A Fig Tree

I was reading a post by Andy Brown this morning, where Jesus curses a fig tree, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which you can view here.

These are the Scripture verses that Andy quoted in Matthew 21:18-22 NASB which read as follows: ” Now in the early morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves alone; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.

Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?”And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.”

This is one of the quotes from Jesus that I acknowledge I do not always throughly understand, as it applies to practical application and anticipated results and I would imagine that I am not alone.

Taken at it’s face value, the teaching that Jesus gave us is relatively clear. We are to act on our expressed faith and believe (not doubt) that we have received what we have asked for, and by doing so, we will indeed receive it.

The thing is, Jesus is a lot smarter than I am, and that being a given, He obviously knew that these words of His could be and would be, misunderstood, yet He said them anyway. And not only did He say them, but He preceded them by stating “Truly I say to you” or as the Kings James words it, “Verily I say to you”. Those preceding words are always a red flag to His revealing of an important truth that Jesus wants us to grasp. So this “truth” that Jesus is explaining to us, is of strong importance. This “flag” on this vital truth, should instil in all of us, a need to comprehend what is being taught and how it applies.

And just to further expand on this teaching Jesus gives us, He includes the metaphor of attributing a mountain to be moved, which can easily represent a major difficulty that we might be encountering. Adding that particular metaphor could easily open up this teaching to additional instances of misunderstanding. Yet, once again, knowing that this was a possibility, Jesus went ahead and said it anyway. And considering that Jesus tells us that He never speaks on His own but only gives us the words that His Father gives Him to speak, this instance of teaching, according to other Scriptures, could and should be taken as coming directly from God the Father.

This would be one of those “name it and claim it” verses in Scripture that we so often run into. And if we take these verses of Scripture in isolation, it would be difficult to discern any other teaching from these Scriptures, other than the face value directive Jesus gives us, that I have previously indicated.

The key words in the preceding paragraph are “in isolation“, because in Scripture, there is always a possibility and a danger of misunderstanding what we are being given, when we ignore or disregard other Scriptures that gives additional guidance on a given subject that we are looking at. That is why it is vitally important to search the Scriptures and form our understanding on a given subject via “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” as indicated in Isaiah 28:7-13.

The “kicker” in this instance of teaching, is that what we ask God to do, in order to be granted, must be in accordance with the will of God. How do I know that you ask? Because God’s Holy Word tells me so as recorded in 1 John 5:14-15 NASB which reads as follows: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Emphasis is mine.

You will note that in Matthew 21:22 Jesus is indeed linking this teaching with us asking God in prayer to do something, as is John, so we are dealing with the exact same subject.

And this is the part that I do not always understand, whether what I am asking for, is in accordance with the will of God. God is sovereign when it comes to His will. That means it is His decision and will that takes precedence, not mine. And God’s will encompasses His purposes, not mine, and His glory, not mine. Our Father indeed, does know best.

And therein lies the dilemma, at least for me, because I sometimes do not know the will of God on a request that I am making to God.

My wife has dementia and in spite of many prayers asking for her healing, her situation is not getting better, so this is how I pray.

I ask God to heal her, if it is His will, and if it is not His will, for reasons that I do not personally understand, then I ask God to be with both of us, as we walk through this difficulty that He is allowing, and that in the end, whatever it might be, according to His purposes, that He be glorified. I do ask for and obtain God’s grace, when it comes to being patient with her and with regard to loving her. And God’s grace is given new every day, day by day. And no, it is not easy, in fact, some days it is very hard, but God has and does, sustain both of us, and this I do know, that it is His will to sustain us, and He does.

Not every one gets physically healed now. Not every mountain is moved. Not every request is responded to as we ask. And there can be many reasons why this is so. As the Scriptures tell us, sometimes it is because we don’t ask (James 4:2), sometimes we ask for the wrong reasons (James 4:3), and sometimes what we ask for is not in accordance with what God has determined for us (His will) (1 John 5:14-15). This is why it is so vitally important to seek the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word on a given subject and not build a theology on just isolated portions of Scripture. All of what we are given has to be considered, not just those portions that we build a stance on, at the expense and exclusion of others.

But if it is God’s will, there will be a physical healing now, that mountain will be moved and that request will be answered. But even there, where our request is answered, it is answered in accordance with God’s sovereign timing, and not ours. And ultimately, when we leave this world, all will be healed, all will have our desires met and we all will be satisfied. How do I know this? God’s Word tells us so in Psalm 17:15 NASB, which reads:

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.


Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

28 comments

  1. Thank you for reading my post, and linking to it here.

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote. Anything does not in fact mean anything, but rather anything within his will.

    Anything within his will may be difficult to determine at times, and yet is still vastly beyond most of our everyday prayers.

    I pray for you and your wife, and even if healing does not come on this side of heaven, I know that all will be restored in Christ in his heavenly kingdom. God bless you both

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You have faith in God’s purposes and plans Bruce and that comes through in your writings. You have faith in Him and His love, grace and mercy. There are things that we don’t understand but one day what is unknown will be revealed by God. Blessings to you and your family.

