God’s first command to humans is that they produce fruit: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number…’” (Gen. 1:28). In ancient Israel it was considered a disgrace for a married woman to be barren. There was also no word for “bachelor” in ancient Hebrew. Young people were expected to get married and produce
The theme of fruitfulness didn’t just apply to offspring. It had plenty of other applications, mostly related to spiritual fruit. In Isaiah 5: 1-7 the prophet sings a song about the Almighty God coming to his special vineyard, the house of Israel, but finding no spiritual fruit there.
SOME LESSONS FROM THE NATURAL WORLD AROUND US
The natural world can teach us a great deal about fruit and fruit-bearing. In Job 12:7-8 we are instructed: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.” There is hardly a bird that sings just to make music. Much of the singing is connected with finding a mate and bringing forth a family. We can apply the same principle to the rest of the natural world. There is probably not a flower that blooms just to look pretty or to smell good. The blossoms are there to attract bees and to bring about pollination and fruitfulness. All of nature is busy, busy, with fruit-bearing. In fact, reproduction is one of the strongest drives in nature. We see it everywhere.
Israel is an incredibly fruitful place. The blossoming season actually begins in late January with the almond tree and continues through June with the pomegranate and other late-blooming trees. The prophet even says that “Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit” (Isa. 27:6). The trees that are thick with blossoms in the springtime are thick with fruits in the summer and autumn.
We realize that in spite of the fall of man nature is continuing with what it was commanded to do. Perhaps that is why it is so refreshing for us to be out in the natural world.
SOME LESSONS FROM ISRAEL’S FESTIVALS
It is also interesting that Israel’s main festivals, Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot) and Tabernacles (Sukkot) are all agricultural in nature and are connected to fruit. At Passover the sheaf of first ripe barley is waved before the Lord and the counting of the omer begins. This is a sort of countdown to the harvest of firstfruits. Pentecost occurs on the fiftieth day of this counting. We know from scripture that Jesus (Yeshua) is called the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). The whole idea is that the perfectly fruitful life of Jesus will be reproduced in his disciples. This will not only be a firstfruits offering but it will result in a full and glorious harvest at the end of the age during the festival of Sukkot or Tabernacles. There will be great rejoicing as the Lord comes to tabernacle with his people and as the full harvest of earth is gathered (Deut. 16:13).
EVERYTHING POINTS TOWARD SPIRITUAL FRUIT
When we turn to the pages of the New Testament we notice a great emphasis upon the production of spiritual fruit. In John 15: 2-5 we see an interesting progression of “fruit…more fruit…much fruit.” In John 15:8 the Master says: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
It seems that a lot of Christians today are confusing fruits with spiritual gifts. The gifts are God’s investment in the harvest. The Lord will not come back looking for the gifts anymore than the farmer would return looking for the fertilizer he used. In Romans 11:29 we read: “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Most of us know from bad experiences that people can display powerful spiritual gifts, while their personal lives can remain in shambles. Still, God doesn’t come and take away the gifts. So the spiritual gifts tell us nothing about the person. It is only fruit that tells us about the person as we see in Matthew 7:20, “ by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Thus we need to ask ourselves “What fruit am I producing? Is it possible that I could even be producing the wrong fruit (Gal. 5:19-21)?” In Galatians 5:22-23 we have a list of some of the spiritual fruit God will be expecting from us. These are things like love, joy, peace, long-suffering and self-control. This is not an exhaustive list as Paul implies. There are no doubt many other fruits like integrity, courage, hospitality, holiness, generosity, diligence, prayerfulness and humility.
So what is growing on our trees and vines?” Do we have only grapes of wrath to show the Master or perhaps some dried up prunes of self-pity. Maybe our lovely tree has become filled with crabapples. Since the natural world around us is bursting with luscious fruit, we need to ask God to make our lives fruitful in the same way.
HOW CAN I BEAR FRUIT?
We might quickly take a refresher course on “fruit-bearing 101.” There are some simple steps to remember. First, let us open our lives completely to Jesus and get fully connected to him. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Next we realize that in the natural world around us fruit comes by way of relationship, usually by warm, loving relationship. That relationship with humans includes loving, abiding, fellowshipping, talking and sharing. In Matthew 7:23 Jesus turns away a host of folks who have been using spiritual gifts but who have no relationship with him.
Last, we need to guard against spiritual miscarriages. In the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) Jesus speaks of such things. As the farmer cast his seed some fell on the path and the birds came and ate them. Other seed fell on rocky ground with not much soil. They sprang up quickly but in the heat of the day they died because they had no depth. Still others fell among thorns and the life was choked out of them. The thorns are things like the cares of the world, worry about money or stuff. Many people blossom and bloom but they bring no fruit to maturity (Lk. 8:14). Their fruit does not last (Jn. 15:16).
Since fruit comes by loving relationship we need to make sure that the first love we had for Jesus is still burning warmly and brightly. In Matthew 24:12-13 Jesus warns us: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Spiritually speaking we have now experienced a long summer of growth, literally from Passover to Tabernacles. It has been a period of almost two thousand years. But soon the trumpet will sound signaling an end to this growing season and the beginning of God’s harvest and his judgment on the unfruitful. Thank God, the trumpet has not yet sounded. There is still time to repent, believe in Jesus and to begin producing his fruit in our lives. In James 5:7-8 we read these words: “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”
Based on a sermon preached at Narkis Street Congregation, Jerusalem, June 9, 2007.