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A Study of the Figure: “Every Man Under His Vine and Under His Fig Tree”

I spent some time working on a figure of speech that comes up in my preaching text this week “every man under his vine and under his fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25). I learned some things, and ended with a worshipful thought toward the Lord of my heart. Here is the study below.

“And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.” (1 Kings 4:25 ESV)

This phraseology also appears in Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10, and is alluded to in John 1:48. 

First, in Micah 4:4 we read as follows:

“but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” (Micah 4:4 ESV)

The 1 Kings passage also references “safety” like the Micah passage does. Here it refers to it in terms of feeling saying “no one shall make them afraid” and on the basis of God’s spoken Word or promises “for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” 

So far then we learn that the figure must signify:

1. Actual safety

2. A feeling of safety, I.e. lack of fear

3. All of this a result of God’s promises being fulfilled

Second, and moving forward we read in Zechariah 3:10 the following:

“In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”” (Zechariah 3:10 ESV)

The element added here involves such a contentment that causes one to share. Additionally, the context of Zechariah 3 parallels the beginning of 1 Kings 4 where the priesthood become more important than an army in providing peace. So, we may add here then that the figure signifies:

4. Contentment that causes one to share

5. A result of the high priest being restored

6. Something for which Israel has longed for

Lastly we come to the allusion of the figure in John 1:48 where the apostle John records the following, but let’s look at a larger portion of the passage which reads:

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”” (John 1:47–51 ESV)

Nathanael under his fig tree seems to be a detail that is afforded not by mere chance, for nothing is by mere chance. Nathanael is described as one who is with “no deceit.” That is, he was genuine. Nothing in him was false. He was not (in context) like Jacob who (in the words of one commentator) sought to use deceit to take his brother’s blessing (Gen 27:35, cf. Tyndale NT Commentary on John 1).  The Greek word Δόλος comes from the word δελεάζω which meant to “ensure with bait” (EGGNT). Jesus is the reader of people’s hearts (Ibid).  A fig tree was traditionally found in the courtyard of a Jewish home to provide shade and privacy (Ibid). In Nathanael’s most private moments, Jesus knew his heart. What can we then add from this passage to our understanding of the figure “every man under his vine and under his fig tree? Perhaps we may add this, it signifies:

7. A genuine rest and peace in the heart of the believer.

Summing the matter up, the figurative phrase “every man under his vine and under his fig tree” in 1 Kings 4:25 signifies:

1. Actual safety

2. Lack of fear 

3. Resulting from God’s fulfilled promises or reliable spoken Word 

4. Contentment that causes one to share

5. A result of the high priest being restored

6. Something for which Israel longed for

7. A genuine rest and peace in the heart of the believer

It is a figure that signifies an actual experience of safety, contentment, feelings of peace which the Israel of God longed for genuinely in their hearts being fulfilled by God’s reliable Word and fulfilled promises ultimately brought about by the High Priest Jesus Christ Himself performing his offices of prophet, priest and king. 

As a prophet he speaks his Word calming the fears of his people, bringing about contentment and communion with him. As priest, he takes away the fear and speaks peace to the heart of believers so that they have genuine rest and peace in their hearts. As king, he brings about actual safety having judged all of their enemies. 

This is a rest which every believer can experience even while waiting upon Jesus, just as Nathanael in John 1:48 appears to experience in the Lord.

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Book Recommendation: With All Your Heart

Dr. Troxel taught me Ecclesiology through a continuing Ed class via the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I’ve told some that if I wasn’t a Baptist, I’d be with the OPC. So, when I learned that Dr. Troxel released a book I was eager to take up and read.

I was not disappointed to find a great emphasis on the three-fold office of Christ applied to the heart, just as I had heard him apply it to the church and Christian ministry in the past. Then I was in Chicago, but now in the comfort of my home in North Carolina. It was refreshing to read. It was reading of a very thoughtful treatise that took time and communion with the triune God to develop.

I’ve benefited greatly in my own studies as I read it as I studied the beginnings of Solomon’s life. It made a fine companion. I recommend it ‘with all my heart’. Only read it slowly and savor each part. The Lord of my heart be praised for this gift of thinking to the church. Amen.

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God Using our Meanderings to Bring About His Own Missionary Necessities

The following post is written in a technical nature, but may be helpful to any who read it through. If intimidated by the Greek, just press forward to the devotional thought. But I gleaned some gold out of this text that was encouraging. I pass it on in hopes it may serve to the glory of God and the joy of all of his people.

