Like a Fig Tree
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 105. We have been looking together at the trees which are mentioned in the book of Psalms, recalling that there are 41 references to trees in the Bible from a spiritual standpoint, twelve of these references being found in the book of Psalms. We have been noticing spiritual lessons related to such trees as is described in Psalm 1, verse 3, where we are reminded that the man who puts his trust in the Lord shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth fruit in his season. His leaf will not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

We were reminded that the believer can be like the tree described in Psalm 52, verse 8, where David said:

Psalm 52:

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

When we turned to Psalm 92, we discovered that the believer could be like the palm tree, victorious in everything that he did. In Psalm 92, verse 12, we discovered that the believer could be like the cedar tree whose boughs could grow to such great length that many could find refuge beneath the shadow.

Then we looked at Hosea, chapter 14, and discovered that Israel, restored to fellowship with God, tired of her weariness and her wandering, could say, “I shall be like the green fir tree, always rejoicing, never discouraged and disappointed.”

We asked you to turn to Psalm 105, from which we read in verse 1:

Psalm 105:

1 O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.
2 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.
3 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.
4 Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
5 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

Sketch of the Fig Tree

We would suggest you read the remaining portion of the Psalm in which all of the wonderful deeds in relation to the nation of Israel are recited. Some of those wonderful deeds were deeds of blessings, but some of those wonderful deeds were deeds of correction for them and correction for their enemies who dared to oppose themselves against God. Of such character is verse 33 where we find the tree at which we are going to look in this lesson:

Psalm 105:

33 He smote their vines also and their fig trees; and brake the trees of their coasts.

You notice right in the midst of this verse a reference to the fig tree and that fig tree is going to be the subject of our discussion today. Before we attempt to learn any spiritual lessons from it, I would like to sketch it for you, not with a brush of an artist because I am not such, but with words and phrases that are taken from within and without the Word of God.

As I prepared to sketch with words the fig tree which is referred to in the Scripture, I discovered that there is not a great deal that needs to be said about it, for as one writer says, “It grows in the land of Palestine like a bad weed.” Its wood is good for nothing. You can't build anything out of it. It is not even good to build a fire because it will scarcely burn; and during the winter months, when the tree is shedding its leaves, it is one of the most unattractive, dead looking pieces of wood that you can imagine. It is not like other trees. It is not anxious to burst into bloom at the first hint of warm weather. It is the latest of all the trees coming into bloom in the spring. It is a temperamental tree. Some of the fig trees refuse to bear fruit every year. They will bear their fruit every other year. Some of them are even more temperamental. They bear not their fruit every other year; they refuse to bear except every third year.

That is the reason, in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 13, the parable is presented of the man who came to his gardener saying, “Why does this fig tree cumbereth the ground? I have looked for fruit every year for three years, and I haven't found any. Cut it down. It doesn't need to take up any more space than it already does.”

You might wonder why we are even thinking about a fig tree since I have spoken about it in such an uncomplimentary fashion; and yet, if you were living in the land of the Bible, you would realize how very important the fig tree was. It was so very essential to life that every individual not only desired to have one, but saw that he did. That is the reason the Spirit of God, in the book of Proverbs, chapter 27, verse 18, spoke of thriftiness and energy in words related to the fig tree:

Proverbs 27:

18 Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof…

We might talk about energy and thriftiness in another way, but the fig tree was so very important that the Spirit of God said, “If you are going to live, you are going to have to take care of your fig tree.”

Symbolism of the Fig Tree

That is the fig tree. I hope it is a picture plain enough for you to understand because we want to pass over from the sketch of the tree to the symbolism of the tree. We have done that with each one of the trees that we have been noticing, but you will recall that we have arrived at the symbolism of these other trees by comparing Scripture with Scripture, and that is quite all right. We have done no violence to the Word of God to do it, but when we come to the fig tree, we have set before us a precedent in relation to the symbolism of the tree that we have in relation to no other tree.

For example, in the Old Testament in the book of Judges, chapter 9, when Jotham, the prophet of God, wanted to drive home a truth to the foolish people of Israel, he used all of the trees, with particular emphasis upon the fig tree. When he wanted to draw a picture of the need of standing in the place that God had given, he spoke of the sweetness of the fig tree.

In the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, verse 32, when the Lord Jesus Christ wanted to drive home one of the most important lessons to the prophetic Word, He emphasized the fig tree. He said: “When you see the fig tree put forth its leaves, then you know of surety that summer is nigh.” When the Lord Jesus Christ chose to speak by means of parables, as we have already suggested to you, as is recorded in Luke, chapter 13, He said, “Listen to the parable of the fig tree,” and then He told a story. So you see, we speak with boldness when we use the fig tree as a symbol of spiritual lessons in the life of the believer.

