Twenty-one years ago Cathy and I bought our house here in Caro. Actually Nathan says that he picked it out because of the yard. Our house is situated on 10 acres which used to be part of the old Hill’s Orchard and we still have apple trees from that old orchard.
In all of those years apples have become very important to me. For many years we simply made some applesauce or fed them to the deer. Then eight years ago I made a cider press and now make hundreds of gallons of cider each fall.
Three winters ago we had a very harsh winter and it was very hard on my old apple trees. One completely died and I had to cut it down in the spring. One other tree that was closer to the garage, and maybe gained a little bit of protection, looked like it was dead as well except for one small section. I decided to leave the tree completely alone for a year and see what would leaf out next year. The following year only that one section had leaves on it. Rather than cut the whole tree down, I cut all of the dead sections off and left the leafed out part. It produced apples! No matter how funny that tree looks, as long as it still lives I’m not cutting it down!
Which reminds me of the Lord’s patience with us. Jesus told this parable in Luke 13:
‘‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this 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.’’’ (Lk 13:6-9 ESV)
He told this parable because:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’’ (Luke 13:1-5 ESV)
Yes, I’m being patient with this tree, but normally I’m not a very patient man. Actually, human nature is quick to remove grace and not very patient. Maybe there’s a reason it’s called “fruit” of the Spirit. Peter talks about why God is patient.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV)
Isaiah gives even more imagery to God’s patience as he prophesied about the coming Messiah:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:1-4 ESV)
While God is being patient with us, what are we to do? Well, what is my tree doing? Just sitting there producing apples…and not dying!