Another Year of Mercy

Bible Book: Luke  13 : 6-9
Subject: New Year; Mercy; Patience, God's

In the January 2, 2007 issue of the “Preaching Now” e-newsletter, Editor Michael Duduit wrote…

It’s that time of year — the beginning, to be exact — when most of us resolve to do better than last year. I don’t know about you, but if I had a nickel for every broken New Year’s resolution, I’d have — well, a whole lot of nickels.

So, naturally, I am making some new resolutions. (I am nothing if not an optimist.) Here’s a partial list:

1. I resolve to lose 25 pounds. OK, I know I made this same resolution last year, but somewhere along the way that word “lose” became somewhat murky. Must be a scribal error involved.

2. I resolve to get more exercise. Yes, I know that this one relates strongly to the first resolution, but these are my resolutions after all. I plan to get up early every morning and walk. OK, at least the mornings that aren’t really cold.

3. I resolve that “really cold” in 2007 be defined as below 60 degrees.

4. I resolve to keep my desk cleaner in 2007. Except for those really important papers that I need to keep right at hand. And the stuff for projects I’m currently involved with. And the papers I’m not quite sure where to file. Oh, never mind.

5. I resolve to live on a budget this year, even if it hurts. Except for really good books I’ve been wanting to read, and which should be exempt from the official budget.

6. I resolve to really keep my resolutions this year. So six months from now, feel free to remind me of these resolutions.

Oops, almost forgot the last one:

7. I resolve to ignore busy-body friends who ask me about my resolutions.

Like this dear brother, I have also broken a lot of resolutions. And there are some that I have given up on altogether. But the desire to please the Lord and be productive in His service is regularly renewed as He reminds me of the importance of faithfulness and fruitfulness through passages like the one before us tonight.

Having been raised by a father who planted a garden just about every year and kept fruit trees and grapevines, the environment of this passage is something that I can relate to and understand.

Matthew Henry explained the context and application of this parable by saying…

This parable is intended to enforce that word of warning immediately going before, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish; except you be reformed, you will be ruined, as the barren tree, except it bring forth fruit, will be cut down.”

This parable primarily refers to the nation and people of the Jews. God chose them for His own, made them a people near to Him, gave them advantages for knowing and serving Him above any other people, and expected answerable returns of duty and obedience from them, which, turning to His praise and honour, He would have accounted fruit; but they disappointed His expectations. They did not do their duty; they were a reproach instead of being a credit to their profession. Upon this, He justly determined to abandon them, and cut them off, to deprive them of their privileges, to unchurch and unpeople them; but, upon Christ’s intercession (as of old upon that of Moses) He graciously gave them further time and further mercy; tried them, as it were, another year, by sending His apostles among them, to call them to repentance, and in Christ’s name to offer them pardon, upon repentance.

Some years ago, I heard a preacher deal with this same passage in a New Year’s emphasis. And the title of his sermon is one that I would like to adopt tonight as my own: “Another Year Of Mercy.” As we consider this passage and this parable…

I. Let’s Notice The Purpose Of The Fig Tree

(Luke 13:6-7)

A. It Was Designed For Fruitfulness

1. This Was The Reason The Owner Planted It In The Vineyard

(Luke 13:6) He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

‎A. T. Robertson said that the phrase does not necessarily indicate that the man mentioned had planted it, but…

It means rather, “he had a fig tree,” one already planted in his vineyard.

But if this “certain man” speaks typologically of Almighty God as I believe it does, then He is certainly the one that had planted it. And His purpose was for it to be fruitful.

Note: The command of creation was “Be fruitful and multiply,” and similarly the command of the church was to go and teach or “make disciples” of all nations (Matthew 28:19). He said reproduce; be fruitful and multiply!

One writer emphasized that it was planted…

In a “vineyard”; not on some neglected waste-ground. Under culture and care. This is the condition of those favoured with the privileges and blessings of the gospel dispensation. This is especially the condition of those who are members of the Christian Church.

(J. Burns from The Biblical Illustrator)

2. This Was The Reason The Owner Paid It A Visit

(Luke 13:6) He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

sought – Greek 2212. zeteo, dzay-teh'-o; of uncert. affin.; to seek (lit. or fig.); spec. (by Heb.) to worship (God), or (in a bad sense) to plot (against life):--be (go) about, desire, endeavour, enquire (for), require, (X will) seek (after, for, means).

fruit – Greek 2590. karpos, kar-pos'; prob. from the base of G726; fruit (as plucked), lit. or fig.:--fruit.

B. It Was Displaying Failure

1. The Tree Had Been Repeatedly Barren

(Luke 13:7) Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

Warren Wiersbe said…

According to Leviticus 19:23-25, fruit from newly planted trees was not eaten the first three years, and the fourth year the crops belonged to the Lord. A farmer would not get any figs for himself until the fifth year, but this man had now been waiting for seven years! No wonder he wanted to cut down the fruitless tree!

