I am now reading in the book of Ezekiel and quite honestly, not liking it much. There is little hope offered, no calls for Israel to repent and return to the Lord. God’s gracious calls to His people had come to an end. Ezekiel himself was with those exiled in Babylon, and the time of God’s judgment was at hand. There would be no turning it back. In chapter 15, God likens Jerusalem as a useless vine.
2 “Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any wood of a branch which is among the trees of the forest? 3 Can wood be taken from it to make anything, or can men take a peg from it on which to hang any vessel? 4 If it has been put into the fire for fuel, and the fire has consumed both of its ends and its middle part has been charred, is it then useful for anything? 5 Behold, while it is intact, it is not made into anything. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it still be made into anything!
There is only one practical purpose for grape vines. That is to produce grapes. You can’t build a house with it, or use it for any practical purpose. God had likened Jerusalem (Israel) to a useless vine. They were no longer desiring God or desiring to please Him. They had literally turned to idols to worship and serve them. God had no part in their thinking at all. They had become unfruitful, useless. God was going to judge them severely for their wickedness and lack of repentance.
As I was reading this passage, I was reminded of John 15 where we are told to abide in Christ. The imagery is so similar, and the results of not abiding in Christ were the same as God’s judgment of Israel.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
Israel had walked away from a relationship with the Lord. How? Why? I don’t know. I’m sure that it wasn’t because they one day as a nation said, “I don’t want God telling me what to do!” I’m sure that it was more gradual, more subtle. A little straying here, a little lessening of standards there. “God didn’t really mean it when He said ________.” “It doesn’t really matter if we don’t __________.” They had begun associating with the nations around them, adopting their practices, and intermarrying. They could not see the end result when they were at the beginning. Yes, there were times of revival when they returned to the Lord, but they did not continually seek Him. They allowed the world to infiltrate their thinking.
As Christians, we must abide in Christ, and have His Word abiding in us. Filling us, nourishing us, overflowing in our lives. Everything we do must be governed by God’s Word, guiding and enabling us. For without Him, we truly are nothing–a useless vine to be eliminated.