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What the Bible says about Bearing the Fruits of Righteousness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Psalm 1:1-3

We can take five insights from this short passage:

  1. This tree, representing an individual among God's people, is planted. It does not spring from a seed dropped by a bird or blown by the wind. Its planting implies purpose. Who would do that? God, of course. John 6:44 teaches that we do not come to God of our own accord; in fact, “no one can come to [Christ] unless the Father . . . draws him” (emphasis ours). He calls each person and directs his or her life, planting each where He desires.

  2. He plants each tree by rivers of water, which nourishes and sustains it. Water, of course, is a common symbol of God's Holy Spirit throughout Scripture. So, if God in His wisdom plants us in the right spot and gives us plenty of water, we can guess what will likely happen next.

  3. Unlike the fig tree in Jesus' parable that failed to produce fruit and is cut down and thrown in the fire (see Luke 13:6-9; John 15:6), this divinely planted and nourished tree bears fruit in its season. It produces the good works God planted it to produce (see John 15:8; Ephesians 2:10).

  4. Like the Tree of Life in Revelation 22:2, the leaves on this tree do not wither. The process God puts His “trees” through produces, not withering and death, which is the “natural” course of things, but growth, productivity, and life.

  5. The psalmist proclaims that this person who is like a tree will prosper in whatever he does. The gist of the psalm does not imply material prosperity—land, houses, cars, jewelry, cash—but spiritual, long-term success. Ultimately, he means righteousness, rulership, and eternal life in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 19:7-8; 20:6)!

Notice that the psalmist writes that the blessed person “shall be like a tree.” Why is that? Is it possible that, if we adopt specific attributes of a tree, we, like the blessed man, can avoid sin, delight in the law, and prosper eternally? We need to pursue this line of thought.

Trees get 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and only 10% from the soil. Humans receive physical nutrition from the soil, through the food it produces, but we get our spiritual nourishment from God through His Holy Spirit—through the “air” or on the “wind,” as it were. If we wish to think of the Holy Spirit like water, we can imagine the tree receiving nutrition when falling rain thoroughly soaks its leaves.

We can think of this in another way: Jesus is the vine or the trunk, and we are the branches that grow off it (John 15:1, 5). He puts us where He wants us on the tree, and we should be content there to do what He wants us to do. As the Head of the church, He feeds us to prepare us to produce the fruit He desires (see John 6:45; Ephesians 4:7-24).

Most people do not realize that trees can induce rainfall by cooling the land and transpiring water into the sky through their leaves. A large tree, through transpiration, can lift a hundred gallons of water a day and discharge it into the air through evaporation. An acre of maple trees can put as much as 20,000 gallons of water into the atmosphere each day! When God's children help Jesus Christ make the deserts bloom in the Millennium (Isaiah 35:1-2, 6-7), they will surely be planting a great many trees.

In this arboreal image, we can understand that the Holy Spirit flows both into and out of us. As we use the Holy Spirit in proper words and good works, God gives us more. When we pray, encourage others, share the truth, do acts of kindness, and the like, we are “transpiring” like a tree!

We, as Christians, spend our converted lives absorbing hit after hit, trial after trial, and if we do it right, we grow and overcome. Like a tree, we sequester or store away the lessons of life's difficulties. We cannot afford to let them pull us down or stop us. While taking in these vital life-lessons, we respond by demonstrating an excellent example for those around us to see, remember, and we hope, follow.

Mike Ford (1955-2021)
Like a Tree

Matthew 21:18-19

The various commentaries provide a wealth of additional information to help us better understand this event, as the Bible leaves out a great deal that its authors expected their contemporary readers to know. With many years and thousands of miles of geography between us and the area of Jerusalem in AD 31, it behooves us to seek out expert help in this matter. With these added pieces of information, we can understand that Jesus' cursing of the fig tree was reasonable and an example for us.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible explains that the tree that Jesus cursed was a peculiar fig tree among the many that could be found in the vicinity of the Mount of Olives. There were so many fig trees in that area that it was known as Bethpage—"House of Figs." This particular tree was unique because of the abundance of leaves—an indication of abundant fruit—but it had none. It was all show.

