Saturday

09 July 2011

"Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard transplanted by the water, fruitful and full of branches from abundant water." (v. 10

Background

We're left in no doubt as to the emotions behind these words, as in verse 14 Ezekiel tells us that "This is a lamentation, and it is used as a lamentation!" We're getting close to a pivotal moment in Ezekiel's life as a prophet, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Once again he chants a sad song reflecting the sorry state of the Davidic dynasty, now in exile in Babylon under weak leadership and under judgement from God for desecration of the temple.

Previously the theme had been a lion and her cubs, now Ezekiel uses the metaphor of a fruitful vine in a vineyard to describe Judah. The vine flourished and grew large because it was planted near water in fertile soil, and God blessed it: these were the glory days of David and Solomon.

Then we have a big 'BUT!', because at this point the vine is plucked up and thrown to the ground where its leaves and fruit wither under the force of the east wind. Ezekiel is talking of the overthrow of Judah's kings by Nebuchadnezzar and transportation to exile in Babylon, the "dry and thirsty land" (v. 13). Here the King of Judah, Zedekiah, who was no more than a puppet ruler installed by the Babylonians (although he was of the Davidic line), sided with the Egyptian Pharaoh, breaking an oath that had been made with Nebuchadnezzar in the name of Yahweh. This led to the wiping out of all his family, reflected in the prophet's vision of a fire consuming the vine's shoot and fruit (verse 12).

The 'before' and 'after' that Ezekiel paints is vivid. God planted his vine in a place where it could be fruitful and thrive, and so it did until the influence of the outside world proved too tempting, and the result was disaster. Those of us who are gardeners would recognise the dangers of transplanting a tender vine into unsuitable ground.

To Ponder

What are the conditions necessary for a Christian to be fruitful?

How often have you been guilty of not learning the lessons of the past? And how have you sought to address this in your spiritual life?

Bible notes author: John Birch

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