I believe the Bible is true.  Literally true.  I don’t claim to understand all of it (for instance, there’s the creation thing, and the whole salvation/indwelling of the Holy Spirit thing), but I believe it is true, and live that way.

I understand that some of the Bible is poetry, and not meant to be interpreted literally.  In Deut 32:11 and Ps 91:4 it says

Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.

He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

I do not take it to mean that God has feathers.  It is figurative, not literal.  I have problems with people who take the symbolic thing too far, too.  When God is dressing down Job for playing a know-it-all, God talks about the mysteries He has created:.  Job 39:26-27 talks of those birds God knows so well:

Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars,
Stretching his wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
And makes his nest on high?

And then God brings out the heavy guns – Behemoth.  In Job 40:15-18, God says

Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you;
He eats grass like an ox.
Behold now, his strength in his loins
And his power in the muscles of his belly.
He bends his tail like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are knit together.
His bones are tubes of bronze;
His limbs are like bars of iron.

The NASB has a note that Behemoth could be a hippopotamus.  Hippos are known for many things, but their tail is not at the top of the list.  God calls it a cedar.  I’m not seeing cedar here:

(picture from candescent)

Strength in his loins?  Yep.  Power in the muscles of his belly?  Check.  Sinews of his thighs?  Gotcha.  Bones being tubes of bronze and limbs being bars of iron?  A bit poetical, but no argument.  Tail like a cedar?  Don’t try to tell me that God got all allegorical right at that one point.  Behemoth is not a hippo, hungry or otherwise.

I found a real interesting passage as I was reading through Luke recently.  It can come down firmly on multiple sides of that literal/figurative fence, and still stands up.  In Luke 13:6-9:

And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.
“And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’
“And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;
and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'”

Jesus calls it a parable from the start. A teaching story. Intended to be applied to other situations beyond the literal – but let’s start there.

Fig trees apparently do take a while to bloom.  From here:

Figs have a long juvenile period, or length of time in which a plant will not produce fruit — possibly four years to five years.

So the story is literally true.  Yes, there will be differences in types of figs, fertilization, weather and climate – none of that disqualifies the literal story.

Then we have it at the personal level.  The fruit of the spirit can take a while to show up.  From Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Is Jesus saying He wants to see all of these from us within four years of salvation, or He will kill us?  Nope – that’s being too literal.  He does want to see fruits from us.  He also knows that we are dust.  There was only one who got it all right, all the time – and they crucified Him.

This could be applied at an organizational level as well.  A new church plant will take time to start showing fruit.  The church I attend, in its new incarnation, is only about three or four years old, and is starting to see the growth I would have liked from day one.  But that would have been the fast growth of an annual plant, that flowers and dies.  It could have been the slow growth of an apple tree, which can take a decade to produce first fruit.  No, my church is more like a fig tree.

Then there’s the implied warning against fruitlessness, at the literal, personal, and organizational levels.  I don’t believe we are on a 4-year growth chart, and then out the door (whichever door you care to pick – death, destruction, abandonment).  The thief on the cross is a great example of God’s grace – he had not lived a Godly life, only becoming a Christian after he had nails in his hands and feet.  And he didn’t have a lot of time to show character development and fruits of the spirit, although the KJV translates patience as longsuffering.  That thief still went to Heaven.

We must also be fertilized.  We need to read the Bible and pray, participate in Bible study (individual and group), and attending church services.  All of these encourage growth and fruit production.  There is hope, and time, and opportunity for all of us to grow and produce.

How’s your orchard?