06 July 2011

"O mortal, how does the wood of the vine surpass all other wood - the vine branch that is among the trees in the forest?" (v. 2)


Ezekiel uses a parable to illustrate his message (a device often used by Jesus as part of his teaching methods). The vine can be seen in Scripture as symbolising the nation of Israel, but here Ezekiel is talking about the inhabitants of Jerusalem (verse 6), who at this time were guilty of idolatrous worship in the temple. It is a fact that the Jewish nation considered that they were God's special people, but their behaviour didn't always reflect this position. With privilege comes responsibility!

The purpose of a vine is to bear fruit, and Jerusalem's population were certainly not being fruitful. However, Ezekiel chooses to concentrate not on fruit but the wood. Other trees, even those that fail to bear fruit, can be used to construct all manner of items, even the humble clothes peg, but a fruitless vine is a useless vine and has no value other than to be burned.

The inference of Ezekiel's parable is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem are no longer useful. This is a real word of judgement against the unfaithfulness of the people, which would be fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed. No longer can they claim superiority over the other nations among which they live.

The Old Testament is the continuing story of a relationship between God and God's people, and like a family it has its ups and downs. The people often behave as rebellious children rejecting their parents' authority, continually testing the limits of God's patience. In Ezekiel's prophesies, we see God's love and justice dispensed in equal measure with the declared hope that "you shall know that I am the Lord" (v. 7).

The parable has a word for any Christian who might consider themselves 'superior' or 'more worthy' than any other. The test is one of fruitfulness.

To Ponder

How easy is it to become complacent in our Christian journey, to assume we have 'made it' and can now relax back into our old way of life? What can you do to resist that complacency?

What are the ways in which Christians today lay themselves open to being considered as rebelling against God?

Bible notes author: John Birch

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