We want to think with you about the spiritual significance of this fig tree first in relation to security. Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 8, verse 8. As you turn there, I would like to remind you that this passage of Scripture deals with God's promise in relation to what we know as the promised land . It is in the very beginning of God's dealing with the nation of Israel, and in chapter 8, we read in verse 7:

Deuteronomy 8:

7 For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
8 A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, [notice now] and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;
9 A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.

Now notice. This promised land, described in the terms which we have read, has in the very center of it a fig tree. Turn to Micah, chapter 4, which is dealing not with the promised land we know as the land of Canaan before the Israelites ever entered into it, but with the promised land to which the children of Israel will be restored after a millennium or two of wandering hopelessly and helpless in this world. Speaking of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth, in verse 3 we read, concerning Him:

Micah 4:

3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks…

This is the only universal disarmament which the Bible endorses. Keep that in mind. A lot of people today would like for the free world to beat its swords into plowshares and its spears into pruning hooks; and they tell you that is what God expects, but that is a lie. God expects you to keep your swords sharpened and your spears well pointed. The only day that He will ever tell you to beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks is when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself returns to this earth and takes full charge of things.

You are fooling yourself if you think that He has charge now. He doesn't. He is not on the throne of this world. The Devil is in charge, and you had better keep your swords sharp and your spear well pointed because you may well have some battles to do before it is over.

When those swords are beat into plowshares and your spear into pruning hooks, verse 4:

Micah 4:

4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.

You may wonder why in these passages of Scripture the vine and the fig tree are related. It was a simple, ordinary practice on the part of the Israelites. On the wall of the house, they planted a vine. Close to the house, they planted a fig tree. The vine would go up the wall of the house as vines do, and then it would become long and be just hanging down; but when it got that long, they took it and framed it across some support to the fig tree. On the one side was the fig tree; on the other side was the vine. Every man sat down under his own vine and fig tree, and nobody could make them afraid.

That is the primary spiritual significance of the fig tree, Beloved. It represents the security that was provided for the Israelites. When you have time, you read the story of how the Assyrian king approached the walls of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah. They were completely surrounded, cowering inside the walls. They knew not which way to turn, and the Assyrian king said, “If you will leave that little weak king you have—Hezekiah by name—and open the gates of the city and let my armies in, I guarantee you I will move you to a land where every man will be able to sit down under his own vine and under his own fig tree.”

All through the Scripture it is representative of security, but for the believer it is representative of the security that is provided by God, for you see, the Israelites would never know permanent security in what we know as the promised land , until the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Then they will sit down, every man under his own vine and under his own fig tree.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the Gospel of John, as I tell you I have found my fig tree. Through the grace of God, I have been provided with a fig tree, and I have been dwelling there securely ever since the first day I met the Lord Jesus Christ, for my security and my safety is in Him. That is the reason I can agree with Habakkuk, the prophet, “Though the cattle in the barn may fail and the fig tree may even be late in blossoming, yet I will rejoice in God my Savior,” because I have been sitting under the fig tree long enough not only to be conscious of my security, but to be dwelling serenely there as well.

I would like to remind you that the fig tree has a spiritual significance, not only of security (Are you listening? Are you secure? Are you at peace today with everything settled?), but I would like to suggest to you it is a symbol of serenity. Have you ever noticed someone to whom you have spoken in these terms, “His mind is a thousand miles away.”? Have you ever spoken of someone in these terms, “He was completely lost in thought.”? Have you ever spoken of someone in these terms, “He was wrapped up in what he was thinking.”? I suspect you have, and no doubt someone has spoken of you in that same fashion. I mention that because we are going to read here in John, chapter 1, verse 47, about whom someone might say that he was a thousand miles away or that he was wrapped up in thought. Notice verse 47, where we read:

John 1:

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, [notice now] when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

I love this story. You see, Nathanael was under his fig tree. He was secure, but he was serene as well, for he was lost in thought. Oh, not in the aimless wandering of the mind without a goal, but he was lost in meditation, and do you know what he was meditating upon? He was meditating upon that story in the Old Testament where Jacob lay down to sleep and had a dream. As he dreamed, he saw Heaven opened and he saw a ladder reaching to the top of Heaven. He saw angels ascending and descending on that ladder.

If Nathanael had not been meditating in the Word of God, he never would have known for sure what that dream meant; but he was thinking about it, and when the Lord saw him, He didn't only see his body there, He saw what was in his mind. You know, the Lord can do that. When I look at you, you look real interested. I won't say so today, but there have been times when some of you looked like you wished I would hurry up and hush. I don't know what is in your mind, but the Savior does. He doesn't only look in your face like I am able to do; He looks in your mind. When Nathanael was sitting under the fig tree, the place of security, He knew his mind and He said, “Isn't that wonderful? Look at what Nathanael is thinking about,” so when He talked to him, He said, “Nathanael, you know what you were thinking about a while ago. I want to tell you what it means. It means that soon I am going to die, and when I die, I will be a ladder from earth to Heaven upon which the angels of God will ascend and descend. They will ascend with your prayers, and they will descend with the answers from God.”

