Agricultural Metaphors for the Christian Life

God uses metaphors to convey His saving message to us in a way that we can understand.

Out of the many ways God could have communicated with Israel, He chose agricultural metaphors. Israel was a people whose existence depended on the soil. Israel was liberated from Egypt to enter the land God promised to her father Abraham. Yet notice how this land is described: it is a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8). Agriculture was not only a way of life for Israel; it was a sign of God’s covenant blessing. To enjoy the fruit of the land was a sure indication that God had fulfilled His promises to Abraham.

 

At the center of the Christian faith is a fundamental belief: there is no one like God. He is not the creature but the Creator, the One Isaiah says is high and lifted up (Isa. 6:1). How amazing it is, then, that this God would stoop down and make Himself known to finite and sinful creatures like us.

John Calvin loved to say that God is like a nurse who bends low to lisp to a newborn. When we read the Bible, we see this accommodation whenever God uses metaphors to convey His saving message to us in a way that we can understand. These metaphors help us know God and live the Christian life coram Deo, before the face of God.

For example, out of the many ways God could have communicated with Israel, He chose agricultural metaphors. Israel was a people whose existence depended on the soil. Israel was liberated from Egypt to enter the land God promised to her father Abraham. Yet notice how this land is described: it is a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8). Agriculture was not only a way of life for Israel; it was a sign of God’s covenant blessing. To enjoy the fruit of the land was a sure indication that God had fulfilled His promises to Abraham.

When Israel sins and breaks the covenant, her punishment is exile from the land and the fruit it bears. It is fitting that the prophets describe Israel as a tree that has been cut down. Nevertheless, God remains faithful to His covenant, promising to raise up a “shoot from the stump of Jesse” so that a “branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Isa. 11:1). We know from the New Testament that this righteous Branch is none other than Jesus, David’s greater Son, the long-awaited Savior of Israel.

The agricultural metaphor is utilized by Jesus as well. To convey the salvation He offers, Jesus says He is the “bread of life” (John 6:35), an image that no doubt resonated with His listeners who remembered how their fathers received manna from heaven in the wilderness. “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (6:33).

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