The Parable of the Vine Tree
Would you take your Bibles please and turn to Ezekiel chapter 15.
Weíre going through the book of Ezekiel on Sunday nights...
And tonight brings us to one of the shorter chapters of the book, chapter 15.
>The book of Ezekiel is a book of judgment, and this chapter is no exception.
The Bible is a book of symbols.
For example, in the Bible the Holy Spirit is symbolized by a number of different terms.
The term "oil" is oftentimes used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.
The Bible is a book of symbols.
>But one of the most important symbols in both the OT and NT is the symbol of the vine.
Now I want us tonight to think about the vine in the OT...
And then I want us to close by seeing just a little bit about the vine in the NT.
>First of all, I want you to see the OT vineís relationship to God.
Now in the OT a vine was a symbol of the nation of Israel.
I donít know any serious Bible scholar that would deny that truth.
Now the vine is not the only symbol in the OT of Israel.
There are others.
For example, the bramble bush is identified in the OT as the nation of Israel.
The fig tree...
But here the vine is used to speak of Israel.
Now Ezekiel is not the only person that ever used that symbolism.
Moses used it in the book of Genesis and then again in the book of Deuteronomy.
He identified Israel as the vine.
Jeremiah refers to the nation of Israel as the vine of God.
But I want us to see in the book of Isaiah, I think one of the most important references to Israel as the vine.
>Isaiah chapter 5...
If youíll turn back just a few pages, youíll come to the fifth chapter if Isaiah...
And I want us to look at the first few verses.
Isaiah 5...Isaiah is singing to the Lord, and hereís what he says.
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard.
Isaiahís love is the Lord.
He had a love affair with Almighty God.
I mean there was not any sham to it.
There wasnít any falseness or put on about it.
Isaiah was a man who had a real love affair with God.
And heís singing to the Lord about the Lordís vineyard.
>Look what he says in verses 1-6...
>Now thereís symbolism there but the symbolism is explained.
The vineyard of the house of the Lord is Israel.
Israel is the vine of the OT, and I want us to see something about the relationship of that OT vine to God himself.
>#1 Ė it is God who planted it.
Thatís what he says right there in verse 2.
The nation of Israel would not have even existed had it not been for God.
God called a man by the name of Abraham and said, "Iím going to make you the father of a great nation.
I will bless those that bless you, and I will curse those that curse you."
God promised Israel as a result of his calling Abraham.
And so Israel exists because God brought it into existence.
Now there were many other nations on the face of the earth.
There were the Jebusites and the Perisites and the Hittites and the Amorites...
And all of those were already in existence but God brought the nation of Israel into existence by his own sovereign will.
IT would have never even existed had it not been for God.
And so this OT vine, this nation of Israel, owes to God its very existence.
He planted it.
>But not only does Isaiah tell me that he planted it, it tells me that he cared for it.
You see, thereís more to producing a harvest than just going out and planting something.
Something that is planted has to be cultivated and watered and cared for.
And the Bible tells us that God did that.
In verse 2: dug it up and picked up the rocks and planted it with the choicest vine.
And look what it says: and he built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress.
Why did he build the tower?
It was something that the vine could grow on.
Vines do not grow well on the ground, not grape vines anyway.
They have to be lifted up from the earth.
They have to be exalted.
And so here is God building a tower so that the vine could grow on it.
He planted it...he cared for it...he protected it...he provided for it.
He did all that he could have done.
>Look in verse 4.
God said, "I did everything I could for the nation of Israel. I brought them into existence.
I loved them...I helped them defeat their enemies...I answered their prayers...I provided for their needs."
God said, "I did everything I could for them."
>But not only did God plant the OT vine and care for the OT vine...
God expected something from the OT vine.
Look there in Isaiah 5:2.
You see, God not only planted the nation of Israel and cared for the nation of Israel...
God expected fruit from the nation of Israel.
May I say to you that God always expects fruit from that in which he invests his life.
>What is the value of a vine, a grape vine?
Go back to the book of Ezekiel.
Thatís what Ezekiel is talking about.
What is the value of it?
Can you make furniture out of a grape vine?
Can you hew lumber from a grape vine and build houses and dwelling places?
What is the value of a grape vine?
You cannot make lumber with it.
You cannot build with it.
The book of Ezekiel says you cannot even make a peg out of it to hang something on.
Now the peg is a term that is used...
In the oriental houses they would have a center pole usually in the middle of the house.
And on that center pole they would have pegs.
They would drill out a hole and they would stick a peg in it.
And the purpose of the peg was to hang things on.
They could hang clothes on them or they could hang pots and pans on them.
But they were hanging pegs.
Thatís what they were.