Original Text:

Ὡς οὖν ἔγνω ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἤκουσαν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ὅτι Ἰησοῦς πλείονας μαθητὰς ποιεῖ καὶ βαπτίζει ἢ Ἰωάννης _ καίτοιγε Ἰησοῦς αὐτὸς οὐκ ἐβάπτιζεν ἀλλ᾿ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ _ ἀφῆκεν τὴν Ἰουδαίαν καὶ ἀπῆλθεν πάλιν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν. Ἔδει δὲ αὐτὸν διέρχεσθαι διὰ τῆς Σαμαρείας.”

(John 4:1-4 GNT28-T)

My translation:

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees heard that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John—although Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were—He left Judea and departed again for Galilee. But being necessary to pass through Samaria.

John 4:1–4 Brian Mann’s Translation

Exegetical research:

“Jesus Departs for Galilee (4:1–3)

1.  Potential scandal: “Jesus vs. John the Baptist” (vv. 1–2)

2.    Avoidance of misunderstanding: Jesus departs for Galilee (v. 3)”

(From The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)

Devotional thought:

In John 4:1–4 we see Jesus making steps to avoid misunderstanding which take him away from one area to another repeatedly, which in full serves the ordained mission on which he was sent, and to whom he was sent. Is it not good news to know that in the very matters of how we respond to controversy, even our departing from it at times may serve to advance the gospel in the places we depart to for a time? This is because there is not a true mission to bring the gospel to others that is not first sent by God even if through secondary circumstances. This was true in the life of our Lord, and we can trust he has not diverted from his methods. He uses our very meanderings to bring about his own missionary necessities.

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Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace is a book by James Montgomery Boice that details the five solas of the reformation and applies them to worship.

What is attractive about this book is the historical and theological explanation of these things especially for someone who has never heard of them.

The chapter on Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) is a good introduction to the second book called The Doctrines of Grace. The Doctrines of Grace by Boice is what helped me discover Calvinism in a good light.

Another thing I really like about this book is that it is available on Audible to listen to, while the other is not yet. So, as a recommendation, I would encourage people to get familiar with some of the important matters of the reformation by beginning here. And then read the second book called The Doctrines of Grace thereafter.

Whatever happened to_____________? is the idea of the first book. You know, you here that said about a movie star or public figure. Whatever happened to so and so? It’s usually not a good thing because their career failed or something. But in this case, the question is being asked because the gospel of grace has gone missing and needs to be rediscovered in today’s evangelicalism.

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Celebrating the ‘Lentening’ of Days

The word “Lenten” is likely related to the Spring season when the days lengthen. It refers to the seven weeks leading up to Easter beginning on what is traditionally called “Ash Wednesday.” Some traditions have ash placed on their foreheads in ritual to represent mourning over sin. Nevertheless, Luther is more correct that all of life is to be one of repentance. Nonetheless, I can see how it might be edifying to the believer to take periods of time to reflect upon sin and the cross leading up to Easter, as well as to celebrate the forgiveness of sins he purchased for all who believe.

There are some wonderful books to read this time of year to consider Christ’s work on the cross.

  • The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy
  • A Violent Grace by Michael Card
  • Ichthus by Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas
  • Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross by Nancy Guthrie

And there is even a very helpful tradition proposed with readings and definitions online by Noel Piper, called Lenten Lights.

As the days lengthen leading up to Easter, may the church find Christ’s sacrifice to be worthy of reflection and their hearts warmed by the revelation of His holy Word.

There is truth to the fact that for all who put their trust in Christ and His Cross, they will have a lengthening of days, eternally speaking, because their sins have been forgiven. That sounds like something worth celebrating, doesn’t it?

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Sermon: Filling a Complicated World with God’s Peace & Love

Sermon from 1 Kings 3:5–15 “Filling a Complicated World with God’s Peace & Love” by Brian Mann
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Book Recommendation: Thine is the Kingdom

Edited by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Thine is the Kingdom: Studies in the Postmillennial Hope presents a series of seven essays covering various aspects of a postmillennial worldview. The chapters that stood out to me included:

Ch. 1 by Keith A. Mathison that summarizes the postmillennial position. This chapter helps deal away with any confusion that people assume postmillennialism teaches; although ch. 4 by Gentry also makes a fine supplement to this; as does ch.5 but more about that later.

Ch. 2 by William O. Einwechter dealing with Psalm 110 and the Postmillennial Hope. This chapter was especially helpful to establishing a very solid basis for the matter of postmillennialism. No matter what eschatological view one takes, this chapter makes postmillennialism a real contender.

