Joan: I have a question regarding Luke 13:6-9 – the parable of the fig tree. It’s pretty clear to me that this is speaking about “one more chance” but I don’t understand the significance of “digging around it” and “fertilizing it.” What do you think that means? The other references to unfruitful fig trees seem to refer to looking good on the surface – having a form of godliness – and insincere repentance and worship. They also don’t get a second chance but are cut down.

Dave: Just prior to Luke 13:6, Jesus talked about repentance. I think the fig tree represents Israel as a non repentant nation and God had made several previous attempts throughout their history via the prophets to get them to follow His lead, but they wouldn’t. The Jewish nation constantly broke their covenant with God by their wayward attitudes and actions. “Digging around and fertilizing” represents God’s ultimate, last-ditch effort to bring His Old Covenant people to Him by way of His personal appearance on earth (see the parable of the tenant farmers in Matthew 21:33-42). Since the Jewish nation as a whole (not individual Jews) rejected their God in Christ Jesus, Israel and the Old Covenant Temple would be “cut down” (destroyed). Jesus warned of this destruction in Luke 23:28-31 and Matthew 24:2, 15-22. The Kingdom of God was to be taken from Israel and given to Gentiles (Matthew 21:42-45). It is quite remarkable to note that since the Temple’s destruction, the Jews have never re-instituted animal sacrifice. I believe this underscores what God has said and done regarding physical Israel. Christ is the perfect sacrifice therefore no more animals should be killed. The Book of Hebrews reveals more details about this issue.

By the way, I do not believe that this Kingdom transfer was a “Plan B” by God as some Christian teachers claim. The Old Testament prophets described it several times, although they themselves were probably unsure about what it all meant. I believe there has always been a Plan A from the beginning. Furthermore, I think that this Plan would save as many souls as would be possible considering the dire circumstances of a sinful, rebellious world. I am blessed to know that you are reading His Word!

Joan: This is great. However, whenever I read something like this I’m always trying to see how it applies to our lives today. I know of so many people (including me) who have children or family members who claim to be believers (look good on the outside) but their lives tell another story. I’ve seen the Lord spare one in particular time after time and wonder if there’s a message here about “digging around” and “fertilizing” that God is showing as a way to reach them before it’s too late. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I’m such a practical person that it just comes naturally. Thanks for being such a good sport.

Dave: I hear what you are saying, especially from a parental viewpoint. The fact is that it is next to impossible for us to discern exactly how God is dealing with someone else. The Holy Spirit does supply us with words of wisdom, words of knowledge, and a distinguishing of spirits, but that does not make us God and rarely does one person have all of these. So we are called to believe, seek those gifts, stay strong in Him, and to trust in His ways, which are higher than our ways.

Joan: You’re absolutely right. I’m so grateful The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Rom. 8: 26,27. Thanks for all your help. Have a blessed day.


Alona R (6/19/13): Interesting discussion – thank you Joan for asking the question.  We had a similar discussion in Community Bible Study (CBS) when we studied Luke.