The Vine.

1867 224 The vine, as the symbol of a fruit-bearing system on the earth, is used in a remarkable manner, and runs through a large body of Scripture. We read in Psalm 80:8, that the nation of Israel is likened to a vine which the Lord brought out of Egypt, casting out the heathen from Canaan and planting it there to bring forth fruit. Then in Isaiah 5:1-7, we learn all the care and culture He bestowed on His vine that it might bring forth grapes, "fruit meet for him by whom it was dressed." The result was that, instead of fruit answering His culture, it brought forth "wild grapes." And He says in Jeremiah ii. 21, "I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" And so the Lord permitted the "wild boar out of the wood" to waste it. He also says, "I will take away the hedge thereof;" "I will lay it waste;" and "I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it." It was only fruitful in iniquity and false to Jehovah. "Israel," He says, "is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself." (Hosea x. 1.) So the Lord gave him up to the Gentile king, Nebuchadnezzar, to rule over him, commanding him to submit to this punishment, as of the Lord. (Read Jer. xxvii. 1–12, especially verse 12.) Under their last king, Zedekiah, they might have remained tributary, as we read in Ezekiel xvii., the kingdom might have remained "a spreading vine of low stature" under the Gentile king; who took an oath from Zedekiah, and allowed him to remain in his land. But this "vine of low stature," instead of observing the oath which Nebuchadnezzar accepted of Zedekiah, and remaining tributary, he sent his ambassadors to Egypt. Or, as the parable in Ezekiel xvii. says, "this vine did bend her roots towards him;" and so the king of Babylon took him captive, and broke down his city and laid it waste, and so it ceased to be the "vine" of God in the earth; it ceased to be fit for anything but "fuel for the fire." (See Ezek. xv.)

And into this vineyard which had been laid waste, at last came the Lord Jesus. Israel, as Jehovah's vine, had been brought out of Egypt. So Jesus replaces and recommences morally the history of that people, and we read, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." (Hosea xi. 1; Matt. ii. 15.) The Lord then replaces Israel, which had been set aside as a fruit-bearing system on the earth. He presents Himself not as the best branch of that vine, but, "I am the true vine." The root of the new fruit-bearing system on the earth; and the disciples then become the branches. Abiding in Christ, and Christ in them, they would be fruit-bearing branches — the Father glorified in them — and so they would practically be Jesus' disciples. This lasts in principle all through the time of the calling out of the Church, but the point is fruit-bearing on the earth; not as raised and seated together in Christ in heaven, where there is no purging or pruning, nor fruit-bearing.

When the present time of the heavenly calling shall have passed, and the Church shall be taken away, Israel comes before God again, not yet as owned, but previous to the kingdom being established in the world. We find their state in Isaiah 18 aptly described as a "vine," returned to their land by the help of some great maritime power, but not yet owned of God. "Afore the harvest [the harvest and vintage are figures of the last acts of judgment which take place before the kingdom is set up in glory], when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape ripening in the flower;" when all seems to man's eye to go on well, the Lord does not interfere but considers apart in His dwelling, and then suffers the apparently re-established, fruit-bearing vine to be again trodden down and destroyed by the Gentile powers. And the end of what is again a corrupt fruit-bearing system in the world finds its judgment at the hand of the Lord in Revelation 14:15–20, as the "vine of the earth" whose grapes were fully ripe, and which are then cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. The Lord Jesus-Jehovah is seen in Isaiah 63:1–6 coming from this judgment of the vine of the earth and winepress of the wrath of God, in which the nations of the world share (see Isaiah xxxiv.), His garments red with judgment; and He comes to renew His relationship with the spared remnant of Israel, for the "year of his redeemed is come." And the result of all this is, that Israel again becomes His fruit-bearing "vine" in the world. "A vineyard of red wine," which the Lord Himself (now that they had failed under the old covenant) will keep night and day, watering it every moment; and "He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." (Isaiah 27:2–6.) F. G. Patterson.