Last night I spent some time thinking about Jeremiah 17 which talks about a tree of blessing, planted by streams of water, whose leave shall not wither, and whose fruit shall not fail. This image symbolizes the man whose trust is placed in the Lord. And it is first contrasted by a symbol of a person who trusts in man, which would be of a dry bush in the dessert. This barren tumbleweed is said to be cursed.
Well there is another tree that is cursed in the Bible. How interesting is that?
This tree is cursed by the Lord Jesus, personally and literally. Let’s take a look at Mark chapter 11.
12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”
And His disciples heard it.
Why would Jesus curse the tree?
Well, the verse clearly says, “it was not the season for figs” So the tree shouldn’t have had any fruit anyways.
The key lies in the fact that the tree was appearing as if it was fruitful, when it was really a phony, a hypocrite.
On a fig tree the fruit and the leaves appear at the same time. So when He saw that the tree had leaves, it would clearly indicate that the tree had fruit. Fig trees do not have leaves unless they also have fruit. This was a picture of false advertising.
Last night as I was driving home from church I saw a bright flashing “OPEN” sign in front of the closed donut shop. Enough to draw some tired driver from the freeway for a warm late night snacking dream, only to deliver disappointment.
False Advertising. The tree is cursed for false advertising. It had a pretense of being fruitful, but it wasn’t. Just like Israel, it was very religious but far from God. The Lord has a problem with hypocrisy. “In this picture, Jesus warned Israel – and us – of God’s displeasure when we have the appearance of fruit, but not the fruit itself. God isn’t pleased when His people are all leaves and no fruit.” (David Guzik).
It reminds me of 2 Timothy 3:5 “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”
This is speaking of the “Ananias and Saphira” in our midst. People who want the attention and reputation of being people that have given everything to the work of the Lord. But have really kept back in secret. Again, the Lord would not have been upset with them for keeping their money. They could have kept it all. But to lie about it, to say you gave it all to Jesus when you know you didn’t, is dangerous.
To look godly, but to have a heart far from God . . .
The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught
When you pretend to have fruit, when you don’t—there is a curse there.
The next thing we see Jesus doing after cursing the fig tree is entering into His temple to cleanse it out.
15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
The Lord is consumed by a desire to set things right in His place of worship. He has a passion for His house, for His Father’s house. He still has this passion for His Father’s house. I look at the churches today and wonder what would He say if He came to visit. If we showed Him all that we were doing? Would He need to drive out money changers? Would He find unfruitful trees? Would He find a den of thieves, gossips, hypocrites? Would he find women who backbite, husbands filled with lust, parents filled with fits of rage? Would he find ministers in sin? Worship leaders with divided hearts? God sees. Even now.
Would Ananias and Saphira fall to the ground before Him?
Or would He say, “You took a group of thieves, redeemed, and built a house of prayer. Well done.”
Where there are leaves but no fruit, there is a curse.
The REALITY is that JESUS does walk through the Churches. We need to take heed.
When Jesus wrote to the churches in the Book of Revelation, He writes to one about their false advertising:
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
This church is very busy. They are busy, working, and seeking to be spiritual watchmen–but they have lost their first love. They need to repent. So many times we think about fruit as the STUFF we do for Jesus. Our true fruit is not what we DO for Him, but what we do THROUGH Him. “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Our fruit comes from ABIDING in Him, and LOVING Him.
We need to all come back to a place where we sit at His feet and WORSHIP and PRAY. His house shall be called a House of Prayer. He longs for fellowship with us. We need to first sit at His feet, then we can wash the feet of others. Because all of our works are going to be tested with fire. Only that which is done with Him will remain.
“But the day will come when everyone’s work can be seen. Their work will be tested by fire and the fire will show what kind of work each one did.
14 If the work a man did is not burned up in the fire, he will be paid for his work.
15 But if a man’s work is burned up, he will lose everything.”
1 Corinthians 3:13-15
“The fire will test each one’s work: When our work is tested by God, it will be revealed what kind of work it was. Just as fire will destroy wood, hay, and straw, but not gold, silver, and precious stones, so the work of some will be revealed as nothing on that Day. Notice that the amount of the work isn’t going to be evaluated (though it does have some relevance). Paul says the work will be tested to see what sort it is. If one did a lot of the wrong sort of work, it will be as if he did nothing. His work will be burned and will vanish in eternity. D.L. Moody wisely said that converts ought to be weighed as well as counted” (David Guzik).
Guzik goes on to say something very tragic, that speaks of the curse. “It is a sobering thought: many, many people who believe they are serving God, but are doing it in an unworthy manner or with unworthy “materials” will come to find in eternity that they have, in reality, done nothing for the Lord.”
Wow. Lord, help me to be genuine. Help me to be for real. I want to sit in Your presence and receive from Your Spirit and Word, so that when I am with Your church and serving You I can give that which is eternal–that which is pleasing to You. I know that what I can do for You in my own flesh and natural abilities is not eternal–wood, hay, and stubble. But what I can do THROUGH the anointing of Your Spirit is eternal–able to stand the fire like gold, silver, and precious stones.
I don’t want to be outwardly religious but inwardly disconnected.
20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”
Dried up from the roots–a symbol of where the problem came from–the roots.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Let your roots grow deep.