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  3. Bruce, as you probably know, I researched Scripture pertaining to prayers that we don’t see answered (They’re answered, just not always the way we want.) and wrote a book, “BARRIERS.” The subtitle is, “So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?”
    One of the chapters, about the barrier of forgiveness, has this story about the fig tree, but I used the account from Mark 11:12-14 and 20-25. There’s a slight difference in the timing of this account – Jesus seems to have cursed the tree earlier in the day, and when evening came, they saw it had been withered. In this account, when Jesus told them that if they believed, they would receive what they ask for in prayer, He added, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” That’s a pretty important detail. The implication here seems to be, if you don’t forgive others, you won’t be forgiven, and if you aren’t forgiven, do you have the right to ask God for something and expect Him to give it to you?
    This is not to say that I believe every “unanswered prayer” is because of unforgiveness. (The book has 14 chapters about the 14 “barriers” I found in Scripture.) Just saying that, as you pointed out, context is very important!
    Here in Michigan it’s almost cherry-picking season. Fun to do in the orchards, but we can’t do that with Scripture!

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  4. Excellent and balanced look at an issue that faces every believer, and well underscored by your own personal, heart-felt example. God’s will and ways can be inscrutable (apart from that revealed in scripture), but we trust and know, by faith and by experience, that He is loving and good in everything He does, trials and sufferings notwithstanding. I praise Him for His faithfulness and support of you and Peg in the difficult path you are walking, and yours is a powerful testimony.

    Regarding the verse in question (fig tree, mountain, sea…), I have heard various takes on this episode, but lean toward the understanding that His cursing of the fig tree was a prophetic demonstration of what was going to happen to the establishment Jewish religion of the Pharisees, chief priests and elders who had rejected Jesus, were about to crucify Him, and would continue to resist the Holy Spirit and persecute the early church after His resurrection. Essentially declaring that Israel clinging to the old covenant after the messiah had come was like a fig tree that was barren and as such would be rejected and the religion of the old covenant would whither.

    I suspect most people accept that somewhat obvious interpretation once they hear it (it sure made sense to me). The question then, is what is He getting at with the mountain metaphor? I would tend to look for an understanding that connects to the fig tree demonstration they had just witnessed, right? Well, note that He didn’t say “a” mountain, but rather “this” mountain, as though He was referring to a specific mountain that was in plain view of his listeners. Could He have been referring to Mt. Zion where the old covenant temple was, where the sacrifices were offered and which was the seat of the religious authorities that I already mentioned? The ones who would have Him crucified and then persecute His followers…

    If so, then the metaphor could be interpreted as Him telling them that if they had faith and did not doubt, their prayers (in God’s will) for the growth of the church and for justice in the face of the persecution from the unbelieving Jews would prevail with God and the world would be turned upside down and the entire edifice of the old covenant would be overturned and eliminated, as it was in AD 70, and the new and better covenant, in His blood, would prevail.

    Anyway, a bit of a tangent from the point of your post, but iron sharpens iron so I would value your thoughts on the above. Note that this is not something I came up with, but rather something I heard from someone else, so I’m not emotionally invested and I’m always looking for better understanding.

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    • Hi Craig, yes, I’ve run across where the fig tree could be associated with the barren Pharisees, chief priests etc, also. And “this mountain” referring to Mount Zion, I think both are plausible and there has been a lot of discussion on this particular portion of Scripture in the past. I think both are definitely possibilities. I would have a tendency to go with the general observation that the curse of the fig tree represents God’s judgment upon those who were unfruitful to the Lord in Israel, including the eventual destruction of the Temple, because of what it was supposed to represent and how it had become polluted. The cleansing of the Temple, which followed this incident, would seem to me, to add weight to this assumption. I usually file these under “definite maybes”. I have a sneaky suspicion that when we get home, the different levels of witness that are woven into these seemingly random acts; will amaze us. Jesus turning the water into wine is another gem. Hope this helps! Blessings brother!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such an important message. So many Christians feel either that they have failed God or that He has failed them when healing does not occur, despite sincere prayer. May God give you strength to endure this ordeal. May you and your wife both find peace in Him.

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  6. God bless you Bruce as you continue tp pray for your wife and for grace and strength. We can be sure God is always listening but only grace can help us walk out the day when our answers seem far away. Hang on to hope. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Dear Bruce, Cancer, dementia, amputation and other adversities are all His place for our refuge. We ask, we pray in desperation for whatever mercy and grace He has planned for us in His sovereign will. In these times, it is difficult to know His will, but He knows our weakness and our need and if nothing else, He reveals His presence and His power in a way we have never known. His love is enough for you to pour out upon Peggy. In casting your care upon Him He will sustain you and her for His glory and your joy. Love and blessings for the days ahead.

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