Beloved, he didn't learn that lesson when he was in a dither. When he was in a dither, he didn't learn that lesson. He didn't learn that lesson when he was all upset and his mind was occupied with a multitude of things. He learned that lesson when he sat down under the fig tree. The fig tree is representative of security. It is representative, as well, of the serenity which God gives to everyone who learns to feed upon Him. Have you learned that? Have you learned to just sit down and meditate in the things of God? Oh, the blessing that can come.

I spent several days this last week at a church camp. As we made plans for the summer, I couldn't help but sit there and think about a period of time we have during that camp called quiet time —thirty minutes when nobody is supposed to say anything to anybody else. Nobody is supposed to sit close to anybody else. For the little folks, we even tell them they have to sit twelve feet apart, and we measure it off so that they can see what twelve feet is because it is amazing how many of them think twelve feet is twelve inches. The idea is to get as far apart from everybody that you can and just think. Sit under, not a fig tree in Louisiana, but a pine tree, and think. It is amazing when testimony time comes how many young people get up and give a testimony. They don't talk about the Bible classes. They don't talk about the morning watch. They don't talk about the evening service as a source of their blessing. They say, “You know, yesterday while I was sitting out under the pine tree with my open Bible, God spoke to my heart.”

Beloved, we are talking about fig trees from a spiritual standpoint, and I beg of you, get you a fig tree and learn to sit down under it and let God speak to your heart. We are living in such a hurried world, so much tension, so many breakdowns. Get you a fig tree. There won't be near the breakdowns if you have a fig tree. Sit down under the fig tree, and let God speak to your heart.

A Symbol of Sweetness

There is something else I want to say to you about the fig tree. Yes, it is a symbol of security and it is a symbol of serenity, but I want to suggest to you as I ask you to turn to the book of Judges, chapter 9, that it is a symbol of sweetness as well. In chapter 9 there is the picture to which I referred in the early part of our message, when Jotham stood up and preached a sermon on trees. You see, Abimelech, the son of Gideon, wanted to have all of the authority of his father, but he had seventy-two brothers to contend with, and they said, “You are not going to have it all.” So what did he do? The first thing that he did was kill them. Then he went around to all of the people and said, “I want you to ask me to be king over you,” and some of them were foolish enough to say, “That is right. We want you to be king.”

Jotham heard about it and he stood up and he said, “I want to tell you a story.” He told them about trees, how an ordinary, little bramble bush came up to this tree and said, “Will you cease being a tree and follow me?” Then he went up to this other tree and said, “Will you cease being a tree and follow me?” He went up to the fig tree, and, in verse 11:

Judges 9:

11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

“No! I'm not the least bit interested in a king. I am not the least bit interested in being great. All I want to be is sweet. All I want to do is to grow and give my sweetness to all who need it.”

Beloved, I am talking about something that most of us here are not familiar with. Most of us are familiar with the idea of advancement. Most of us are familiar with the idea of getting our foot in the door and taking advantage of every opportunity. Most of us are familiar with the idea of marking time until we can get into that place where we can really be prominent. Most of us don't want to just grow and be sweet, but as I think with you about a fig tree, I want to ask you to get so rooted and grounded in Christ that you would be willing to believe that the greatest thing in the world is to be able to be a benediction and a blessing whether anybody ever thinks you are important or not.

The fig tree was known for its sweetness in a very special way, and its sweetness was accomplished in rather an unusual way. You see, fig trees do not have external blossoms like most trees do. They have an inner blossom. If they had an external blossom, then one fig tree could fertilize another fig tree simply by the pollen that was wafted by the wind if need be, but because it had an inner blossom, a little insect would go right on the inside of that fig tree and it would deposit the pollen and the fig tree would be fertilized. So you see, the very secrecy of the whole matter guaranteed its blossoming. Botanists tell us that is the reason the fig has such an enduring sweetness.

Are you following me? Do you know enough about being alone? Do you know enough about dwelling apart to the extent that the Holy Spirit can produce in your life a sweetness that can be a benediction and a blessing? Do you know what I am talking about? You may not because there is not a whole lot of sweetness in this world. Did you know that? Most of us as Christians are quite ready to state our opinion. Most of us as Christians are quite willing to tell anybody off at the first chance we get, but a few of us are willing to stand firm and quite and stay sweet. Just stay sweet. It's hard to do, but oh, what a benediction and a blessing it is!

