Tag Archive | Idolatry

The True Vine and the Branches

For the first-century Jewish men who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry, the idea of comparing people to vines and vineyards would have been familiar. Grapevines were a familiar sight in Palestine, and the disciples would have read the words of the Hebrew prophets who likened Israel to a vine or vineyard.

They would have recalled the words of Hosea saying, “Israel was a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit” (Hosea 10:1a). The prophet Isaiah’s words were equally familiar, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting” (Isaiah 5:7a).

Unfortunately, when Jehovah looked for healthy grapes in His vineyard, all He found was worthless fruit (Isaiah 5:2). When He looked for justice and righteousness, He found idolatry and bloodshed. Israel failed to be the healthy vineyard of God (Isaiah 5:7).

I’ve been doing a 7-day YouVersion Bible reading plan by Lysa TerKeurst based on her book Finding I Am, in which she explores the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. The final “I Am” statement is found in John 15:1, where Jesus says, “I am the true vine…”

Lysa says,“In essence, what Jesus is saying in this I AM passage is—I am doing what you could not do. I am the true Vine. Israel, you were supposed to be the vine, but you couldn’t do it. So, I AM is coming and saying that He is about to step in and fulfill what you could not do.”

She continues, “We are in that same boat, my friend. We cannot do what God has called us to do without Him. We are unable to be faithful to His commands. We have failed over and over just like the Israelites failed time and time again. The Jewish people hearing Jesus that day needed Him to step in as the True Vine. And we need Him to do that for us as well.

Last week, we began a study of John 15:1-11, looking at our heavenly Father as the vinedresser. Today, we are exploring what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the True Vine” and how to be branches that glorify our heavenly Father.

THE SETTING
First, let’s look at the setting in which these words were spoken. Jesus had gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate their final Passover together. These words are part of what Bible scholars call Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Judas had already left to do his infamous deed (John 13:30), so these words were to the eleven who had been with Him from the start.

John 14 concludes, “Rise, let us go from here.” So it seems likely to me that these words about the vine were spoken as they left the Upper Room and walked through the vineyards between there and the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was going to pray.

Jesus was preparing these men for His soon departure for heaven. The suffering of the cross was ahead of Jesus, but He wanted these beloved friends to know He was not going to desert them, even though they would no longer enjoy His physical presence. He would continue to nourish and sustain them, through His Spirit which was with them and would be in them. As the Vine, Jesus is our source of life. He is the source of all real strength and grace to His disciples.

I AM
Jesus begins with “I am.” These words were clearly received by those who heard Jesus teach as a claim that He is God. Earlier in the book of John we read, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John‬ ‭8:58-59‬) Why this extreme reaction to two small words. To the Jews, it was the name of God revealed by Abraham in Exodus 3.‬‬‬‬‬

“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, ” I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘ I am has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus‬ ‭3:13-15‬)‬‬‬‬‬

THE TRUE VINE
Jesus was saying He is “the True Vine”- the real thing, the genuine vine in contrast to Israel, a nation which had degenerated and become a wild vine. “Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?” (Jeremiah‬ ‭2:21‬)‬ ‬‬‬‬‬

THE VITAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
The vine is the source of life for the branches. It provides the water and nutrients by which the grapes are produced. Without the vine, no fruit could ever result. Branches are utterly dependent upon the vine.

But this is a mutual relationship. The branches abide or maintain an unbroken connection with the vine. Without this, they are unable to bear fruit… in fact, without the vine they will shrivel up and die.

But John 15:4-5 says that not only do the branches abide in Jesus, the Vine, but He also abides in them. The branches need the vine, but the vine also needs the branches. Without them there would be no fruit.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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.” (John‬ ‭15:4-5‬)‬‬‬‬‬‬

THE PROMISES OF ABIDING
For those who abide, Jesus gives two promises. The first is that of bearing much fruit. What kind of fruit does this refer to? I think there two possible types of fruit produced.