Adam Clarke's commentary on Mark 11:13 points out that the phrase "the time of figs was not yet" would be better translated to emphasize that the time for gathering figs had not yet come. Clarke cites a similar phrase in Psalm 1:3 as support. He also indicates that the climate in the area of Jerusalem was such that figs could be found throughout the year, especially in March and April, making it not unreasonable to expect to find fruit then. However, figs are not usually harvested until after Passover—all the more reason to expect to find some on this tree.

Clarke further contends that this fig tree was supposed to represent the state of the Jewish people—"that they professed the true religion and considered themselves the special people of God—but were only hypocrites having nothing of religion but the profession—an abundance of leaves but no fruit." Thus, he continues, "Jesus' cursing of the fig tree was intended as a warning of what was to come in the absence of repentance; the total destruction and final ruin of the Jewish state at the hands of the Romans."

Clarke concludes that Jesus did not curse the fig tree out of resentment for disappointing Him by not having any fruit, but to emphasize to His disciples just how devastating God's wrath would be on the Jews, "who had now nearly filled up the measure of their iniquity." Further, it is an object lesson to everyone that God expects us to bear the fruit of righteousness, showing us the consequences of failing in that task.

Matthew Henry echoes this last lesson in his comment on Mark 11:13:

Christ was willing to make an example of it, not to the trees, but to the men, of that generation, and therefore cursed it with that curse which is the reverse of the first blessing, Be fruitful; he said unto it, Never let any man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever!

These relevant facts inform us it was not a case that Jesus was annoyed and cursed the fig tree out of anger or disappointment as many have supposed. In fact, it was not an unreasonable act at all. No, the cursing of the fig tree turns out to be an act of God performed as a witness—like all the object lessons Jesus performed throughout His ministry. It was a stern warning to all who would fail to bear the fruit of righteousness, including—perhaps especially—us today!

The apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:11, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." Jesus was following this principle in giving us an illustration of His words in Matthew 7:19, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (see also John 15:6). The cursing of the fig tree is a pointed exhortation from our Savior not to be found fruitless at His appearing because the dreaded Lake of Fire awaits those who taste of "the heavenly gift" of God and failing to grow, fall away (see Hebrews 6:4-6; Revelation 20:15; 21:8).

Basil, a fourth-century theologian, wrote in part, "A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. . . ." The deeds—the fruit—that God wants to see are the expressions of His Spirit working in us as we interact with others (Galatians 5:22-23). As Christ Himself instructs us, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:8).

This is what the Christian life is all about: growing and producing fruit that glorifies God. Thanks to that fig tree on the way to Jerusalem, we have a vivid example to keep us on the straight and narrow path to the Kingdom of God.

Dan Elmore
The Cursed Tree

Hebrews 1:1-14

The author's direct and indirect references to the threefold offices of Jesus Christ—prophet, priest, and king—provide a link between Hebrews' first and second chapters. Christ holds all three at once, which is impressive. He is a Leader every knowledgeable individual should yearn to serve under because, under His leadership, great things will be accomplished. Those under Him will share the rewards of His achievements.

In Hebrews 1, the author describes the Son as the One through whom God spoke prophetically as “Son” (verse 2). In verse 3, He is the High Priest who provided purification for sins. In verses 6-14, we see Him prophetically, ruling from His throne in His Kingdom, alluding to His royal authority. These verses look far into the future, assuring us that His holding of the office of High Priest is a settled, eternal issue.

Why? The answer appears in Hebrews 1:9: God places Him in that office, anointing Him “with the oil of gladness more than [His] companions,” because He “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,” as demonstrated by His sinless life. He most certainly qualified for it. The quotation from Psalm 45:6-7 is no idle saying. Jesus was head and shoulders above all others in terms of His qualifications to lead.

These brief statements set the stage for the rest of the epistle. Hebrews 1 is a primer of what He has already done and will continue to do and expand upon for the members of the God Family. Remember, Christ Himself dogmatically states, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God is glorified by His Family producing fruit, and without Jesus Christ, no fruit can be produced. Without His work, our salvation would be impossible. As High Priest, He is the literal link between us and sharing eternity with God in His Family. Without Him, we could expect only death in the Lake of Fire.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Ten): Christianity's Claims


 




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