One of the Feast of Tabernacles messages I heard this year was about the symbolism of trees in Scripture. Of course, those of us over a certain age probably remember a white-haired man talking about the two trees in the Garden of Eden. There are other trees in Scripture, though, and we can learn from those passages as well.
There was one passage in particular that struck me, though. It is the Parable of the Fig Tree in Luke 13. It really made me wonder, “Is this a portrayal of God?”
First off, some context. It is told right after Jesus is questioned about the Galileans who Pilate killed while they were offering sacrifices. He then further asks them about the ones who died at the tower of Siloam. Jesus stated in vv 4-5, “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
This sets us up for the parable. Those who do not repent will perish – die forever, the second death.
So, then, Jesus tells the parable. It becomes obvious that the trees are supposed to be us. We are supposed to bear fruits of repentance (cf Mt 3:8; Lk 3:8). Jesus, then, would be the worker in the parable. However, who is the vineyard owner?
6He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7Then 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 cumbereth it the ground?
8And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
Note that the vineyard owner only waited 3 years before asking these questions. Most fruit trees don’t bear decent fruit for about 3 years. There is an interesting parallel to what God instructed Israel:
23And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
24But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal.
Arguably, this does not apply directly, as it appears to be a command to be carried out once, but one is left to wonder, “Why 3 years?”
Fig trees can take even longer than normal trees to mature, however.
It is not uncommon for figs to fail to set fruit or ripen properly. Figs have a long juvenile period, or length of time in which a plant will not produce fruit — possibly four years to five years.
~ Weiss, Jennifer. (9 Apr 2008). Helping a fig tree bear fruit. New Jersey Online. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/homegarden/garden/index.ssf/2008/04/helping_a_fig_tree_bear_fruit.html.
Some have been under the impression that the landowner is God. If so, I feel compelled to ask some questions:
Why was the vineyard owner so impatient?
Did the vineyard owner not know how long it takes for trees, and in particular fig trees, to mature?
Is this a picture of God? An impatient landowner looking for an excuse to cut us down?
What do you think?