Ch. 3 by Benjamin B. Warfield on Jesus Christ the Propitiation for the Whole World is mind-blowing. It offers a perspective on the promises of God that every Christian needs to read about.

Ch. 7 Practicing Postmillennialsim by Jefferey A. Ventrella is perhaps the icing on the cake. Therein he argues the practice of postimillennialism is:

  • Promoting Gospel Primacy
  • Demonstrates Evangelical Zeal
  • Cultivating Christendomic Consciousness
  • Practicing Cultural Engagement
  • Habituating Christian Humility

While these above items sound wordy, they are worthy. I’d by the book simply for this last chapter. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend this particular book as a starting place for post-millennialism; for that I turn to Bahnsen’s Victory in Jesus. Nonetheless, I enjoyed much of this. My only caveat is chapter 5 being disproportionate from the others where Gentry goes on for over 60 pages. This in itself seems like a book and can drown the reader in things that however good, may be unexpected based on the length of the other chapters.

If I’ve learned anything over the years it is this: Eschatological views are best held with humility. And this book delivers aid to such an aim.

“Only by having pride be left behind will “the earth be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Postmillennialism and the gospel demand no less.”

p.222

Having read works by Bahnsen, Wilson, and these men, and looking at Calvin’s Commentaries and other works referred, I favor the Postmillennial position. And it indeed makes me see the world quite differently with much hope. Nonetheless, I will not deny that those of different orthodox positions may also have hope in the Lord. Whatever we have is given by the Lord, including our eschatological understandings. We have no room to boast nor to press the matter too far on others. But I’d be remiss to my own learning if I didn’t share that I’ve been greatly encouraged by the postmill perspective.

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Movie Review: The Call of the Wild

I don’t remember much about the book from school, but The Call of the Wild was worth the visit to the theatre. Although the movie likely intends no Christian worldview, there were definitely some lessons that were worth more than gold.

For example, John Thornton (played by Harrison Ford) is a grieving father whose loss of his son evidently also destroyed his marriage. The adventure out into the land ‘beyond the map’ was an attempt to carry on what he regretted not doing with his boy. Nonetheless, he learned somewhere along the path that while everyone else was going out to find gold, that a man is happiest when he has just enough. Humorous scenes by the dog named Buck add to this part of the narrative picking up a large boulder only to throw it back in to the river because his owner for one doesn’t see it and for another thing is happy to be finding the little nuggets. Upon packing up to leave, John Thornton throws the gold he doesn’t need back into the river and simply keeps in his pocket what will buy him ‘groceries for life’! The audience in the theatre I was in gasped at this point, showing how counter-cultural such an idea is! In contrast, the antagonist presents a very different picture leading ultimately to where all the love for money leads.

Another lesson was that of whiskey being unable to solve one’s problems. Seeking to take away the pain of a broken marriage and dead son, the bottle was nearby for John Thornton. In comes Buck who with his humorous stare and at times tenacious methods who at least twice compels John Thornton to give up the bottle. Sometimes dogs are smarter than humans, or at least made to serve them well.

What should parents know? There is one H word from what I picked up on. And for Christians there may be some discomfort about the spirit dog per se that shows up in a few places throughout the movie almost as a picture of strength behind Buck. But in my estimation he ultimately disappears and doesn’t dominate the main storyline. That is, I find there is a lot more redemptive to find in this movie that overshadows what might have even been intended to be glorified. As in many cases, unbelievers may very well have a story to tell Christians that is more Christian than they realize. One that deals well with the love of money and the inability for man’s problems to be solved by his own methods.

There is a call of the wild that ultimately this story points to for believers like myself, that call is to not live like the world, but to go to the One who alone heals our deepest hurts on a journey of a lifetime called Christian discipleship. But to each their own. I think the movie can be enjoyed by all, but some will find it even better realizing the gift of all good story writing comes from above.

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Sermon: Loving God in a Complicated World

Today I preached from 1 Kings 3:1–4. The emphasis was on the love of God in precedence to our love which makes our love in anyway acceptable.

Loving God in a Complicated World, a sermon by Brian Mann on 1 Kings 3:1–4
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Sermon: A Firmly Established Kingdom

Today I preached from 1 Kings 2:12–46 on the basis of a firmly established kingdom all the enemies of the king will be wisely dealt with. I learned much from this study and offer this sermon forth with prayer that it might be a blessing to others as well. The Lord be praised who gives the gift of preaching.

A sermon on 1 Kings 2:12–46 by Brian Mann