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Dry Grape Vine

by Tim O'Hearn

For Christians, the fruit of the vine has immense significance. We do not take the Lord’s Supper with plain water or apple juice, fig or date juice. Jesus used the fruit of the vine to institute that ceremony, and the phrase doesn’t even specify whether it be fermented or unfermented. We think a lot about the fruit, but what about the vine itself. The Bible is not silent about that.

Perhaps the most complete passage about the “vine tree” can be found in Ezekiel 15. God uses the vine as a metaphor for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work? Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned? (Ezek 15:2-5)

Unfruitful Jerusalem is like a dry grape vine. They would bear no fruit, and they weren’t even strong enough to hold a kitchen pot. A grapevine doesn’t even make a good hat rack. And that is when the vine is in its natural but dry state.

Unrepentant Jerusalem is about as valuable as burnt grape vines. A burning vine is even less than useless. Once burned it has little value, but even when it burns it gives off little heat. Its only value is as a fire starter, and it doesn’t even do that well.

This metaphor was for Jerusalem, but it has a broader application. It can be applied to God’s people at any time.

What is the purpose of a grapevine? It is not meant to do household work, or even to be burnt. A vine’s purpose is to bear grapes. From the beginning what was seen by God as good was fruit bearing after its own kind. (Gen 1:11-12) So it has been with God’s people through the ages.

The Jewish people were never much into proselyting. God told them to be separate from the nations, and did not expect them to convert the nations to their ways. (Nevertheless, there were those who chose to follow the Law even though they weren’t born under the Law.) Instead of growing new Jews from without, they were expected to have believing children. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” (Ps 127:4-5)

Christians, on the other hand, are not content to rely on procreation. Instead we are told to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” (Matt 28:19) The fruit we bear can be found in the hearts of others.

There is another fruit that our vines can bear. John the Baptizer called it “fruits meet for repentance.” (Matt 3:8) Paul called it “works meet for repentance.” (Acts 26:20) How do we show our repentance. If we have harmed someone, it is by repaying that harm, with interest. (Lk 19:8) If the repentance is due to God, and what is not, then we follow in His way.

If we are not bearing fruit, then we are like a dried vine. We are not good for any useful endeavor, and we are barely useful for burning. Worse yet, God will set his face against us.

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezek 15:6-8)