Under the Fig Tree
In the beginning of his ministry, Christ called to Philip to follow him. Upon being called, Philip went in search of Nathaniel to tell him that he (Philip) had found the Christ. Nathaniel was somewhat doubtful, but at Philip’s invitation he went to see.
When Jesus saw Nathaniel coming, He said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47)
Nathaniel, wondering how this man happened to know him, asked? “Whence knowest thou me?” (John 1:48)
Jesus answered, “When thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee.” (John 1:48)
It is evident that something had occurred with Nathaniel under the fig tree outside the common details of everyday life. If there had not something rather unusual or something higher than the common events of life occurred there, the Savior would not have mentioned this one particular place. Any other place would have done as well. There was in this answer something that was highly significant to Nathaniel. At this time there were many devout people looking for the “consolation of Israel.” (Luke 2:25) They were looking for the coming of the King of the Jews. It is not difficult for me to believe that Nathaniel was under the fig tree praying to God for the speedy coming of the Messiah. When Jesus said to him, “When thou west under the fig tree, I saw thee,” Nathaniel immediately replied, “Thou art the King of Israel.” (John 1:49) He was doubtless under the tree in prayer to this end not once only, but very probably for months and maybe for years he had been praying for this very thing. He had selected one especial fig tree as a place for prayer. It was not a fig tree, but the fig tree. There he had prayed long and often for Israel’s King to come. So when Jesus said, “When thou west under the fig tree, I saw thee,” he knew at once that his oft-repeated prayers were answered, and therefore said, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”
Many a devout one since that day has had his secret communion-place with God. Perhaps it was in the woods on a mossy knoll, under an oak, on a grassy spot on the bank of a stream, or under a shade tree that grew by the brook in the meadow. To these places of solemn silence they would retreat when the shades of night were falling or when the light of the morning was streaking the sky; and there from the fullness of their souls they would pour out their praise and thanksgiving to God. These were the dearest places in the world to them. It may be there are aged ones today who had such places in the earlier days of their lives. Though they are now far removed from those scenes, these are still sacred in their memory.
There are those today who have their altars of prayer in some secluded place. There they meet God and tell Him all their sorrows and cares, there they recount to Him His loving kindness, there they implore His grace to sustain them through all their trying scenes of life, and there they worship at His feet. Bless His name! Beloved, have you a “fig tree”? And are you often found under it? Have you a quiet nook somewhere which is hallowed by the presence of God?
The beloved disciple John, when in the Spirit, saw golden vials in the hands of the worshippers of the Lamb around the throne. These golden vials, he says, were “full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8) Are you, dear reader, every day filling golden vials around God’s throne with the sweet odor of prayer? Again, this disciple, when the seventh seal was opened, saw seven angels standing before God with seven trumpets. “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” (Revelation 8:3-4) We have the privilege of mingling our prayers with the incense that is being offered before the throne.
The Psalmist seemed to comprehend something of the nature of prayer when he said, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm 141:2) The prayers that were offered by the devout Cornelius were so fragrant before God that they were kept as a memorial of him. A memorial is something kept in remembrance of anyone. If you want to be kept in remembrance before God, see that your prayers are highly impregnated with a sweet odor. You must pray or die. No one can retain spiritual life any great length of time without prayer. So, we exhort you to a life of prayer.