And Jesus answering said unto them, “Have faith in God.” Mark 11:22
Having faith is where it all begins. I can’t demonstrate faith unless I have faith first. And I can’t just have faith in anything, but my faith must be in God. And that’s not having faith that God will do whatever I ask. Because then that becomes faith in the outcome. My faith is not in the outcome. My faith is to be in You, God, and You alone.
Why do I say that? Well, I can look back at Daniel or Paul or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or even Joseph and many others, and I can see that their faith was not always in the immediate outcome but in You and in Your final outcome and the truth of Your promises. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego put it well when they said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17,18) They knew that no matter the immediate outcome, You, Lord, were already in the process of delivering them and fulfilling Your promises in them. Their faith was in You, not in the immediate outcome for them.
Now what about the mountain. The mountains Jesus was pointing to probably weren’t as high as the mountains around us. I think they were more like hills. But still, to remove a hill and cast it into the sea would be quite a miracle.
Well, back to Mark 11. Jesus, You and Your disciples have just received adolations as You rode Your donkey through Jerusalem. It was prophecy coming true. Everyone was praising You. Now, it’s the next day and You all were heading out of Bethany and were hungry. You see this fig tree with leaves and were hoping to find some fruit. But there was nothing. I read somewhere before that it wasn’t even fig season. So why would you expect figs? But I also read that at this time of year there should have been immature figs on that tree. And that sometimes the poor people would eat these figs because even though they were bitter, they still had nutritional value. So, what if You were expecting this tree to have immature fruit on it? And what if this immature fruit would have been what You desired to satisfy You? And what if what should have been being produced on this tree, even the immature fruit that was expected, was not being produced by the tree?
Now, the disciples hear You as You pronounce a curse on that tree. And the day passes as You head into Jerusalem and cast out the money changers and teach of Your expectations. That evening You head back out of the city and in the morning You pass by that same fig tree. Only this time it is dried up from the roots. Peter sees it and remembers the curse You spoke on the tree yesterday. “Wow, what You spoke came to pass on this fig tree, Master! Look guys!”
I want to share Your response in full here. “Have faith in God. For truly I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, ‘Be removed, and be cast into the sea;’ and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he says. Therefore I say to you, what things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any: that your Father also which is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in Heaven forgive your trespasses.” And my question is, what does this really have to do with the fig tree?
I have this tendency to think that when You start a lesson and then place something in between it and then go back to the lesson and sum it up, that I need to be sure to look at the beginning, middle, and end. Your lesson here starts with a fig tree that should have been at least producing immature fruit. That’s its purpose. But it wasn’t fulfilling it’s purpose. So it was removed. It’s not the first time You’ve shared a similar parable.
But the difference here is that now we move from that thought to the temple. And in the temple, where the purpose was to gather in prayer, those who should have known, were producing “foreign fruit.” Where they should have been praying and worshipping and seeking forgiveness, they were buying and selling and seeking their own gain and misusing others. The religious leaders were allowing “foreign fruit” into the temple that would lead people away from their true purpose in You. They weren’t even bearing immature fruit. This was poisonous fruit. And Jesus, You condemned it. You overturned the tables, You cast them out, You forbid them from carrying on. And You taught them the true purpose of God’s temple. It was to be a house of prayer that drew all nations to it. It was to be a fruitful house, producing abundant fruit, and sending forth that fruit for the nourishment of others everywhere.
So there’s the parallel between the fig tree and the situation at hand. And the point is that Paul helped us relate this to ourselves. “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) If I profess to be a believer then I ought to bear the fruits of a believer. If I am not, then, Lord, You are telling me that I ought to examine whether I truly believe or not. Because You are sharing with me how You feel about fake “believers” and self-righteous “believers” and self-dependent “believers”. They are all oxymorons. They are like the fig tree that doesn’t even produce immature fruit. And You consider them worthless and harmful.
But what about this rooting up mountains and tossing them into the sea? How does that relate. Very well actually. But I have to take myself back to the roots of the language here and ask myself, “Did mountains signify something other than mountains to the Jewish hearers of Jesus’ day?” So I did a little research which led me to http://yadbyad.messengers-of-messiah.org/mountains/mountains.htm. You can check it out for yourself if you like. Mountains and hills in Jewish thought often referred back to the patriarchs, whether they were good or bad leaders. So, maybe I need to think of the mountains and hills as the people and their doctrines. Wow! That makes absolute sense in this story. Isn’t this all about what people believe and are teaching they believe by their example? Or really, isn’t it teaching about what they actually don’t believe? Or more about Who they don’t believe?
Man has a tendency to set up his own beliefs, to match his own desires. Lord, You are warning us against that. I want to share Isaiah 2:2,3. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” So here’s Your ultimate plan. You will be our Doctrine. You will be what we believe. You are the Mountain, raised above every other hill and mountain. You are the Doctrine of Doctrines. You are above all. You are fruitfulness. Your ways and words will be exalted and are exalted above everyone else’s. You are the Only One we should go to in order to learn Your ways and how to walk in Your paths. I mean, it’s not wrong to read other people’s devotionals, but we each need to be going to the Mountain of God ourselves and listening directly to His Word and seeking His ways in our own quiet time with Him, with You, Lord.
The religious leaders in the temple where teaching their own doctrines. They were setting themselves up as their own mighty hills, full of knowledge. But it wasn’t really knowledge of You, Lord. And if I am not spending my own personal time with You, in Your Word, seeking Your understanding, I could either be easily led to follow a false “mountain” or even to be a false “mountain.” So what does this have to do with faith?
What is my faith in? Am I running to the Mountain of Mountains for my sustenance? Am I wholly dependent upon Your Word and Your power in my life? What am I trusting in? I want all my faith to be in You. I want to seek You as though my life depended on You. It does. I can’t get over how much it does depend on You. And as long as I keep my faith in You, You give me this tremendous, miraculous power to cast down and mortify every false teaching that rises up in front of me to block my way to You.
Lord, You mention that I need to not doubt in my heart. To doubt means to separate thoroughly. I need to never allow myself, my heart, the me of me, to be separated from You. And as long as I am living on the Mountain and focussed on the Mountain and dependent upon my time on the Mountain with the Mountain, I am assured that You will give me the desires of my heart. But my desires must be Your desire, Lord, and it has to start with the desire for You. So I pray this, Lord, as my prayer, that You would be the Only Mountain for me. That I would rest in You and run to You and be held safe in every storm by You. And I pray that my heart would desire what You desire. That I would be filled with the same love and forgiveness that is rooted in You. May my absolute delight be in You, from whom I receive the most wonderful desires of my heart, which are all in You!