#68 Women of the Bible: Shulamite woken under the apple tree
Under the apple tree I roused you; there your mother conceived you, there she who was in labour gave you birth (Song of Sol. 8:5 NIV).
There is something curious in this statement. Under the apple tree, the bride was aroused to love and then she was conceived and brought to birth. In other words, she was known by the Bridegroom before she was ever conceived and formed!
This isn’t the only time that we are told someone was known by God before they were born. Look at Jeremiah, for instance, where God had a plan for him before he had even been conceived: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”(Jer 1:5 NIV). Before Jeremiah was formed, he had been sanctified (set apart) and ordained (appointed) to be a prophet to the nations.
Here is the key, I believe, to the mystery about what transpired with Nathanael under the figtree!
43 “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”
51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man”” (John 1:43-50).
Did you see that? Philip and Nathaneal were searching for the Messiah from the Law and the prophets, so on what he understood, Nathanael was sceptical of Jesus being the Messiah. Jesus told Nathanael some facts about himself so Nathanael asked Jesus how He knew him, and Jesus told Nathanael, in an allusion to this obscure verse in the Song of Solomon, that He knew Him under the fruit tree that ripens in mid to late summer, before he had ever been born. Nathaneal comprehended the insightful response of Jesus and was so staggered that he immediately believed that Jesus was the Son of God.
Here is how you are impacted by these verses -- God knew you before you were conceived (Psa. 139:13-16). God had plans for you before you were formed. What’s more, those plans were made before He even created the world (Rom. 8:29; Psa. 71:6; Isa. 49:1,5; Gal. 1:15;Eph. 1:4). From all eternity you were in the mind of God. That realisation is staggering and enough for us to join the refrain with Solomon and Nathaneal: “You are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel!”