August 22, 2021
"So the Lord God says this: ‘Like wood from the vine among the trees of the forest, which I consign to the fire as fuel, so I give those living in Jerusalem."
“So the Lord God says this: ‘Like wood from the vine among the trees of the forest, which I consign to the fire as fuel, so I give those living in Jerusalem. I will set My face against them – they may have escaped one fire, but the fire will consume them yet. When I set My face against them, you will know that I am the Lord. I will make the land desolate because they have dealt so treacherously,’ says the Lord God.” Ezekiel 15:6-8
Every Bible teacher knows the value of a good illustration. The Bible uses several kinds of illustrations, including allegories – stories in which the meaning of something is symbolically portrayed. Between chapters 15-23, a variety of allegories are used. They begin with the grapevine, an image that will reappear in Jesus’ teaching.
A gigantic golden vine decorated the temple gates and had grape clusters over six feet long. It was a reminder that Israel was the vine that God had taken out of Egypt and planted in a choice land. Five Parables of Jesus relate to the figure of a vine: the fig tree in the vineyard (Luke 13:6-9); the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); New wine in old wineskins (Matthew 9:17); the two sons (Matthew 21:28-32); and the wicked tenants (Mathew 21:33-41; Mark 12:28-32; Luke 20:9-18).
Of even greater significance is Jesus’ own allusion to Himself as the “true vine” in John 15:1-7. Despite the cultivation Israel had received as God’s chosen vine branch, they produced bitter fruit and were now fit, only to be cut down and burned. (John 15:6) Ezekiel puts it more bluntly. Instead of comparing Israel to the grapes themselves, he points out the wood of the vine. Apart from producing fruit, the vine branch itself has no value, except for firewood, and even then, its value is limited.
Following the devastation of the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 B.C. and the Babylonian invasions of Judah in 605 and 598 B.C., the Northern kingdom (aka “Israel”) was already a piece of charred wood. If the wood of a vine is too pliable even to make a peg to hang a pot on, half a part of the burnt vine had no use at all! Soon the fire would rekindle, Babylon would siege a third time, and Jerusalem - the rest of the “wood” in Ezekiel’s allegory - would burn to the ground. (2 Chronicles 36:19)
“I am the vine; you are the branches” John 15:5
Jesus’ words, set against the backdrop of Israel’s dubious past, would have been a message of hope and comfort for those who heard Him. A truth had now developed within the New Covenant: Messiah, together with His people (those who choose to confess He is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God has raised Him from the dead) comprise the “vine” from which the fruit of the Holy Spirit should emerge – 9 attributes that distinguish followers of Messiah Jesus as “Messiah-like.” (Galatians 5:22)
But, lest the Church get haughty, we must remember the point of Ezekiel’s message: God will punish His own!! As my Messianic Jewish friend says to his Gentile Christian counterparts, “If rebuke happened to us (Jews), it could happen to YOU (Christians)!”