Fig Leaves and Temple Thieves

Today’s post was written Tara Archibald. Tara is team member on the Central Illinois Deeper Still Team.

Thank you Tara for sharing your heart with us today!

I said “no.” Not a no to my girls. Not a no to my husband. Not another no to the dog. Not even a no to one more thing on my to-do list. I said “no” to God, a blatant no. The Holy Spirit “tapped” me on the shoulder and reminded me of what He taught me just the day before. Pleaded with me to put off the old flesh and yield to Him. I refused. In that moment, I rejected Jesus.

Headed into Jerusalem early Monday morning, Jesus and his disciples stopped along the side of the road to eat. Hungry from their travels, they recognized a fig tree in the distance by its abundant foliage. An unusual sight for the time of year since fig season was a month away. The leaves and figs grow together in late spring. This tree, already in bloom ahead of the others around it, had been planted in good soil. However, when they arrived at the tree it lacked fruit. What held the promise of something good was barren, void of the purpose for which it was created. Jesus cursed it. No longer would it bear fruit or leaves of any kind. No longer would it deceive or lead the passerby astray.

The nation of Israel had often been likened to a fig tree in the Old Testament (Hosea 9:10; Joel 1:7). Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree symbolized the judgement of God upon a people who had the outward appearance of life but failed to bear fruit. A judgement due to Israel’s spiritual fruitlessness and hypocrisy. They had rejected Jesus.

Jesus had already cleansed the temple once before, at the beginning of His ministry. That one, a warning. This second cleansing, a statement of judgement against the leadership of Israel. He cleansed His house of thieves and robbers. Of those who took advantage of the poor. Of those who took advantage of His worshippers and His chosen people. Of His chosen people who took advantage of His chosen people.

The chief priests and scribes from the tribe of Levi, were the chosen spiritual leaders of Israel. Chosen to receive and give offerings, to mediate between God and man, to lead in worship and prayer. Chosen by God. Their hearts now hard and power hungry.

Planted in the good soil of His law, from afar the temple held the promise of something good, something sweet, but inside it the hearts of God’s chosen were barren, their lives fruitless. The purpose for which they were chosen, distorted. They refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Promised One, whom they waited centuries for. Longed for. Eagerly anticipated.

Instead, greed, power, and pride blinded them from the Messiah. Their rejection of Jesus was complete.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV).

This temple made of brick and stone will be destroyed, but not before God has something to say (and do) about its replacement. God commanded the Israelites, just as He commands us, to live fruitful lives. But what does a fruit filled life look like?

What I wore. How I looked. How I behaved. How I performed in school. Emphasis on outward appearance was ingrained in me at a very young age. And it is still a struggle to this day, a lifelong battle. It goes deeper than a striving for popularity, it demands perfection to avoid ridicule and obtain favor. But only Jesus lived a perfect life. And He is more concerned with my insides, with my heart. Daily, I must remind myself to surrender all of me to Jesus. To cast all my cares on Him. To “put off the old self with its practices and…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

Anger, pride, greed, bitterness, unforgiveness, deceit, covetousness are all practices of the old self; fruitless endeavors that come easily because we are sinners (Romans 3). Sin comes naturally. What we want to do, we do not do. What we do not want to do, we do (Romans 7). The intentions of our hearts are evil all the time (Jeremiah 17:9).

When we choose to focus on our outward appearance rather than work on our hearts, we are choosing disobedience. And that is sin. Sin is saying “no” to God. Sin is a rejection of Jesus. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) take work. Righteousness does not come naturally. It takes work to be renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator, to live like Christ. But we are not left to our own devices, to our own efforts. There is hope.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5 ESV).

Apart from God we cannot bear fruit. Apart from God we cannot overcome sin. We need His strength. We need His power.

When we, in His strength and power, yield to the Holy Spirit, when we give Him our yes, we choose life. A life overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. A life that trusts and obeys the only One worthy of our trust and obedience. We choose Jesus.

Are we fulfilling the purpose for which He created us? Are we trusting and obeying Him? Are we surrendering our plans to His? Are we falling on His overwhelming grace when we mess up? Because we will mess up, again and again. Are we holding fast to His promises? Are we thanking Him even in the midst of our storms, offering our praises on the altar of humility? Do our lives overflow with the fruit of the Spirit to others?

Like the events with the fig tree and the temple demonstrated, God is more concerned about our fruit because that is evidence of the true intentions of our hearts. It shows what we are believing and in Whom we are believing.

God promises to give us the strength, power and courage we need to remove the heavy burdensome cloak of the old self and in its place, to be filled with the sweet fruit of the new self. What fills our hearts and minds has the power to bring us joy and to bring glory and honor to the only One worthy enough, Jesus.

Friday is necessary.

But Sunday’s coming

Born and raised in California, Tara Archibald now lives in central Illinois with her husband and two daughters.  She has a background in labor and delivery nursing but is now a full time homemaker.  She is a nurse volunteer for Living Alternative Pregnancy Resource Center, Bloomington and an active team member of Deeper Still Central Illinois, serving on post-abortion retreats as often as possible.  She loves spending time with her giggling girls, her amazing husband, and her crazy German shepherd dog (not necessarily in that order).  A mountain girl at heart, she enjoys all things outdoors but is just as content to sit on a porch swing, blanket over her lap, reading a good book, with a cup of good coffee in her hand.  Most of all, she loves her precious Savior, Jesus, because it is only by His overwhelming grace, ceaseless mercy, lavish love, and persistent pursuit of her that she has found healing and can point any one to Him.  She feels called to inspire and encourage others through words and pixels.  She has only recently embraced God’s call on her life to write, still discovering her voice, but confident in God’s unfailing faithfulness to be used of Him for her good, the good of others, and His glory.

On IG: @tarajen29 & @joyfullymade139

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