Saturday, September 17, 2011
Fruitful or Fruitless - The Parable of The Vine
Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 15 & Yoḥanan/John 15: 1-6
Shabbat Shalom to you all – as we come together and enjoy great fellowship in the presence of our Mighty and Wondrous Maker – יהוה of Hosts is His Name – may we truly find our rest in Him, aměn!
How many of you have done any sort of some kind of D.I.Y projects at home using wood? I am sure most of us have dabbled at trying to make something from wood at some time or another. Have you ever gone to the hardware store and asked for ‘vine-wood’, in order to do some of those D.I.Y. projects? I dare you to try it – that is if you want to get some confused and puzzled look from an eager sales clerk who is ready to sell you his best quality wood for the required purpose of your project! No one orders ‘vine-wood’ for any forms of construction or D.I.Y. projects – it is literally a ‘no-good wood’, as you cannot build cabinets from it; nor can you use it for any form of building construction; and you cannot even use it to make small pegs to hang stuff upon it – simply because it is too dry and too brittle and lacks any strength in it, and of itself it is in actual fact – useless! Vine wood is only useful for one thing and one thing only and that is to – BEAR GRAPES! That is precisely how יהוה designed it – to bear fruit as its sole purpose!
As we all know – this is how we too have been designed – to bear much fruit in Him – the question remains for us all – “Am I bearing fruit or not?” and if I am – is it the right fruit? Tonight I want us to look at this very concept that יהושע Himself taught on in a message called, “Fruitful or fruitless – the Parable of the Vine”. In order to do this in fully understanding the words of our Messiah in Yoḥanan/John 15, which we will read, however I want us to look at a short yet very powerful parable spoken to Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel on the ‘fruitless vine’ and the end result of such fruitless living – so please turn with me to Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 15 (Read).
After having been through the prophets Yeshayahu, Yirmeyahu and Yeḥezqěl this past week, it becomes more clear and evident of just how alive the Word of יהוה is for us today and how we are to guard ourselves against fruitless lifestyles that are simply none other than a result of lawless living that will one day face the fierce judgement of a just and righteous Elohim!
Yeḥezqěl, after receiving many visions and signs announced the soon coming judgement upon Yerushalayim and its inhabitants. יהוה had made it very clear in His Word that if His chosen people rebelled against Him by forsaking His ways, His commands and right-rulings; if they neglected to walk in His Torah and turned from following after Him, then He would bring great and devastating judgement of fire upon them! And here as part of this judgement, here in Yeḥezqěl 15 we have the parable of the vine – or rather the parable of the fruitless vine!
This is a parable of judgement that was to come and is a parable for us too of what is to come as a result of fruitless living!
Yerushalayim had stopped bearing the fruit of righteousness and so in effect had now become useless and of no worth, despite the many warnings to repent and walk in righteousness. Although they had considered themselves as the vine of יהוה’s blessing, they did not produce the spiritual fruit that יהוה had designed and intended for them if they had but simply followed His ways.
Yisra’ĕl had departed from following in and staying in the ways of יהוה, by forsaking to walk in His Torah and now as a result were facing great judgement . The picture of the vine being planted and not yielding the fruit that it should, is echoed in many Scriptures which in turn should and must help us further understand the stern warning of the words of our Messiah as recorded in Yoḥanan/John 15. Let us briefly look at some of these passages from other prophets:
Yeshayahu/Isaiah 5:1-7 “Please let me sing to the One I love, a song for my loved One regarding His vineyard: my loved One has a vineyard on a fertile hill. 2 And He dug it up and cleared it of stones, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a watchtower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it. And He waited for the yielding of grapes, but it yielded rotten ones. 3 “And now, O inhabitant of Yerushalayim and man of Yehuḏah, please judge between Me and My vineyard. 4 “What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I waited for the yielding of grapes, did it yield rotten ones? 5 “And now, please let Me inform you what I am doing to My vineyard: To take away its hedge and it shall be burned; to break down its wall and it shall be trampled down; 6 and I lay it waste; it is not pruned or dug and thornbushes and weeds shall come up; and I command the clouds not to rain on it.” 7 For the vineyard of יהוה of hosts is the house of Yisra’ĕl, and the man of Yehuḏah is His pleasant plant. He looked for right-ruling, but see, oppression; for righteousness, but see, weeping.”
Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 2:21 “Yet I had planted you a choice vine, all of it a true seed. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of a strange vine?”
Hoshěa/Hosea 10:1 “Yisra’ĕl is a degenerate vine, he brings forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he increased the altars. And the better his land, the better they made the pillars.”