2. The Tree Had Been Revealed As A Burden

(Luke 13:7) Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

Albert Barnes poignantly said…

The word “cumber” here means to render “barren” or “sterile.” By taking up the juices of the earth, this useless tree rendered the ground sterile, and prevented the growth of the neighboring vines. It was not merely “useless,” but was doing mischief, which may be said of all sinners and all hypocritical professors of religion.

There is another example of such a barren tree in Jesus’ ministry…

(Matthew 21:19-20) And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. {20} And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

II. Let’s Notice The Plea For The Fig Tree

(Luke 13:8)

A. The Vinedresser Had A Time In Mind

(Luke 13:8) And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

1. He Asked For A Year Of Renewed Mercy

let it alone – Greek 863. aphiemi, af-ee'-ay-mee; from G575 and hiemi (to send; an intens. form of eimi, to go); to send forth, in various applications (as follow):--cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up.

2. He Asked For A Year Of Remembered Mercy

also – Greek 2532. kai, kahee; appar. a prim. particle, having a copulative (linking) and sometimes also a cumulative force; and, also, even, so, then, too, etc.; often used in connection (or composition) with other particles or small words:--and, also, both, but, even, for, if, indeed, likewise, moreover, or, so, that, then, therefore, when, yea, yet.

In other words, the vinedresser is asking the owner to continue showing mercy as he had been showing mercy for perhaps seven years. And truly…

(Lamentations 3:22-23) It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. {23} They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

B. The Vinedresser Had A Task In Mind

(Luke 13:8) And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

1. He Wanted To Freshen The Soil – To Dig About It

W. E. Vine said that this word dig is the Greek term…

skapto (‎ska/ptw‎, NT:4626), meaning primarily, “to dig, by way of hollowing out,” hence, denotes “to dig.” The root skap is seen in skapane, “a spade,” skapetos, “a ditch,” skaphe, “a boat,” and in Eng., “scoop, skiff, and ship” (i. e., something hollowed out).

This digging may have been for the purpose of aerating the soil or weeding the soil around the tree.

2. He Wanted To Fertilize The Soil – To Dung It

Again W. E. Vine indicates that to “dung” would mean to cast…

skubalon (‎sku/balon‎, NT:4657) denotes “refuse,” whether (a) “excrement,” that which is cast out from the body, or (b) “the leavings of a feast,” that which is thrown away from the table.

So it might involve manure or compost.

Craig S. Keener wrote…

Digging around a tree and putting manure around it to fertilize it were common procedures, but fig trees usually did not need manure; (so through this we see that) the worker does all he can to try to save the tree.

(From IVP Bible Background Commentary)

III. Let’s Notice The Prospects For The Fig Tree

(Luke 13:9)

A. He Mentioned A Favorable Possibility

(Luke 13:9) And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

1. The Bearing Indicates Life

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that the Greek translated “bear” (NT:4160 poiéo) was used “In myths (to) denote the creative activity of deity.” So the production of life is indicated here.

2. The Bearing Indicates Longing

A. T. Robertson said of this phrase…

And if it bear fruit thenceforth ‎kan ‎‎men ‎‎poieesee ‎‎karpon ‎‎eis ‎‎to ‎‎mellon‎. Aposiopesis, sudden breaking off for effect (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1203). … Trench (Parables) tells a story like this of intercession for the fig tree for one year more which is widely current among the Arabs today who say that it will certainly bear fruit this time.

B. He Mentioned A Fatal Possibility

(Luke 13:9) And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

1. There Is The Prospect Of Empty Desolation

if not

2. There Is The Prospect Of Eventual Destruction

thou shalt cut it down

cut – Greek 1581. ekkopto, ek-kop'-to; from G1537 and G2875; to exscind; fig. to frustrate:--cut down (off, out), hew down, hinder.

Chop it down.


Steve May wrote…

We’re just a few days (now minutes) away from changing the calendar, so … this gives us a chance to reflect a little bit on the past 365 days and, hopefully, focus a lot on the next 365 days.

If we choose, we can wipe slate clean from yesterday and begin a new day. There’s nothing special about January 1, of course, but there is something special about the decision to break away from old habits and develop new ones. It can be done any day — January 1 is as good a day as any. The important thing is to devote oneself to doing better and trying harder.

It was said of Hezekiah…

(2 Chronicles 31:21) And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.

A decision to seek God more and serve him without reservation — this is a great way to begin the New Year, or any new day.

From the “Monday Memo” e-newsletter for Monday, December 29, 2008

“A New Year’s Resolution” - 2 Chronicles 31:21

The blessed thing is that God in His mercy gives us new opportunities! Another year of mercy!