Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ezekiel 15 and John 15: The Vine

The M'Cheyne readings for Sunday and Monday both included illustrations using the vine as a metaphor. This post will look at them in reverse reading order, but historical chronological order.

Ezekiel 15: The Vine Is Charred

First, through Ezekiel, God has been describing to Jerusalem precisely how evil their behavior had become. See yesterday's post for a taste, or better yet, read Ezekiel for yourself to see how Jerusalem decayed. In chapter 15 (a very short chapter), God describes Jerusalem as a useless vine:
Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything! Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Like 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. (Ezekiel 15:2-6 ESV)
Israel was meant to be a useful vine. If you take God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." and his instruction to Israel in Exodus 19, "and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," then you see that one of God's purposes for Israel is to be a light to the world. The nations of the earth would know that God was holy by his work in his people Israel. God would draw in the nations through his chosen race.

As the city neared exile, it was clear Jerusalem had defiled their covenant with God (read Ezekiel 16 for a graphic depiction of how God viewed their actions). So the vine branch to the world burned itself and became useful for nothing. Mostly nothing, for God had not fulfilled his final plan through this broken nation. Through Israel, God sent his Son a few hundred years later to save both Israel and the Gentiles, and by that revealed the True Vine Branch (Jer 23:5), the Source (Heb 5:9) and Head (Col 1:8, Col 2:9) in the Messiah. So Israel was not the branch source, but rather a shoot off of the real vine: Jesus Christ. But through their apostasy they cut themselves off from the source and withered.

John 15: The Vine Is Christ
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:5-6 ESV)
The Vine has life, and we have a choice to abide in him and bear fruit, or we wither, are thrown into the fire and burned. Jesus goes on to talk about a connection between abiding in him, loving the Father, the Son and one another, keeping his commands and bearing fruit. All of those flow through Christ to us, as he chose us and appointed us that we should go and bear fruit (John 15:16).

Our health as a vine branch is directly related to how completely we are grafted in--to our spiritual health. As we separate from Christ (John 15:5 says this applies to all of life!), we wither and die, but as we abide in him, we grow and bear fruit. How close is your relationship to your Savior? How grafted in is your life in Christ?

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