From the very beginning God has had a garden, speaking and teaching in gardening terms, he has used plants and trees and vines to illustrate and bring home the concepts of your faith. The smallest of seeds give way to the trees in which nests are built. The sower has no regard for the amount of seed he sows, but he throws it in abundance. No one gardens like your God.
The thing about a garden is that it must be kept. Not just watched, but a good garden must be worked. And so it is that your God comes to the fig tree looking for fruit. This is a marvelous thing. You have a God that comes to where you are, seeks you out, knows your sorrow and pain, hears your prayers, puts his fingers in the dirt of your life, and tends your needs of body and soul. He told Moses that he was this kind of God in burning bush. “I have surely seen the affliction of my people…and I have come down to deliver them…” Jesus says of him that he takes away every branch that does not bear fruit and throws it in the fire. He prunes the branches that they may bear more fruit. (Of all his scattered plenteousness One-fourth waves ripe on hill and flat, and bears a harvest hundredfold: “Ah, what of that, Lord, what of that!”) The gardens of our God produce a hundredfold. But this God is pruning, fertilizing, and watering. This God is a cut it down and throw it into the fire —why must it use up the dirt—kind of gardener God. Your God, this gardener God is dangerous. He isn’t safe. Do not be fooled by the devil’s lies.
Left to our own devices, we become wily, unpredictable plants. We wander from our purpose and produce all kinds of sin and unrighteousness. Thus what seems like ordinary and innocuous duties of a gardener are actually painful and jarring activities for the plant. Pruning involves cutting and trimming. Fertilizing involves putting on manure. Plants must be cleaned of parasites—insects, worms, and larva. Unwanted leaves and sprouts must be cut out and removed. This is such a nice way of saying that the Law accuses, the Law kills, the Law lays waste. God will not abide with our sin. He is a merciful God, but he is also a righteous and just God. Our sin angers him and the ax is laid at your roots.
Promises of prosperity, good health, a lack of sorrow and pain are not promises of the Christian life. That’s the devil’s doctrine. Instead, expect to be pruned, to be disciplined, to have sorrow and a cross to carry. Yet we are angry with the Gardener. We grumble against him for his pruning and his trimming. We buy into the lie that God couldn’t possibly discipline anyone. In our sins, we are at war with God and it isn’t good for you. You are outnumbered and out gunned. It isn’t a safe place for you to be. The war is against you. Sin will not win, wily, unpredictable plants will be pruned or uprooted. Repent.
As he directs your life for you, follow meek and lowly. In every need, He knows well how he will shield you.
In his mercy, your God has allowed the fig tree a space in his vineyard and he has come to it year after year looking for its fruit. For a tree is known by its fruit. No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. The good trees bear fruit with patience. The main characteristic of your God is mercy. This is the God that will not play along with our worldly desires, but neither will he leave well-enough alone. He interferes and he intervenes in his creation. He becomes part of his creation. The merciful One intercedes with the merciful One on your behalf. “Let it alone another year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but, if not, you can cut it down.” Jesus gave his life, endured the punishment of your debt, was forsaken of the Father, for you. The God that prunes and fertilizes, the God that sends rain (and floods and hurricanes), the God that pushes over towers and spills blood, endured death for you…went to the cross for you. Remember that this is the cut it down and throw it into the fire—why should it use up the ground, God…thus Christ endures the cut it down and the throw it into the fire of hell for you and then is victorious over death and hell and Satan for you so he can be the God of life that has his fingers in the dirt of your life. He digs and prunes and waters and gives growth. Jesus is not done with you.
This is how your God gardens. He washes you in the Water of your baptism. He sends his Word into your ears. He puts his own body on your lips and pours on his own blood. He protects you against the winds of sin and death by his own constant forgiveness. His fruit comes forth in you. Christ makes good trees and good trees bear good fruit. He does all things well. His mercy endures forever. No one gardens like your God.
In the name of +Jesus. Amen.