UNDER THE FIGTREE.
In the beginning of his ministry Christ called to Philip to follow him.
Upon being called Philip went in search of Nathanael to tell him that he
(Philip) had found the Christ. Nathanael was somewhat doubtful, but at
Philip's invitation he went to see. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he
said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathanael,
wondering how this man happened to know him, asked, "Whence knowest thou
me?" Jesus answered, "When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee." John
It is evident that something had occurred with Nathanael under the fig
-tree outside the common details of every-day 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 Nathanael. At this
time there were many devout people looking for the "consolation of
Israel." They were looking for the coming of the King of the Jews. It is
not difficult for me to believe that Nathanael was under the fig-tree
praying to God for the speedy coming of the Messiah. When Jesus said to
him, "When thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee," Nathanael
immediately replied, "Thou art the King of Israel." 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 wast 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 fulness 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 worshipers of the Lamb around the throne. These golden vials,
he says, were "full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev.
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. Then came another angel, with a golden censer. To him was given
incense, which he offered with the prayers of saints upon the golden
altar, and the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of saints
ascended before God. (See Rev. 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." Psa. 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 any one. 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.