Man and His Fig Tree

The ancient Hebrew prophets had a vision for how we should live together; they imagined that each person would have their own vine & fig tree. You might not have heard of it before, but in the Prophetic tradition this image of vine & fig runs deep, both as reality and as metaphor, a sign that the peaceable kingdom was here, now, on the earth.

This image is most visible in Micah. Two thousand seven hundred years ago, Micah envisioned a peaceable kingdom, in which:

They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore. [Micah 2:4]

That’s beautiful, but it’s rather big picture, about nations, wars, and systems. Then Micah gets personal:

Everyone will sit under their own vine
    and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid. [Micah 4:4]

This image of vine & fig runs deep, woven through the Old Testament as prophets keep calling Israel back to God’s way. In the Book of Zechariah, God speaks through the prophet, and envisions a day when greed, war, and sin are finally removed from the world. Again, it starts global and then gets personal:

On that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘each of you will invite your neighbors to sit under their vine and under their fig tree.’ [Zechariah 3:10]

So now vision has moved to direction, and from individual to communal: you are the agents of this mission. You will care for your neighbors, and make sure that they are safe also.

This wasn’t just a utopian vision; 1 Kings tells us it actually happened. The author reports that for a healthy span of time two nation-states experienced this peaceable kingdom.

“Judah and Israel lived in safety from Dan to Beersheba, each family under their own vine and their own fig tree.” [1 Kings 4:25]

So this vision was both shared and possible, idealistic and attainable. In fact, it was actually attained for a time, under good leadership and active citizenship, in a specific bioregion. It was a sign of simplicity, of community that also emphasized self-sustainability. 

I like dusting off and lifting up this vision of vine and fig because it feels like the spirit-led, place-based, earth-honoring, people-dignifying, justice-creating, despair-crushing kind of path that I want to follow today.  It feels like communion—but far beyond wafers, grape juice, and church walls – rather, it feels like communion with the earth and with each other. This is a mandate to take an active stake in a reality where everyone in the region has not only enough for all, but actually has a sustainable and regenerating source of enoughness. Where everyone has a little spot to root and grow and call their own, and can live unafraid. 

In Taos we’ve developed our own version of this vision. Along the upper Rio Grande Valley, my friends and I are trying to live into a reality we call the Watershed Way. Here’s some of our vision, in the words of my dear friend Daniel “Ryno” Herrera:

We will work for and delight in the kind of community that our Creator wants us to have, a community in which we all have enough: healthy local food on all our plates, good water for all to drink, renewable energy for all to use, a safe roof over all of our heads, jobs with dignity, confidence in our hearts, trust in our handshakes, and peace in the land.

This vision resonates in my bones. How about you? 

                                                                        By Todd Wynward