The Bible is at times hard to read. There are times I’m left with emotions of frustration and hurt because I’m asking God, “Why did that happen in the Bible?” “Have you ever encountered things in Scripture that seemed tough or even wrong with harsh judgements that our soft hearts don’t want to consider?” I was in the book of Genesis two weeks ago and it broke my heart to read about some of the hurtful things that happened to women. Also, other examples of scripture that we may have trouble trying to reconcile with includes the “destruction of the firstborn in Egypt in Exodus 11:5 or eliminating the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20:17,” as Lisa Harper mentions.

Though we come across passages that challenge us and may seem hard to come to grips with, it’s so important that we understand the biblical context so that we can “appreciate the holiness and goodness of God.” That’s why I love the Bible so much! No matter what we are reading, there is good in it. The Bible is pure, holy, and leads us to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” ~ The  Westminster Confession

Let’s take this passage in Mark 11 for example, about the Withered Fig Tree. In week 5 of The Gospel of Mark Bible Study, we are turning the corner and heading into the scene of Jesus’ last week of His earthly life. After Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem on a donkey, the next day Jesus curses a fig tree that He sees.

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.” Mark 11:12-14 NIV

At first glance this is hard to understand. I love how Lisa Harper considers what the disciples were thinking about all of this because the narrative does not mention their expressions. They may have wondered aloud if skipping breakfast had made Jesus light-headed, I mean who would fuss at a tree? However, as we dig into scripture and the context this is what we find:

  1. The fig tree often symbolized Israel’s relationship with God in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 8:13, Hos. 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7; Mic. 4:3-4; Zechariah. 3:10)
  2. God’s chosen people had stopped producing the real fruit of relationship with Him through prayer and worship and were instead engaged in the ostentatious but spiritually barren practice of ritual and legalism. By killing a showy yet sterile tree, Jesus was making the emphatic point that our Creator will not allow unrepentant sinners masquerading as spiritual folks to flourish indefinitely. (Lisa Harper)
  3. In all works in the ministry of Jesus, this is the only destructive miracle. God doesn’t approve when there is profession without reality, talk without walk. (David Guzik)

As you study this passage, remind yourself of the goodness of God’s Holy Word, it’s ability to interpret itself, and reveal the holiness of God. Take some time to reflect on the questions below and I will meet you back here next Thursday for week 6. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

The Gospel of Mark Book

Week 5 The Beginning of His Earthly End

Scripture Reference:

  • Mark 11:1-26

Reflective Questions:

  • What are some examples of things in Scripture that seemed harsh or even wrong until you learned more about the context?
  • How have you come to reconcile these problematic passages?
  • What spiritual principles does this passage in Mark 11:22-26 contain regarding prayer and faith?

 

19 comments

  1. Good reminder to not just a verse or chapter at face value. We must understand the time period and audience that the words are directed towards. When we dig into the Bible, I think it is imperative to ask God to reveal the meaning of what is spoken. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Lisa Harper’s humor in her books and speaking! It’s a great book…maybe it could be another book giveaway lol 🙂 Thanks for reading Heather!

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  2. Good perspective and insight. Especially like this,

    In all works in the ministry of Jesus, this is the only destructive miracle. God doesn’t approve when there is profession without reality, talk without walk. (David Guzik)

    Thanks and blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to say I’ve always been troubled by Genesis 19. Ya know, the one where Lot offers his daughters’ virginity to the crazed crowd then later his daughters take advantage of their own father? YUCK! It has always bothered me…then…in His infinite wisdom, the Lord had me write a devo about that very chapter. He reminded me that even when wicked things happen, He can still work. Even when people do the unthinkable, He can use it for His glory.

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    1. YUCK is so right! That was one of the instances I was referring to in Genesis among others. Isn’t it so good how God can use everything to bring it back for His glory though! Thanks for reading Alynda!

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  4. I heard once in a sermon that fig trees that have leaves are supposed to have fruit too. You know the fruit is there if the leaves are there.

    “God’s chosen people had stopped producing the real fruit of relationship with Him through prayer and worship and were instead engaged in the ostentatious but spiritually barren practice of ritual and legalism.”

    A fabulous post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this important truth, Nicci, that there is a context to those events that make our hearts ache. Something I’ve seen in this passage about the withered fig tree is that Jesus wanted to teach the disciples a good spiritual lesson and they were instead astonished by Jesus’ curse that came to fruition so quickly. Amazing, yes, but Jesus did it for a reason. The spiritual principle: We can get caught up in our day-to-day lives and lose sight of what is important to God

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this important truth, Nicci, that there is a context to those events that make our hearts ache. Something I’ve seen in this passage about the withered fig tree is that Jesus wanted to teach the disciples a good spiritual lesson and they were instead astonished by Jesus’ curse that came to fruition so quickly. Amazing, yes, but Jesus did it for a reason. The spiritual principle: We can get caught up in our day-to-day lives and lose sight of what is important to God

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You learn something every day. I’ve often read this passage in Mark (and in Matthew, too) and have often wondered what the exact significance of it was. I had never tied it into a comparison of Israel’s unfruitfulness before. Thanks for the post!

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