August 9 I Sunday
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” —John 15:1-2
Early church historians believed that the opening verse of this devotion probably took place in the temple. A place that had beautiful adornments and pillars decorated with vines and clusters of grapes. The grape vine is a symbol of the people of Israel, where out of their connection to God, fruitfulness abounded.
The nation of Israel saw itself as the vine of the Lord; they were the descendants of Abraham, the ones delivered out of Pharaoh’s bondage and the ones who received the law. Psalm 80:8 tells us metaphorically what God did: “You transplanted a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.” Israel was the vine that the Lord planted in the Promised Land. God established His first covenant with them, which was based on the law.
Israel’s effort to fulfil the law led to bad fruit as the Prophet Isaiah reveals: “I will sing for the One I love a song about His vineyard: my loved One had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.” Isaiah explains his metaphor, “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines He delighted in. And He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress”
(Isaiah 5:1-2, 7). In other words, the people of Israel were the vineyard, but no matter how hard they tried to obey the law, they could not do it––they produced bad fruit.
This condition is not unique to Israel but the problem of all humanity. When we are given a law or command, there is something in us that desires to do the very thing we are told not to do. Like during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are told to practice physical distancing and to cease non-essential travel; yet, there were some people who defiantly gathered in beaches and parks. No matter how hard the Israelites tried to be obedient people and produce good fruit, they just could not do it. This is why it was transformative when Jesus said, “I am the true vine;” He was upturning hundreds of years of theological understanding. May we recognize that we will never be able to perfectly fulfil the law of God, but thanks be to God, for Jesus is the fulfilment of the law–He is the true vine.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, no matter how hard I try, I can never fulfil the law. Thank You for being the true vine and the perfect fulfilment of the law.