The land of Israel has historically been blessed with an abundance of grape vines. Like the olive trees with it, every person in the land was well acquainted with the vine’s required planting, tending, and fruit-bearing.
In His word, the Lord frequently refers to Israel itself as such a vine, and to each individual as a branch connected to it for its source of nourishment and life. Without such a connection to God and His Spirit, the branches will not of themselves bear fruit, meaning that individuals will not produce blessings of eternal value for God.
Jesus, too, used the vine-dressing analogy, referring to Himself as the True Vine.
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself but must remain in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. John 15:1-6 (NASB)
If we are connected to Christ, He will prune us as we go through the trials of life to remove any dead wood. These are the selfish character defects that bedevil us all, the dead flies in the pure ointment of life that can spoil the aroma of God’s holy perfume. Most of us are not even aware that we have such shortcomings until the Spirit points them out to us. It is then a lifelong process of seeking His help to identify, remove, or at least reduce our negative thoughts, actions, and habits that often bring pain and grief to others and to ourselves.
God tells us that He has a plan for our life and can make use of us if we will humbly turn to Him for connection, cleansing, and vine-dressing.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)
The reason God has put us here on earth and invested so much divine effort into us is 1) He loves us and likes to be with us, and 2) He has good works of eternal value for us to do, or in the context of the grapevine, eternal fruit to bear. This includes drawing and attracting others into the blessings of His kingdom.
If we spend our entire life rejecting the outstretched hand of God, we have also rejected His life-giving Spirit which might otherwise flow through us to produce this eternal fruit. When we welcome and abide in Him, we will routinely produce fruit for Him, even without realizing it.
Speaking through the Old Testament prophets, the Lord referred to the people of Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s day as a grapevine that was totally disconnected from God. Without being connected to this divine source of life, they were not producing any good fruit, rather evil. In fact, their vineyard no longer had any real divine value for the God who had planted them there, having rejected both His fellowship and His works. Though He still loved them, for now, God would end the line of Judah’s kings and Temple worship in Jerusalem and begin again through their exile Babylon. (He would later restore the kingly line with a New Covenant with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ).
Ezekiel spoke of their coming judgment:
1 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any wood of a branch which is among the trees of the forest? 3 Can wood be taken from it to make anything, or can even a peg be taken from it on which to hang any utensil? 4 If it has been put into the fire for fuel, and the fire has consumed both of its ends and its middle part has been charred, is it then good for anything? 5 Behold, while it is intact, it is not made into anything. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it still be made into anything! 6 Therefore, this is what the Lord God says: ‘As the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 7 and I set My face against them. Though they have come out of the fire, yet the fire will consume them. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I set My face against them. 8 So I will make the land desolate, because they have acted unfaithfully,’” declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 15:1-8 (NASB)
It is vitally important to seek a connection with God and try to remain faithful to Him. Whether we are currently close to Him or far away, He is always drawing us towards Himself and His Messiah, Jesus Christ, the true source for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. If we continually reject Him, He cannot use us. But when we are connected or re-connected to His “vine”, though not yet perfect, He will cleanse us and use us for His purposes. We will begin to do the works that He has prepared for us even before we came into the world.
God is always reaching out to us, wherever we may find ourselves. Won’t you plug (or re-plug) into the True Vine of His love and fellowship today?
Father, I acknowledge that many of my works have been focused on myself and not on what You are seeking for me to do. Plug me into the True Vine of Christ so that Your life-giving Spirit may flow through me to produce good fruit. Show me the areas in my life that need cleansing and help me to do so. Bathe me in Your love and acceptance. Take away my fears so that I may experience a life of joy, serenity, and peace in Your presence. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.