his full here. He'll get his fill of fruit.

He'll be able to eat all that he wants to eat, and Jesus pulled back the leaves and there was no fruit. Now have you ever wondered, why would Jesus go to somebody else's property and reach up and take figs off of a tree that did not belong to him? Is that not stealing? Is that not taking something that doesn't belong to him? Is that not sin?

The answer to that is absolutely not. There was a law in Israel that said if you owned a piece of property that had fig trees on it, that if there were trees that were right beside the road, you could harvest the figs from the not roadside, but on the roadside you had to leave them there. So when the passerby's came by, they could, if they were hungry, they could just reach over and grab a fig, where several figs eat and fill their hungry bellies. So Jesus was not trespassing. He was not taking something that was illegal to take.

This was perfectly lawful. But what did Jesus do when he found no figs? He cursed the fig tree.

He said, no one will ever eat of you again. Why the cursing? Is Jesus mad at the tree? No, Jesus is not mad at a tree. He curses the fig tree because this is a teaching moment, and he is teaching us about hypocrisy, which God absolutely hates. This tree had big beautiful leaves on it, but it had no fruit. So it was a show.

It was a scam. There was no fruit on that tree. And the implication is that anybody, including Jesus, ought to be able to walk right by us, and they ought to be able to see our fruit.

Jesus said that we would know those that are his, how? By their fruit. What fruit are we talking about? We're talking about the fruit of the Spirit. What is that? Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.

What is that? That's the character of Christ. Listen carefully. If you call yourself a Christian, then you ought to look like Jesus.

Not physically. Spiritually, you ought to look like Jesus. You ought to look like Jesus, you ought to talk like Jesus, you ought to act like Jesus, you ought to love like Jesus, and you ought to hate sin like Jesus does. We have churches all over America right now who are bowing to the culture. They put light for darkness and darkness for light.

They put sweet for bitter and bitter for sweet. And they say it's a godly thing. It's a godly thing for Christians to embrace homosexual unions. And it's a godly thing for Christians to be all condoning of transgendering children and mutilating their little bodies. And it's just a great thing to be killing pre-born babies in the womb. Folks, is it Christian fruit to embrace Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism when Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life?

No man comes to the Father but by me. Is it Christian fruit for parents to not monitor what their kids watch on TV when we know how wicked TV has become? Is it good, is it right for us to let our kids have cell phones and not monitor those cell phones or not look at what their websites they're going to on computers?

Brothers and sisters, we need to get serious about our fruit. And here's what I hear folks saying. Well, I'm not doing that stuff. Well, that's not all we're asked to do. You may not be doing that stuff, but are you condoning it?

Are you applauding it by your silence? We as God's people have a responsibility before God to point out the sin in this world and to say there's an answer to that sin and that answer is Jesus. Folks, I want you to listen to what Paul said in Romans chapter 1 and especially the last verse that I read here.

He said, Now we know that's wrong. That's what the scripture says about it. Listen to this verse.

Point three, real life, no fruit, hypocrites. Verse 15 through 19. I can just picture what he did. He goes into Jerusalem, he sees the money changers just cheating and he sees all this junk going on in the name of the Lord and he starts opening up the cages of the animals.

The animals were running down the street. He starts opening up the bird cages, the birds are flying through the air. He makes a whip and he starts driving the money changers out.

He flips the tables over, a money changer's table and the coins are flying through the air and rolling down the street. Folks, this is holy wrath. This is righteous indignation. Was Jesus sinful to get angry like this? No, Jesus would have been sinful not to get angry here. These religious leaders were planning to kill Jesus. They were going to nail him to a cross.

I think it's very interesting. Nobody's trying to nail him to a cross here, are they? Man, they are getting out of his way. They know he means business. They're absolutely scared of what Jesus might do. Jesus is not condoning their sin. He is very upset because here are so-called religious people that are exchanging money and taking advantage of the poor and they're doing it in the name of the Lord. Jesus knew that unchecked sin leads to deeper sin. Folks, this is what's going on today in many of our cities in America.

In Los Angeles and San Francisco, Philadelphia, Portland, New York City, Chicago. What's going on? They refuse to punish crime and criminals enjoy the freedom to pillage, to murder, and to steal. Folks, we as Christians should be the salt that turns people away from sin. It ought to be the Christians who get behind the police and the Christians are supporting them and asking them and trying to help them to stop the violence and the crime in our world. It's time that God's people grew up a still backbone. It's time to call sin, sin.

It's time to take a stance against it. Now parents, how do you build that into your children? I hear parents today say, well, we're not going to spank our children because we love them too much.

Do you realize that that's a totally unbiblical statement? Proverbs chapter 22 verse 15 says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of discipline will remove it far from him. Well, what is foolishness? That means just childish silliness?

No, no. Foolishness means defiance against God. And that's what every single one of us has as a natural being. That's why we need Jesus so much. And what does the scripture tell us?

Proverbs 13, 24. Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. And you may say, well, my child is compliant. I don't have to worry.

I don't have a strong-willed, defiant child, so when he does something wrong, I just kind of let it go. Is that good? No, that's not good. There needs to be spanking.

Why? So that you can develop in that child a fear of authority. That he'll fear you, that he'll fear breaking the law, and primarily that he'll fear God.

Proverbs 23, 13 through 14. Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you strike him with the rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from hell. This is not abuse, folks.

This is not beating that I'm talking about here. This is firm, godly paddling, and God uses it to build the fear of God into the heart of a child. So what was the result of the righteous indignation of Jesus?

