Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts on the Book of Joel (in many parts); Part 6

Rejoicing dries up from the sons of men 

“Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth.  The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the LORD.  The priests mourn, the ministers of the LORD.  The field is ruined, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine dries up, fresh oil fails.  Be ashamed, O farmers, wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley; because the harvest of the field is destroyed.  The vine dries up and the fig tree fails; the pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree, all the trees of the field dry up.  Indeed, rejoicing dries up from the sons of men” (Joel 1: 8-12).

The Fig

Many feel the fig is the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and their reasoning is sound; after Adam and Eve ate and had their eyes opened, and they became ashamed, it was fig leaves that they sewed together in an attempt to conceal their nakedness.  Thus, the first fruit ever mentioned in the Bible was the fig, howbeit, only in leaf form and by inference to the fruit itself via the leaves.  Amazingly, Christ would later curse a fig tree when leaves were all He could find upon it, suggesting that fruitfulness ought to have been expected by the time He scrutinized.  The “be fruitful and multiply” mandate that God has given to all of mankind is therefore closely related to the fig tree.

The joy of sexual relations, the most glorious and sacred of the joys of natural life, is closely related to the fig.  The sweet taste of the fig and its deep mature and protective shading from dark green leaves symbolized the fruitfulness of marriage and domestication.  However, natural marriage was always intended to symbolize our spiritual marriage to God; when the Assyrians splintered the fig trees as they invaded the land, the judgment was not directed toward natural failed marriages so much, but toward their failure to remain true with God.  References throughout Scripture equating prosperity and security, viz. “each man under his own vine and fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25) is many.

In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, page 283, it says: “At its most basic level the fig tree is viewed as a wonderful part of settled life.  It symbolized the good life, and to live under one’s fig tree stood for a life of settledness (fig trees took several years of difficult labor to establish) joy, peace, and prosperity.  In his taunt, the king of Assyria uses the fig tree as part of his picture of the life he claimed that he wanted to extend to Israel: ‘Do not listen to Hezekiah.  This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me.  Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern’” (Is. 36:16).  It is further noteworthy that one’s own cistern is mentioned here along with the fig tree as both speak of marital fidelity which produces true fruitfulness.  The Assyrian taunt is aimed at the very backend of things, the very aim of most people’s hearts, which is material prosperity; likewise, our enemy is ever taunting us and attempting to entice us to run the way of the masses.

Morality is always secondary to issues about our economy; so long as affluence can be had, even at the expense of moral cost, most are completely satisfied.  Unfortunately, the Assyrian taunt is heard and believed by many within the church today; the health and wealth gospel of superficiality has replaced the death to self and personal poverty gospel of depth.  Get rich quick schemes and instantaneous miracles along with a craven desire for signs and wonders have replaced “the several years of difficult labor to establish” one’s fig tree of deep and constant yet monotonous manna gathering and eating. 

The punishment of overpowering might and the overflowing banks of the Euphrates (symbolic of the soon overwhelming force of Assyrian power upon Israel and Judah prophesied in Isaiah’s time) was initiated by God because they were not satisfied with the gentle spring of Shiloh (representing sound doctrine and boring orthodoxy).  This craven desire for signs and wonders without root or branch is like the “burning like a furnace” moment that the near coming Day of the Lord is bringing; it will destroy presumption, evildoers, and the arrogant.