One of the reasons we can't stay sweet in the middle of adversity is found here in the fig tree. One of the ways that the sweetness was guaranteed to last was when the fruit was born, the farmer would take the fig and he would cut it open right down through the middle. He would leave it exposed to the sun, but not too long. If he left it exposed too long, it would dry out. He left it exposed just the right time, then he closed it back up and he put a poultice of figs on top of a poultice of figs and made a sweet-cake out of it. It could be used for weeks and weeks on desert travels, but if it hadn't been exposed to the sun, if it hadn't been exposed to the heat, the sweetness could not have stayed.

Let me give you an illustration of this. You marry someone, and you are very much in love, and you are oh, so sweet to each other for a while. Then trouble comes. When you try to get to the bottom of it, you might say to your husband, “You are not sweet to me like you were when we were going together.” He might say, “Your sweetness didn't last very long, either.” Sweetness doesn't last too long, but if you go through the fire together, it does. If you are exposed to the heat together, it lasts.

Why is it that Christians are not very sweet today? I don't believe that they have suffered enough. I don't believe they have had enough of a burden. I don't believe they have had enough of a trial.

The sweetness of the fig tree—oh, what it can do. Let me tell you a story or two from the Word of God. You can read them when you have the time. In I Samuel, chapter 30, there is the story told of an Egyptian slave who became ill. He was left to die by his Assyrian master because he cared nothing about him at all, and he was just so much excess baggage. David came along and he found this Egyptian ready to die. What do you think he did for him? He took some of these figs that I have been talking about in which the sweetness was preserved and he said to this Egyptian servant, “I haven't got much, but I have this,” and he gave him the figs. Do you know that the Scripture says that this Egyptian servant was renewed in strength and able to go on his way and lead David to ultimate victory? Do you see what happened? David's sweetness provided strength for that Egyptian slave who was ready to die.

One time when David was traveling and he was weary and tired, he knocked on a compound occupied by Nabal, and Nabal said, “Go on your way. I am not interested in doing a thing for you. I have too much to do.” David, the anointed king of God, had to go on his way without so much as a drink of water. But Nabal had a wife by the name of Abigail. A woman in that day could not do what women today can do. If she had been living today, she would have said, “Shut up and give the man a drink of water,” but she couldn't do that. She waited until he went to bed. Then she loaded some figs on the back of some asses, not just for David but for all of his men. She got some of the servants and went down where David was camping and she said, “I know that you need something. I know that you need strength. I know you need help, and I have brought it to you.” That is what I am talking about by being sweet. Her sweetness in the place of her husband's animosity (listen carefully) could in all probability have saved David's life.

Remember the story of Hezekiah? He was dying of blood poisoning and God said, “Hezekiah, you are going to die. You are not going to live.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and cried. I don't criticize him for that. It is awfully easy to sing about how homesick you are for Heaven until you get almost there. Then you find you are not as homesick as you thought you were. You find out that you would like to live a little longer. You find that you are not as anxious to see Jesus as you thought you were. You would rather stay with your wife and your children a little bit longer. I don't blame him for crying. He turned his face to the wall and cried, “God, let me live,” and God said, “All right, I have seen your tears.” I have always been glad for that. He didn't say, “I have heard what you said.” He said, “I have seen your tears.” It is amazing what your tears can accomplish.

Then he said to Isaiah, “I am going to let Hezekiah live. I told him he was going to die, but I am going to give him fifteen more years. The poor fellow has blood poisoning, and we have got to do something about it. Go into your kitchen cabinet and get a poultice of figs. Take those figs that you put out in the sun for sweetness and put them on that boil that Hezekiah has, and he will get better.” And he did. You see what happened. The sweetness of the fig tree meant life for somebody else.

There are many more things we could say, but I want to ask you something. This fig tree, when I began to sketch its picture for you, was not presented in a very attractive fashion. I said that it was practically good for nothing and that is right—good for nothing except to grow and be sweet and provide life and strength for everybody who came its way.

Many, many years ago when God was dealing with me about my life, He asked me to turn to Jeremiah, chapter 45, and He asked me to look at the last verse there, and I did. I read:

Jeremiah 45:

5 And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…

He dealt sorely with me, but when He was through dealing with me, I knelt before Him and I said, “God, You have spoken to my heart. Never again will I seek great things for myself. I don't care whether anybody ever hears of me. I don't care whether anybody ever thinks I have done anything for You or not. I will never again seek anything good for myself, but I will just stand where you planted me like the fig tree, and I won't give up the sweetness of the fig tree to be king over all the trees in the world.”


Beloved, when you have learned to yield, when you have learned to surrender, then you know something of security. Then you know something of serenity.

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