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Israel An Unfruitful Vine
As every Bible student knows, there are different plants or trees used in the Scriptures as types or symbols of the nation of Israel, God’s earthly people. Four of these are brought together in the parable of Jotham, as found in Judges 9:8-21. These are the olive, the fig-tree, the vine, and the bramble-bush. As we learn in Jeremiah 11:16-17, and in Romans 11:0, the olive-tree represents Israel in covenant relationship with God. For the present the covenant is in abeyance, and Israel is scattered among the nations. The Gentiles now enjoy the privileges that might have been Israel’s had they been faithful to the Lord. In a future day, however, because of the unfaithfulness of the Gentiles, they will be set to one side and Israel grafted again into their own olive-tree. The fig-tree speaks of Israel nationally; perhaps more particularly of the Jews as such-that is, the descendants of Judah and Benjamin who were in the land when the Lord Himself came. This fig-tree failed to bear fruit for God, and so is under a curse. There will be no fruit until, through infinite grace, the nation will be restored to God and to their land.
The vine tells us of Israel looked at as a people in spiritual relationship with God, who should have brought forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to His glory. He planted them a noble vine and cared for them in every possible way, as we read in Isaiah 5:0, but there was no fruit for Himself. In the book of Hosea (10:1) we read, “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.” So when the Lord Jesus was about to be crucified He declared that Israel’s house was left unto them desolate, and announced that He Himself was the true Vine, and all who professed faith in Him are the branches.
The bramble-bush pictures in a very graphic way what Israel has become as under divine judgment, instead of being a blessing to the world. The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through them, as we read in Romans 2:24.
In our present chapter Ezekiel is called upon to consider the vine-tree from God’s standpoint.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is the vine-tree more than any tree, the vine-branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood he taken thereof to make 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 hath devoured both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned: is it profitable for any work? Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned, shall it yet be meet for any work!”-vers. 1-5.
The vine was created by God for but one special purpose, and that is to bear fruit. Compared with other trees it is a crooked, twisted dwarf, whose wood is of very little use. It could not be made into boards for building purposes; it is so soft in texture that one could not even make tent-pins of it to place upon the center pole in order to hang vessels thereon, as is customary among nomadic peoples. It is almost worthless even as fuel, for in a few moments it is utterly consumed, and it would take an enormous amount of fagots of the vine to keep up a fire for any length of time. It is utterly unprofitable for any work. But if it bears rich, luscious grapes it fulfils the purpose of its creation. So when God used the vine as a figure of Israel it was in view of their spiritual relationship to Him. If this relationship were maintained in purity and holiness there would be precious fruit borne by the nation for His honor and glory. Some day this shall be, when regenerated Israel shall blossom and bud and fill the face of the whole earth with fruit; but in the meantime we see this people scattered among the nations and a testimony wherever they go to the divine displeasure.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: 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 forth from the fire, but the fire shall devour them; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I set My face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord Jehovah”-vers. 6-8.
Just as the vine-dresser roots out of his vineyard worthless vines and consumes them in the fire, so God was giving the inhabitants of Jerusalem into the hands of the Chaldeans that they might be destroyed. Because of their unfaithfulness and corruption He had set His face against them, declaring that the fire of judgment should devour them, and thus they should know that He, Jehovah, was dealing with them because of their sins. Their land was to become desolate because of the great trespass which they had committed against His holy name. In the book of the Revelation we have God’s final dealings with the apostate part of Israel just before the return of Messiah, when a remnant will be recognized by Him and planted again in the land of Palestine, to become a fruitful vine through the millennial age. John saw in vision a mighty angel come forth from the temple which is in heaven, having a sharp sickle in his hand, and he heard another angel commanding the first one to send forth “the sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe” (Revelation 14:18). God had said through Isaiah, “He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:2). These tell out the condition of the people in their complete repudiation of God’s Word and of His Son, their own Messiah, whom they still failed to recognize.
We are told that the angel cast his sickle into the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth and cast it into the wine-press-the great wine-press of the wrath of God-and the wine-press was trodden without the city, and there came out blood from the winepress, even to the bridles of the horses, as far as six hundred furlongs. This is the actual length of the land of Palestine, and the vision clearly intimates that the entire land will be drenched with blood-the blood of those who have apostatized from Jehovah in the awful days of the great tribulation. Then will God’s judgment be poured out upon the vine of the earth. Following this, when the Son of Man descends to take the kingdom, He will recognize a spared remnant as His own vine, and will place them again in the very land where judgment will have been executed upon the wicked.
In the interval, between the rejection of Israel-the Lord said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38)-and the time of Jacob’s trouble, the Lord Jesus Himself, as the True Vine, brings forth fruit unto the Father through those who in infinite grace have been linked up with Him not in profession but in reality. It is well to remember that there are no natural branches in the living Vine; all must be grafted in. Where the graft does not strike-that is, where there is only profession and not life, there will be no fruit; but where there is actual union in life there will be fruit unto God-fruit which is precious in His sight. In order that more fruit may be produced He cleanses the branches, prunes them as He sees fit, and rejoices when they bring forth much fruit.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 15". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent