By Jenny Arnold
I really like figs, especially fresh ones. In late autumn and early winter, it is possible to find them in our supermarkets, but there is nothing like one picked, sun-ripened and eaten straight from the tree – as is the case with most fruit.
I have a rather lovely memory from a holiday I took in Turkey one time. We were sailing along the Mediterranean coast in a converted fishing boat and thus the Captain was able to anchor in small coves and harbours and thus enable us to explore different areas. On one such venture, wandering around an ancient village, we came upon a man harvesting figs in his small orchard.
We stopped to watch and in the time-honoured way of strangers wishing to convey friendship we smiled and nodded to one another. The man gestured to one of his trees and gave us a questioning smile. I nodded eagerly and he placed a fat, ripe and warm fig into my hand. I ate it with much pleasurable noises as he watched me smiling and pleased at my responses. After more smiles, nods and handshakes, we went on our way with several more ripe figs to enjoy.
Jesus and the Fig Tree
Jesus often used figs and fig trees to illustrate much of His teaching and we find one in Luke 13:6-9, ‘A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard and he went to look for fruit on it but did not to find any so he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘for 3 years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down why should it use up the soil.’ Sir, the man replied leave it alone for one more year and I will dig around it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine but if not then cut it down.’
The Parable is about God and Israel, and the need to repent – verses 1-9 are all about the real need to repent. There are 3 entities in the parable: God (the vineyard owner), Jesus (the one who tends the vineyard) and Israel the tree – for the purpose of this writing anyway, me and you.
Jesus, who by His Spirit and word feeds and waters us, intercedes for more time to fertilise the fruitless tree, and God, in His grace and mercy, grants Jesus’ request. But we, just like Israel in the parable, must understand that the time allowed is not absolute, and neither is it infinite. God’s patience has a timeline – in this parable, the timeline is one year. In the same way, Father graciously allows us another year, another month, another hour, another breath…
During the past year, over 100,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the UK. I do not know how many others have died from other causes. But one thing is sure: sadly, those who have died no longer have any days of grace left to them.
His Grace is Real
As a personal testimony, I am able to testify that Father God has been incredibly patient with me, and has given me years of grace in which to mature and produce some fruit; but I also know and understand that, as I never did before, earthly time is finite.
In my Bible reading over the past week, I have been immersed in 1 and 2 Peter. No-one could make things more clear than Peter’s second letter in regard to limited and borrowed time, and I think it right to include the entirety of chapter 3 in this piece of writing. 2 Peter 3,
‘Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles.
3Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever! Amen.’
So I pose this question: how many Days of Grace are now left to you? The answer is that no-one but God knows. We do not know if the time is urgent or when and where our lives will end, but God is still calling people to repent.
I thank Father with all my heart for the days He has given me – in point of fact, there are many days, months and years. How about you?
May the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship and power of the Holy Spirit be poured out upon each one of us. Amen