Tehillim/Psalm 80:8-18 “You brought a vine out of Mitsrayim; You drove out the nations, and planted it. 9 You cleared a place for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. 10 Hills were covered with its shadow, and the mighty cedars with its twigs. 11 She spread her branches to the Sea, and her shoots to the River. 12 Why have You broken down her hedges, So that every passer-by plucked her fruit? 13 The boar out of the forest ravages it, and the wild beast of the field devours it. 14 Return, we beg You, O Elohim of hosts; Look down from heaven, and see, and visit this vine, 15 And the stock which Your right hand has planted, And the Son whom You made strong for Yourself. 16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of Your face. 17 Let Your hand be upon the One at Your right hand, Upon the Son of Aḏam whom You made strong for Yourself, 18 And we shall not backslide from You. Revive us, and let us call upon Your Name. 19 Turn us back, O יהוה Elohim of hosts, and cause Your face to shine, That we might be saved!”
These are just some of many similar passages that speak about a people, chosen and planted by יהוה, who were now no longer a fruitful vine but through disobedience and mixed worship had become a degenerate vine which had become only useful for one thing – firewood! If a vine is fruitful, it is beautiful and very valuable and of great worth; however if it bears no fruit it is utterly worthless and useless! A fruitless vine cannot even be used to make pegs from – and pegs as we know in Scripture speak of that which secures in place a dwelling for the Most High!
Yeshayahu/Isaiah 22:23-25 “And I shall fasten him like a peg in a steadfast place, and he shall become a throne of esteem to his father’s house. 24 And they shall hang on him all the weight of his father’s house, the offspring and the offshoots, all vessels of small quantity, from the cups to all the jars. 25 ‘In that day,’ declares יהוה of hosts, ‘the peg that is fastened in the steadfast place shall be removed and be cut down and fall, and the burden that was on it shall be cut off. For יהוה has spoken.”
What יהוה was showing Yeḥezqěl was the result of disobedience and a people who had transgressed against Elohim! Yisra’ĕl was designed and planted to bear fruit, which it ceased to do, as it could no longer bear fruit, as they had ceased to stay in the One in whom they were to remain in order to bear the right fruit of set-apart living! Just as a vine is not designed for any other purpose than to bear fruit, so too was Yisra’ĕl not designed for any other purpose than to bear fruit of righteousness. When we understand these parables in more detail we begin to realise the very warning we are to heed today – and that is that if we do not bear the fruit we were designed and purposed to do, and if we do not fulfil our very calling in Him – that is to ‘stay in Him’ then our fate is none other than to be burned and destroyed in the fire of His wrath – for as we know that He is a consuming fire!
יהוה asks Yeḥezqěl a series of rhetorical questions:
1 - Is the wood from the vine better than the trees of the forest?
And the obvious answer was – no! It should have been in that they were to be fruit bearing yet were useless and even the trees in the forest that did not bear fruit could be used for building purposes!
2 – Can anything useful be made from the wood taken from the vine?
No! It is not the wood that makes vine worth planting – it is the grapes – the fruit that is to come from them!
3 – Can you even make pegs from the wood from the vine?
No! It lacks the strength to hang things upon – when the branch is cut off and no longer ‘in the vine’ is cannot hold anything up – yet while it is part of the True Vine – it can carry the weight of the esteem of יהוה – by bearing the fruit of righteousness!
4 – Is the wood useful for anything after it has been burned?
No! It is even more useless than before!
This was a very stern parable that was given to Yeḥezqěl – as this was the announced judgement that was coming! And it is when this happens, יהוה says, that Yeḥezqěl would know that He is יהוה. Sadly for many today – they will only know who יהוה is when it is too late – at the time He will set His face against the lawlessness of man and send forth His wrath of displeasure – Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 12:29 tells us that He is a consuming fire!
Fire is a picture of His judgement and we see that both ends will be burned and then the middle scorched. I see this also as a picture of the two-thirds being destroyed through pestilence, scarcity of food, and sword, while the other third will be scattered and a sword be drawn out against them:
Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 5:12 “One-third of you shall die of pestilence, and be consumed with scarcity of food in your midst. And one-third shall fall by the sword all around you. And I shall scatter another third to all the winds, and draw out a sword after them.”
Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 12:16 “But I shall let a few of their men escape from the sword, from scarcity of food, and from pestilence, so that they recount all their abominations among the gentiles wherever they go. And they shall know that I am יהוה.”
