Father, what a picture of joy and hope when You say “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert”. Because in the desert, very little grows. The lack of water and the intense heat plus sandy soil produce low, scrawny plant life. But to find grapes: something juicy and good that can nourish, is a wonderful and valuable find! When living in or crossing the desert, a find like this can be the difference between life and death.
A similar picture is seen in the next part of the verse: “when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree”. For a fig tree is different from most other fruit trees. It will take four to five years, and sometimes six or seven years for a fig tree to produce it’s first crop of figs. So all those years, care must be taken to keep it watered and fertilized and protected from the weather and winds, parasites and disease so it will be healthy enough to produce. Then, when seeing the early fruit, you know it has all been worth it! There is success! And hope of many more harvests to come.
Both of these create an emotional response of relief, satisfaction – that the future is secure and what has been done and accomplished was worth it. I love seeing this in projects or ministries I have been involved with. Or when I think of lives I have impacted. It is a good feeling that any positive influence will continue and go on. I feel it when I think of my children. I feel delight and hope.
But then that was all taken away when You saw what happened. “…they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved”. Delight is erased. Hopes are dashed. Joy is replaced with sadness, grief and anguish over the loss of those involved and the prospect of the joyous future that had been envisioned.
Father, do You feel like this about each one of Your creations now? Do You have delight in each one, and then anguish over their fall away from You into idolatry? Father, I am Your child. Keep me from turning away from You. Show me clearly where and when there are idols I am in danger of being drawn to: pride, possessions, money, fame, popularity, whatever. I believe You gave these words to John: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”.
I echo these words for my own children. And also “pray that [they] may enjoy good health and that all may go well with [them]”. Father, help me and my children and loved ones be faithful to You. Help us walk in a manner worthy of You, to show hospitality, not to gossip, to welcome believers, not to imitate what is evil, but to imitate what is good. Father, let “our mouths be filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” because of the “great things You have done for us”! Thank You for the great things You have done for us! Amen