The Expository Files

 The Fruit At The Top Of The Tree

"My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice silver." (Prov. 8:19)

Thanks to the previous owner of the property, our yard is filled with citrus trees yielding a sweet juicy harvest at the end of each year. These trees are mostly low-maintenance, so they produce in spite of my poor husbandry skills. They require water (supplied automatically with a drip system), a little pruning (wife's work) and then picking the fruit in December or January. God uses bees to pollinate and sends various kinds of weather according to His will, thus giving me the increase.

This season I noticed something. The biggest orange tree we have, in the front yard, provides huge navel oranges (an excellent source for juicing). I am ignorant of the reason for this, but as you move higher on the tree, the fruit gets better. The tree did not produce a single bad orange, but the fruit at the top of the tree was the best.

When I discovered this connection between height and quality, it soon occurred to me: To enjoy the best fruit - at the summit of the tree - I'll have to work harder. Some of you may know, I am a man of small stature. I experience no difficulty reaching the fruit at the bottom of the tree, at eye-level or within a couple of feet above my head. But in order to have the fruit at the top of the tree (the best), I have to climb, prune, shake and strain. It takes longer to get those oranges. The higher the fruit the better, but the labor increases. While wearing myself out getting to the good fruit, I thought about
Bible study.

As you read the Bible, some things are easy to pick up. But much of the good God has for us in His Word, we have to work hard to have. All of God's Word is good (milk and meat). But as we continue to read the Bible, compare references, define words, pray and think - the labor brings rich rewards (Prov. 8:19).

As I made my way up my orange tree, headed for the best fruit, I learned the tree! I discovered how the branches and limbs were arranged. I learned how the tree is composed and how to get around. It became a place I was familiar with. Each time I returned to the work, I knew better how to proceed. And I believe determined Bible students have the same experience. The more you read the Bible, review it, hear it and study it - the more
familiar the territory is. As you do the work to get to the treasures, you learn your way around.

Patience is indispensable! Getting the fruit within easy reach was quick and convenient. To have the best fruit, patient work was necessary (Jas. 5:7). So it is in Bible study. Reading the Bible once and while, for a few minutes, will not yield the same results as durable, unwearied perseverance combined with deep reverence for God and faith in Christ. Read the Bible, then return to what you have read and dwell on it; do the work with the text. "He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruitů," (Prov. 27:18a).

Let me know before December, and I'll send you some fruit from the top of my tree. But you have access to something far better and higher. Read your Bible. Do the work, and God will give the increase.

By Warren E. Berkley
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 From Expository Files 10.3; March 2003