Zeḵaryah/Zechariah 13: 8-9 “And it shall be throughout all the soil,” declares יהוה, “that two thirds therein are cut off and die, and one third is left therein. 9 “And I shall bring the third into fire, and refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My Name, and I shall answer them. I shall say, ‘This is My people,’ while they say, ‘יהוה is my Elohim.’ ”
What we see from all these passages is simply this – just as יהוה sent forth pestilence, famine and sword back then and scattered His sheep back then in the recorded events of the Assyrian and Babylonian attacks, so too is His wrath and displeasure once again going to be poured out upon the earth where He will bring His winnowing fork, to gather His wheat and burn up the chaff:
Mattithyahu/Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He shall thoroughly cleanse His threshing-floor, and gather His wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff He shall burn with unquenchable fire.”
The chaff is that useless branches that are cut off and separated for judgment through fire!
Let us with these very stern words that we have read tonight look at the words of our King and Redeemer, יהושע Messiah in Yoḥanan/John 15: 1-6 (Read).
The words of our Messiah have not changed – for His Word does not change! This is a clear repetition of His warning given to Yeḥezqĕl – a warning that has sadly been romanticized by the church today without having the clarity of understanding this intense warning to all who do not stay in Him!
יהושע says that He is the True Vine – in other words there are other false vines – vines that are not bearing the True fruit of righteousness. The sad condition and consequences of a fruitless vine with its no-good wood refers not only to unbelieving and disobedient Yisra’ĕl back then, but also to fruitless believers today who claim to have been grafted in to His Covenants of Promise while their lives are bearing no fruit of righteousness whatsoever, as they clearly have not remained in Him! Branches of the True Vine are expected to bear fruit – now we know that Sha’ul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustworthiness, gentleness, and self-control, but what we are to understand is that the ability to bear this fruit and to continually bear fruit of righteousness is the result of our much needed ability to stay ‘in’ Messiah; and this fruit of walking in the spirit can only be produced as one walks ‘in’ Messiah – by following His commands and walking in His instructions – and so we learn to bear fruit as we learn and apply His Torah in our lives – without Him the Living Torah we can bear no fruit and, if we fruitless our end is but fire!
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 3:24 “And the one guarding His commands stays in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He stays in us, by the Spirit which He gave us.”
Romiyim/Romans 7:7-9 “Because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards Elohim, for it does not subject itself to the Torah of Elohim, neither indeed is it able, 8 and those who are in the flesh are unable to please Elohim. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Elohim dwells in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Messiah, this one is not His.”
Clearly those who reject the Torah of Elohim are walking in the flesh, despite their desperate attempt at claiming to walk in the spirit, are in fact walking in the flesh, and as we know that all flesh will be destroyed – for no works of Torah can save the flesh – if it could why would people still die today – (Romiyim/Romans 3)! Sha’ul is right – no amount of works of Torah can save the flesh – the flesh will die! The Torah is spiritual and so we faithfully do the works of Torah in our daily walk of obedience – not walking according to the flesh but according to the spirit.
Sha’ul tells us that Messiah is the goal of Torah unto righteousness and this does not mean a termination but rather the end purpose and he goes on in Romiyim/Romans 10 to quote from the Torah telling us that his Torah is upon our hearts and in our mouths to do it! And it is this very belief that we are proclaiming – we do not proclaim a falsely taught ‘faith-righteousness’ as has been labeled by many today – we proclaim a righteousness by a belief that works – that is to walk in Him and stay in Him, aměn!
Turn with me to Yeḥezqěl/Ezekiel 33: 13-20:
“When I say to the righteous that he shall live, and he has trusted in his righteousness, and shall do unrighteousness, none of his righteousness shall be remembered, but because of his unrighteousness that he has done, he shall die. 14 “Again, when I say to the wrong, ‘You shall certainly die,’ if he turns from his sin and does right and righteousness, 15 if the wrong restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the laws of life without doing crookedness, he shall certainly live; he shall not die. 16 “None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him – he has done right and righteousness; he shall certainly live. 17 “And the children of your people have said, ‘The way of יהוה is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! 18 “When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does unrighteousness, he shall die because of it. 19 “But when the wrong turns from his wrongness and does right and righteousness, he shall live because of it. 20 “And you have said, ‘The way of יהוה is not fair.’ O house of Yisra’ĕl, I shall judge every one of you according to his own ways.”
Walking in and staying in Him is to walk in and stay in righteousness – bearing the abundant fruit of set-apart living. Those who refuse to walk in the Torah (that is to walk in Righteousness) and are fruitless, will easily come up with sayings that He is not fair – the excuses have not changed!