First, we should experience a growth in the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬)‬

But when we look at this parable of the vine in light of the Old Testament passages above, I believe there is another possible “fruit” – the same fruit God was looking for when Isaiah wrote these words. “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (Isaiah‬ ‭5:7‬) The fruit of justice and righteousness were what God was hopeful to see from Israel as a nation. Malachi 3:6 says the Lord does not change, so I believe He is still looking for justice and righteousness.‬

The second promise is found in John 15:7-8, the promise of answered prayer. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John‬ ‭15:7-8‬)‬

In addition to these promises of a fruitful life and answered prayer, a life of abiding is a life filled with joy. Jesus brings this lesson to an end with these words. “

THE TRUE VINE AND BRANCHES
For the first-century Jewish men who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry, the idea of comparing people to vines and vineyards would have been familiar. Grapevines were a familiar sight in Palestine, and the disciples would have read the words of the Hebrew prophets who likened Israel to a vine or vineyard.

They would have recalled the words of Hosea saying, “Israel was a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit” (Hosea 10:1a). The prophet Isaiah’s words were equally familiar, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting” (Isaiah 5:7a).

Unfortunately, when Jehovah looked for healthy grapes in His vineyard, all He found was worthless fruit (Isaiah 5:2). When He looked for justice and righteousness, He found idolatry and bloodshed. Israel failed to be the healthy vineyard of God (Isaiah 5:7).

I’ve been doing a 7-day YouVersion Bible reading plan by Lysa TerKeurst based on her book Finding I Am, in which she explores the seven “I Am” statements of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. The final “I Am” statement is found in John 15:1, where Jesus says, “I am the true vine…”

Lysa says,“In essence, what Jesus is saying in this I AM passage is—I am doing what you could not do. I am the true Vine. Israel, you were supposed to be the vine, but you couldn’t do it. So, I AM is coming and saying that He is about to step in and fulfill what you could not do.”

She continues, “We are in that same boat, my friend. We cannot do what God has called us to do without Him. We are unable to be faithful to His commands. We have failed over and over just like the Israelites failed time and time again. The Jewish people hearing Jesus that day needed Him to step in as the True Vine. And we need Him to do that for us as well.

Last week, we began a study of John 15:1-11, looking at our heavenly Father as the vinedresser. Today, we are exploring what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the True Vine” and how to be branches that glorify our heavenly Father.

THE SETTING
First, let’s look at the setting in which these words were spoken. Jesus had gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate their final Passover together. These words are part of what Bible scholars call Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Judas had already left to do his infamous deed (John 13:30), so these words were to the eleven who had been with Him from the start.

John 14 concludes, “Rise, let us go from here.” So it seems likely to me that these words about the vine were spoken as they left the Upper Room and walked through the vineyards between there and the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was going to pray.

Jesus was preparing these men for His soon departure for heaven. The suffering of the cross was ahead of Jesus, but He wanted these beloved friends to know He was not going to desert them, even though they would no longer enjoy His physical presence. He would continue to nourish and sustain them, through His Spirit which was with them and would be in them. As the Vine, Jesus is our source of life. He is the source of all real strength and grace to His disciples.

I AM
Jesus begins with “I am.” These words were clearly received by those who heard Jesus teach as a claim that He is God. Earlier in the book of John we read, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” (John‬ ‭8:58-59‬) Why this extreme reaction to two small words. To the Jews, it was the name of God revealed by Abraham in Exodus 3.‬‬‬‬‬

“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, ” I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘ I am has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus‬ ‭3:13-15‬)‬‬‬‬‬

THE TRUE VINE
Jesus was saying He is “the True Vine”- the real thing, the genuine vine in contrast to Israel, a nation which had degenerated and become a wild vine. “Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?” (Jeremiah‬ ‭2:21‬)‬ ‬‬‬‬‬

THE VITAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
The vine is the source of life for the branches. It provides the water and nutrients by which the grapes are produced. Without the vine, no fruit could ever result. Branches are utterly dependent upon the vine.

But this is a mutual relationship. The branches abide or maintain an unbroken connection with the vine. Without this, they are unable to bear fruit… in fact, without the vine they will shrivel up and die.

