Posted by: rcottrill | November 26, 2018

Nothing But Leaves

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Words: Mrs. H. S. Lehman (no further data)
Music: Mrs. H. S. Lehman

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (H. S. Lehman)
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1924 an author, known only as Mrs. H. S. Lehman, published this song called Nothing But Leaves, and she also wrote a number of other songs. She published a couple of books in 1928, so, at a guess, she was born in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

In a search for more information, including her given names, I discovered a book she had authored and personally autographed. But, she signed it only “Mrs H. S. Lehman,” adding the text John 5:24 (as shown to the left). If you know more about this author, please let me know.

Disappointments–mild or otherwise–are a part of life. We may be counting on fine weather to attend a ball game on the week-end, only to find the darkening skies bring torrents of rain, and the game is cancelled. Or we may expect a new dishwasher to give us years of service, only to have it break down in a month.

Five centuries ago, the word actually had a political application. To “dis-appoint” an official meant to undo his appointment, to remove him from office. It could happen when one was put in place, with the expectation he would do well, but he had to be removed when he was found to be corrupt. The Bible warns, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Ps. 118:9).

But what of the Lord’s expectations of us? Is He ever disappointed? In one way, no. Not in the sense of being surprised by our moral failures and disobedience. He is omniscient and “knows all things” (I Jn. 3:20). He knows well what’s in our hearts (Lk. 16:15; Jn. 2:25). However, God is still grieved, when He sees us on a destructive path, and saddened when we fail to fulfil His wise purposes (Eph. 4:30).

This relates to one of Christ’s most unusual miracles. The details are recorded by both Matthew (Matt. 21:18-21) and Mark (Mk. 11:12-14). What makes it unusual is it’s the only one of about three dozen miracles found in the Gospels whose intent was to destroy, rather than to heal and help.

The Lord was approaching the city of Jerusalem, with His disciples, and the Bible says, “He was hungry” (Matt. 21:18). So when they spotted a fig tree, He approached, hoping to find something to eat, but found “nothing on it but leaves” (vs. 19). With that, Christ cursed the fig tree, and it withered and died.

It was spring, and not yet the season for ripe figs. But there might have been some fruit left from the previous growing season. More likely, there should have been fresh buds of sprouting figs. These were often picked by the poor for food. Their absence was a sign the tree would not bear fruit later on. It was failing to fulfil its expected purpose.

Some have accused Christ of being petty and vindictive in what He did. But this cannot be. First of all, as the Creator (Jn. 1:3), He has a right to do as He chooses with His creation. But also, He may have been aware that not only was the tree no producing fruit, but that it would never improve. In such a case, a farmer would likely chop the tree down to save it using up precious moisture and nutrients from the ground.

Further, many commentators see this little incident as having prophetic significance. The fig tree is used in Scripture as a symbol for the nation of Israel (Hos. 9:10). And God had specially blessed Israel, expecting her to be, as His servant, a witness to the Gentile peoples (Isa. 41:8; 43:10). However, the nation had repeatedly strayed from God. Spiritually barren, they had nothing to offer to others around. And what happened to  them?

Within a few days the Jews would call for the crucifixion of Christ, and in AD 70, Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the people scattered. It could be the Lord’s action is to be taken as a foreshadowing of this. It should be added that, in Israel’s case, this did not mean the utter and final destruction of the nation. A believing remnant of Israel will be returned to its former glory (and greater) at Christ’s return (Rom. 11:1, 26). But it presents a sober warning for them, nonetheless.

In her song, Mrs. Lehman applied this condition to individual believers, on this side of the cross. Christians are to be producing both the inward fruit of Christian character (Gal. 5:22-23), and the outward fruit of an effective service for Christ (Jn. 15:16; Rom. 1:13). But what if we are lacking spiritual fruit? The author deals with this and the two kinds of fruit in the three stanzas of her song.

What she does not do is explain that if someone professes to be a Christian, but is not bearing fruit, there is reason to doubt the reality of his or her profession. And for a fruitless believer there should be an expectation of discipline by the Lord (Jn. 15:1-8; Heb. 12:5-11).

1) The Master is seeking a harvest
In lives He’s redeemed by His blood;
He seeks for the fruit of the Spirit,
And works that will glorify God.

Nothing but leaves for the Master,
Oh how His loving heart grieves,
When instead of the fruit He is seeking,
We offer Him nothing but leaves.

2) He looks for His likeness reflected
In lives that are yielded and true;
He’s looking for zeal in the winning
Of souls He’s entrusted to you.

Questions:
1) What aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 6:22-23) do you have most trouble producing?

2) What are you doing to bear fruit in the lives of others for the Lord, by His grace?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (H. S. Lehman)
Hymnary.org


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