A lady on a blog I read recently was ruminating about the passage in Matt 21:18 where Jesus saw a fig tree from some way off, and being hungry, approached it. He found no fruit on it however, only leaves, and he cursed the tree so that it was withered by the next morning.
A young friend of mine was stumped by the meaning of this passage a few years ago. How does it compare to the passage where Jesus asks for another year to tend to an unfruitful tree in the hopes of coaxing it into fruitfulness? Is it not a contradiction? She had just returned to Jesus after a ‘prodigal’ experience and was confused about it. About the same time that she asked me about this passage, I was doing a study on almonds in the bible and I thought of an interesting comparison between fig trees and almond trees.
What I learned about the almond tree: The Hebrew word for ‘almond tree’ means hasty, or the earliest in bloom, and comes from a root word that means: to be alert, sleepless, be on the lookout, hasten, wait, watch for. The almond tree is the first tree to blossom after the winter. It bares its blossoms on bare branches in mid to late winter, before the tree has even sprouted new leaves.
I found a very interesting tidbit about the almond tree in one of Barbara Richmond’s manuals a few years ago. She said that the jewish people traditionally believe that the tree of life in the garden of Eden was an almond tree. Now, I don’t know if it is true or not, but it still gave me some food for thought. If we were God, we might have chosen the most showy, splendid looking tree, like that fig tree that Jesus saw. It looked so promising from a distance, in full leaf. Yet because it had no fruit, it was cursed.
The almond tree in contrast to the fig tree appears to be in a dry, barren and unfruitful condition before it comes into bloom. It stands unadorned with leaves, yet it blossoms with the promise of fruit in the worst of seasons!
The bible mentions in Genesis that Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves. So to me the story of the fig tree being in full leaf has something to do with putting on a mask of being something you aren’t. It speaks of relying on the arm of the flesh to cover your sin and lack of fruit instead of letting Jesus cover us by his grace. Our tendency is to adorn ourselves with fig leaves to hide our barrenness and weaknesses but God wants us to come to him like the almond tree, stripped of everything. In spirit and truth. Only then can his life cause us to bud and sprout.
I love the principle that it is not always what we see that counts, so many situations in our lives seem hopeless, beyond repair, dead, and barren yet if they have been given to Him in due time (often in mid-winter when it seems it can’t get any worse) God arises in his glory and we see that he has been at work all along.
Isn’t it interesting that Aaron’s rod lay in the presence of God, just a dry old stick, yet God caused it to sprout and blossom…with almonds?
I think that’s how Jesus wants us to come to him. Not trying to hide our barrenness and fruitlessness yet ready and alert like the almond tree, waiting for him to cause us to bud and sprout.
Pro 8:34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
(The word ‘watching’ in this verse is the hebrew word ‘shaqad’ which is the word from which the word almond, ‘shaqed,’ is derived. . 🙂 )