Oak and Vine

In January of 2012 we had an unusually warm week and the dead vine in our backyard had enough life in it to sprout a single bloom.
In January of 2012 we had an unusually warm week and the dead vine in our backyard had enough life in it to sprout a single bloom.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, how is the wood of a vine different from that of a branch from any of the trees in the forest?”
Ezekiel 15:1-2 (NIV)

I have written on occasion about the majestic old oak tree that stood sentinel outside our house in Pella. During our decade living there, Old Man Oak would occasionally drop a branch on the driveway. The branches were heavy and the solid wood would have been useful for any number of projects had I been a wood worker inclined to make something useful from the fallen limb.

In the backyard of the same house was a climbing vine that would perennially climb a trellis set between our and our neighbor’s yard. It was gorgeous in the summer when it wove its way up the framework of the arbor and blossomed in fiery orange blooms. In the autumn, however, the vines died and became ugly brown sinews that had to be painstakingly cut and pulled from the trellis. The remnants of the vine were dead, ugly, tangled, and absolutely useless for anything other than nature’s own recycling system.

That is exactly the word picture Ezekiel makes about the people of Jerusalem in today’s chapter. God’s people had once been a fruitful vine but had grown spiritually lifeless, tangled up in idolatry, and useless. As such, the result was to be thrown on the burn pile – a prophetic word picture of the coming Babylonian siege of Jerusalem and its destruction.

I’m reminded this morning of Jesus’ own take on the same metaphor:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5-8 (NIV)

Today, I’m find myself a little introspective. Ezekiel’s prophecy and Jesus’ metaphor begs the question: “What good am I? Am I fruitful? Am I useful? Is there Life in the limbs of my existence, my labor, and my relationships?”

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