I think two things. First, it stopped the mouth of the wicked. Jesus told truth.

They didn't like it, but they could not refute it. Secondly, it opened the ears of the spiritually hungry. The scripture says they were astonished at his teaching and they hung on every word that he had to say. Well, maybe you're saying, Doug, I haven't been taking a stand for Christ. I haven't taken a stand for righteousness, so I guess it's just too late.

I heard a great sermon by Vance Havner, who was a pastor that led my dad to Christ, and I heard him preach a sermon called The Lord of What's Left. And in that sermon, his premise was, you can't do anything about your past to change it. If you have lived for self, if you live for self-promotion, if you have lived for unrighteousness, you can't change that. But you can. You can change what's ahead of you.

You can change right now your future. Jesus can be the Lord for you of what's left. Folks, how important that is. How important it is that whether you've got 50 more years to live or whether you've got two months to live, that doesn't matter. What matters is, is Jesus, is he going to be the Lord of what's left? Only one life will soon be past, and only what's done for Christ will last. Point four, the meaning of the curse.

Look at verses 20 through 22. As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, Rabbi, look, the fig tree that you cursed has withered.

And Jesus answered them, Have faith in God. Now, this was a shock because fig trees were tough, and they don't die easily. The fig tree in Israel, the average lifespan is 413 years.

There are fig trees that are producing figs in Israel today, and they were producing figs back when John Bunyan was in a prison in England, and he was writing out his great book, Pilgrim's Progress. So when Peter saw the fig tree dried up, and not only just dried up, but dried up from the roots, he was shocked. Any of you ever watch the movie The Wizard of Oz? You remember the Munchkin Coroner? The Munchkin Coroner was called on because Dorothy's house had fallen on the Wicked Witch. They wanted to be sure that she was dead, and so the Munchkin Coroner came out there to check it out.

And this is what he had to say. She's really dead. She's very dead. She's extremely dead.

She's undeniably, unforgettably, undoubtedly, and most assuredly dead. I think that's exactly what Peter's saying about this fig tree. So Peter says, Look, Rabbi, the fig tree that you cursed has withered up from the roots. What did Jesus say?

Glory be. No. He didn't say that. Did he say, Well, you're right, Peter.

No. He said, Peter, have faith in God. Have faith in God. Takes me to our last point, and that is mountain moving prayer. Mark chapter 11, verse 23 through 25. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believe that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. So what basic truth does the fig tree reveal?

I think it is this. You want to know if a professing Christian is real, check his fruit. Check his fruit. What's the best way to check fruit?

Let me give you two good ways. Number one, you check a man's fruit by viewing the exercise of his faith. Number two, you check a man's fruit by viewing his relationship to other people. So number one, you want to see if a person who claims to be a believer is really a believer or not, then you go over to him, you pull back the leaves. Is he a man of faith? Is he a man of prayer? Is he a man that believes the promises of God? Is he a man who stands on the promises of God?

What if this man had a doctor come up to him and say, you have cancer, sir, and you might not live but a few weeks, you might not live but a few days. What happens to him? Does he just freak out? Does he express fear all over his heart and faithlessness?

Or does he smile and get ready for his transition to heaven? There's an interesting thing about this idea of casting the mountain into the sea. He doesn't just say any mountain, he says this mountain. He's looking right there at the Mount of Olives. How tall is the Mount of Olives?

It's 2,600 feet tall. He says if it's thrown into the sea, what's the closest sea to it? The closest sea to it is the Dead Sea. How deep is the Dead Sea in its deepest point?

2,600 feet. If you take that mountain and you turn it upside down and you throw it and it lands in the Dead Sea, then all the water goes out and the mountain goes right down into the Dead Sea. There's no more sea, there's no more mountain.

There's nothing but flat land. That's what faith does. Faith flattens out and smooths for us the ups and downs of this life.

The second thing Jesus mentions is relationship. Jesus said if you have anything against anyone, do what? You forgive him.

Forgive him. What do people see when they pull back your leaves? Do they see a grumpy grouch?

Do they see one who's always complaining that they're the victim and when somebody does something to them, they want to hold on to it and talk about it? Or are they people who forgive when they get offended? Luke 6 44 says this, For every tree is known by its own fruit, for men do not gather figs from thorns. Paraphrase, if you want to be used of God, if you want people to pick your fruit, then don't act like a bramble bush. You know what I mean? Some Christians are so mean-spirited, you don't want to have anything to do with them. And people come to them, they say, man, I got this problem in my life, could you help me out here? No, no, I don't have time for you. I got enough problems of my own. That's a bramble bush.

We're not supposed to look like that. Psalm 1 says the godly man won't be like that. He'll be like a tree planted by the rivers of water. His leaves won't wither, and he'll produce fruit in their season.

People should always be able to pick our fruit. So here's the question. What does the Lord see when he pulls back the leaves in your life? When he looks deep down on the inside of you? This is what he ought to see. He ought to see the character of Jesus.

So let me ask you with this question, and I'll leave with this. What does Jesus see when he looks deep down inside your heart? What do you want Jesus to see? Does he see the character of Christ? Does he see the fruit of the Spirit? Let's pray. Heavenly Father, this passage is filled with life-giving, eye-opening, deeply convicting truth. Two thousand years ago you took a fig tree and turned the world upside down with lessons from it. You used it to condemn hypocrisy, to warn us of the danger of cover-up, help us to bear genuine fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. For it is in the holy and precious name of Jesus that I pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-20 12:09:02 / 2022-11-20 12:21:05 / 12

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