I have recently been thinking a lot about the agricultural imagery that is so prevalent throughout the Bible. Isn’t it wonderful how smart God is? He knew that no matter the time period, regardless of what types of homes we live in or what methods of transportation or communication we use, we would always understand and identify with the language of plants. In plants, family relationships, and almost everything else God made, creation provides the context for us to understand who He is.
As a student of English (and language in general), it really fascinates me when the biblical writers use metaphor and simile to emphasize truth. I love it! While there are many examples to choose from, I want to briefly comment on three. I hope that as you meditate on the profundity of these pictures, God will deepen your understanding of His character:
- The righteous like trees;
- He is the vine, we are the branches;
- Seeds that grow and fields ripe for the harvest.
Righteous men like trees. In Psalm 1, one of my favorites, the writer says that the righteous man is like a tree planted by streams of living water. A tree with strong roots can weather the storms, survive the drought, and bear fruit consistently each year. This stands in stark contrast to the wicked men who are like chaff, which is light, dead, unstable and easily blown away by the wind.
The interesting thing about trees is that they don’t grow very quickly. If you want to enjoy the benefits of a good mature tree, you have to wait years and sometimes decades. Our culture has a difficult time understanding this because we are perhaps the most impatient people who have ever lived. We think that after we’ve read a book or done something consistently for a few weeks that we have completely changed. This is not to despise small beginnings, but the truth is that lasting change and the fruit that results comes over years not days.
He is the vine, we are the branches. The Bible, especially the new testament, is filled with the metaphor that we must remain connected to Jesus to maintain life. We have been grafted into the true vine of Christ and cannot do anything apart from Him. This tells us that it is important to abide in Him before we ask anything of Him or try to do things for Him. It matters that we’re connected. If we want to be effective and bear fruit, we have to stay connected to our source of life.
The seeds and fields are ripe for the harvest. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul use the image of seeds being planted as the gospel is preached and people listen and either receive or reject it. Jesus in John 4 said that the fields were ripe for the harvest and told His disciples to pray for workers to be sent out into the fields. I love this image because it sets the perspective of how we are to view the work of evangelism. It is not a weight that is placed primarily on our shoulders in which we forcibly produce results; rather as a partnership with Jesus, a gathering in of what He has already done. We can no more make seeds grow than make people respond to God. How freeing to know that we can plant and we sometimes harvest, but He makes the seeds grow and gives them new life.
The Puritan writers said that God gave us two books: the book of scripture and the book of nature, both of which are full of God’s self-revealing truth. When I look around at God’s created things that so obviously point towards His glory, I definitely agree with them. Let’s look at nature through different eyes.