Fruitless branches are those who falsely claim a right and position in Messiah yet are living lawless lives – they are dead branches that will be thrown away and dry up, only to be gathered later in order to be thrown into the fire!
Hear again the words of our Master, יהושע:
Mattithyahu/Matthew 7: 16-23 “By their fruits you shall know them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 “So every good tree yields good fruit, but a rotten tree yields wicked fruit. 18 “A good tree is unable to yield wicked fruit, and a rotten tree to yield good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, by their fruits you shall know them – 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Master, Master,’ shall enter into the reign of the heavens, but he who is doing the desire of My Father in the heavens. 22 “Many shall say to Me in that day, ‘Master, Master, have we not prophesied in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name, and done many mighty works in Your Name?’ 23 “And then I shall declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who work lawlessness!’”
Notice how יהושע says that He never knew those who work lawlessness – think about it – so many today want to label our obedience to the Torah in living a set-apart life of obedience and walking in and staying in True righteousness as ‘works of Torah’ or they will say that they are not under ‘law’. Well the fact is that you either have works of Torah (Righteousness) or works of lawlessness – and when one declares that they are no longer under law – they are in fact, by their own admission, saying that they are lawless and when one is lawless then you will be of those who work lawlessness. If so many easily disregard the Torah – they are walking in the flesh – but at the same time by declaring that they have no need for the Torah as they are no longer under the law then by rights they are declaring that they do not need a Ruler/ King – for if there is no law what use would there be for a Ruler/King if there are no rules or laws to enforce and establish as a way of life!!! This is none other than the babbling of drunken and rebellious disobedient and fruitless branches that, if they do not repent and live – will face the coming wrath of our King’s fire!
As we consider the words of יהושע, both here and in Yoḥanan/John 15 may we recognize the severity of this admonition to remain in the True Vine – and no longer romanticize this in a false interpretative way that excuses away lawless living as a standard accepted by Christianity at large, but rather do our utmost to do that which we are designed to do – bear the fruit of righteous living as we stay in Him – the True Vine – The Living Torah who now lives in us, aměn!
The prophet’s word is a fire from יהוה that is meant to burn away what is useless in us; however if we are offended by these words and run away from them then it will be like the proverbial, “out of the frying pan and into the fire”.
It is very clear from both Yeḥezqĕl/Ezekiel 15 and Yoḥanan/John 15 that a clear point is being made: יהוה desires and expects and commands to see spiritual fruit in the lives of His called out, chosen ones, and so as fruitless branches of a vine are useless and must be removed, so too will those fruitless in Messiah be removed and burned, reaping the consequences of a dead faith. יהוה has no room for no-good wood and wants to produce a harvest of righteousness:
(Certainly one of my favourite verses):
Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:25 “And it is righteousness for us when we guard to do all this command before יהוה our Elohim, as He has commanded us.”
How fruitful is your life? Is there the manufactured plastic fruit that cannot be eaten and is simply used for display work as so many have evident in their life as they claim to live in Him yet do not walk as He did; or is there true fruit being birthed each and every day as you allow the Torah to be cultivated and sown into the soil of your heart that is prepared to receive the good Word. May we take heed to these words that we have heard together today and know that there certainly is a judgment coming upon the fruitless! As we have been through this parable of the Vine – the choice is yours – fruitful or fruitless – you know the result of either as it has been declared – His Word will not return void – as life and death are set before you this day – choose life – that is to be rooted and secure in the True Vine, nourished through His Life Giving Torah! Perhaps there have been some degenerating going on in your life – then hear what the Spirit says and repent and be grafted fully into Messiah through His Blood, being cleansed of unrighteousness being enabled and equipped to bear much fruit as you learn through the guidance and leading of His Spirit in the Truth of His Word – Spirit and Truth – let us be True Worshippers and humbly submit to His instructions for daily fruit bearing lives that we may bear the weight of His esteem shining forth as a light in this dark world.
In Him we have the promise of fruitfulness and abundant life, without Him we will become a mere wasteland – stay in Him – this is the call from our Creator, as given through Yeḥezqĕl, which means Strengthened by Elohim, and spoken by Himself in the flesh before He paid the price for our fruitless/lawless living in order that we may once again be able to bear that which we were made for – to be the Fruitful Vine of יהוה.
יהוה bless you and guard you;
יהוה make His face shine upon you, and show favour to you;
יהוה lift up His face upon you, and give you peace.