READING: Judges 15-17, Luke 13:1-21
I can see the scene in my mind. Jesus had emphasized the importance of repentance, calling people to turn from their wrong. If they did not repent, they would perish. The teaching and the words were not difficult to understand. Repentance was not optional.
Then, Jesus told them a parable about a vineyard owner whose fig tree was not producing fruit. For three years, the tree had been barren; for that reason, the man determined to have the tree cut down. The vineyard-keeper, though, requested one more year of cultivation: “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down” (Luke 13:8-9). The keeper would till the soil, fertilize it, water it well, and seek to promote fruit on the fig tree. If it didn’t produce after another year, cutting it down would then be the next step – but not immediately.
It’s likely the fig tree represented Israel, but the patience of God portrayed in this story applies to all of us. God is incredibly longsuffering with us, tolerating our unfruitfulness much longer than we would likely tolerate it in others. When others draw a line in the sand, God often extends the line a little longer simply to show His compassion and to extend His offer of grace. That is not to say, however, that He draws no line in the sand. No, He does indeed have a limit; His offers of grace do not last indefinitely when our lives do not reflect Him. Even God’s patience sometimes ends with judgment.
PRAYER: “God, I want to produce fruit pleasing to You. Help me.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Judges 18-19, Luke 13:22-14:14*
*devotion first published in 2017