But John 15:4-5 says that not only do the branches abide in Jesus, the Vine, but He also abides in them. The branches need the vine, but the vine also needs the branches. Without them there would be no fruit.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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.”
‭‭(John‬ ‭15:4-5‬)‬‬‬‬‬‬

THE PROMISES OF ABIDING
For those who abide, Jesus gives two promises. The first is that of bearing much fruit. What kind of fruit does this refer to? I think there two possible types of fruit produced.

First, we should experience a growth in the fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬)‬

But when we look at this parable of the vine in light of the Old Testament passages above, I believe there is another possible “fruit” – the same fruit God was looking for when Isaiah wrote these words. “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!” (Isaiah‬ ‭5:7‬) The fruit of justice and righteousness were what God was hopeful to see from Israel as a nation. Malachi 3:6 says the Lord does not change, so I believe He is still looking for justice and righteousness.‬

The second promise is found in John 15:7-8, the promise of answered prayer. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John‬ ‭15:7-8‬)‬

In addition to these promises of a fruitful life and answered prayer, a life of abiding is a life filled with joy. Jesus brings this lesson to an end with these words. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”(John‬ ‭15:11) ‬Let’s aim for unbroken connection with the True Vine, Jesus Christ, so we can bear fruit that glorifies our heavenly Father.

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Seeking God with Our Whole Heart

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord,” Jeremiah‬ ‭29:12-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This promise from Scripture is one of my favorites. It comes immediately after one most of us are familiar with, Jeremiah 29:11, which reminds us that God has a good plan for our lives, a plan to give us a future and a hope. Often, I see this verse quoted, with no mention of the following verses that are directly related to it. They speak of the focus that is to be present in our life as we realize God is good and His plan for our lives is good.

Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, we read a solemn warning of what was ahead for Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel) if they continued down the path they had been trodding (see Jeremiah 9). If they continued stubbornly ignoring God’s law, determined to follow their own desires, judgment was ahead.

Unfortunately, this stern warning had not been heeded, and that judgment had arrived. God used Babylon as His agent of judgment against Israel for their sins of idolatry and rebellion against Him, and in B.C. 587 Jerusalem was attached, the city destroyed, and the people taken into captivity to Babylon.

Jeremiah 29 begins with these words. “These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:1‬)

In this letter, Jeremiah gave clear instructions from the Lord to the exiles. They were to build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce, marry and have children, take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they in turn would have children, and seek the welfare of the city where they have been sent into exile. (https://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.5-7.esv). In other words, this would not be a brief interlude in there lives, so they needed to accept the consequences of their failure to obey God and live in the best way possible during this time.

In verse 10, Jeremiah gives them a promise that this time of exile will come to an end. Jeremiah writes, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

This is the setting of Jeremiah 29:11-14. The season of exile would come to an end, the people of Judah would return to their promised land, and in having gone through the Lord’s discipline they would have a hopeful future, as they chose to seek God with their whole heart.

While we have not experienced exile because of disobedience to the Lord, like Judah we are recipients of this promise. This is a conditional promise, requiring something from us. To seek God is to desire His presence more than His presents. While God has promised to never leave or forsake us, our awareness of His presence is affected by the depth of our relationship with Him. To walk in God’s presence daily, we must seek Him with our whole heart.

What does it mean to seek God with our whole heart?

  • It is to seek Him with a deep longing that makes the things of this world pale in comparison.
  • It is to recognize receiving life from Him is a vital necessity, something without which we can’t truly live a meaningful life.
  • It is to realize without Him we can do nothing of lasting value, and therefore make abiding in His presence daily our highest priority in life.
  • It is to respond quickly to the conviction of the Holy Spirit

Remember, we are seeking the presence of a God whose desire for us to live daily in His presence is so great that He sent His own Son to earth as a man, to live the life we were called to live but could not, and then to die as our substitute on the cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, was raised on the third day, and He now lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live in a way that pleases the Father.

Once we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as the payment for our sin and become children of God, we can seek Him with confidence that He desires a close relationship with us even more than we desire to walk close to Him. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, the way has been opened for us to encounter God based fully on His grace, mercy and love for us. All that is required for us to experience God is to set aside time daily to seek Him with ears open to His voice and a heart ready to receive and obey.

Original photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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