But Ezekiel says, "Hey, you canít even use a grapevine to make a peg to hang a pot on.
Itís too frail...itís too soft...itís not strong enough."
What is the value of a grapevine?
You cannot use it to build a house...you cannot use it to hang a pot...
He says you can use it for fuel, but even that is very limited.
I want to tell you, if you get out on a cold, cold night to gather firewood...
I promise you thereís not a person in the house thatís gonna go out looking for grapevine...
Because it would take 14 truckloads full to keep you warm for 30 minutes.
Because when you throw a grapevine on a fire, itís gone.
He says it burns up one end, burns up the other end, burns up the middle.
Itís gone...immediately itís consumed.
Thatís why when you build a fire you put oak in there or some hardwood...
Because you want that to last a long time, burn a long time, keep you warm a long time...
So you donít have to go outside and get another piece.
You donít use a grapevine for fuel.
And so he says, ĎA grapevine, you canít build with it...
You canít hang a pot on it...you canít even have a great fire out of it."
What is the value, what is the use of a grapevine?
It has only one function and that is to produce grapes.
Thatís the only thing itís good for.
You canít sit on it...you canít burn a fire with it worth anything...
You canít build out of it...you canít hang anything on it...
The only value of a grapevine is the production of grapes...
And God expected the nation of Israel to produce fruit.
>Now what kind of fruit did God want?
It would not be natural for God to expect apples from a grapevine.
It would not be natural for God to expect watermelons from a grapevine.
What do you expect from a grapevine?
You expect grapes.
What do you expect from a nation that God planted and God cared for and God provided for...
What do you expect from a nation like that?
You expect something of the character of God.
Grapevines produce grapes.
A God vine produces godliness.
And the nation of Israel, a nation that was brought into existence by God...
Loved by God, nurtured by God, defended by God...
Protected by God, blessed by God...
Should have been a nation that others could look to and see the righteousness and holiness and character of God.
>But what happened?
Israel didnít do that.
And that brings me to the second thing I want to share with you.
>By the way, "Bro. Joe, how do you know God always expects fruit?"
I want you to turn over to Matthew 21.
I donít know who asked that, but thank you.
Jesus tells a parable and itís one of the most unknown parables Jesus ever gave...
And yet it is one of the most important because it lets us know something about God that no other parable tells us.
And here it is: Matthew 21:33-41.
>What was this land owner, who is a picture of God, what was God expecting out of that investment?
He went off on a trip.
He left farmers in charge.
He was expecting them to work.
He was expecting them to produce a harvest.
He was going to share the harvest with them.
He was going to give them their wages plus a share of the harvest.
But he sent his servants, they killed one, they stoned one, they beat another.
He sent more servants and they did the same thing.
Finally he sent his son...they killed his son.
Why did he keep sending those servants and his son?
Because he expected the fruit.
It was his harvest.
It did not belong to the farmers.
It belonged to the landowner.
It belonged to God.
The harvest did not belong to the nation of Israel.
The harvest was to have been produced through the nation of Israel...
But instead of honesty and holiness and purity...
Their lives became filled with rebellion and hatred and violence and rebellion against God.
They became unfaithful.
>Now that leads me to the second thing I want to talk to you about.
Not only do we see the OT vineís relationship to God...
I want you to see the OT vineís failure before God.
Back in Ezekiel 15 again God says to Ezekiel, "I want you to preach a message to these people...
And itís going to be a message about the vine."
Now everybody knew what the vine was.
Nobody there would have questioned what the vine was.
They knew it was Israel.
Now the vine had already been burned at least three times.
In 722 BC, the Assyrians came and invaded the northern part of Israel, the northern kingdom.
722 BC, one end of it was burned.
In 605 BC, the Babylonians made their first invasion in the southern kingdom and it was burned on the other end.
And then in 597, they made a central invasion into the area of Jerusalemís surrounding areas...
And they burned the middle portion of it.
At least they charred it severely.
It was on that invasion that Ezekiel was taken captive.
Now God says, "You tell them that thereís another invasion coming.
You tell them that thereís going to be another fire, and this time itís not just going to char the middle.
Itís going to leave the land desolate."
And in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar came in for the second time into Judah and utterly destroyed the land...
Just like God said it was going to happen.
>Now why did Israel fail?
Was it because God had gone into a far country? No.
Was it because God had not provided for them enough word? No.
He spoke to them through a priest.
He spoke to them through the prophets.
He spoke to them over and over and over and over.
God spoke to his people, he communicated to them.
And yet they rebelled.
The more he loved them, the more they rebelled.
The more he did for them, the more they rebelled.
The more he honored and blessed them, the more they rebelled.
They became known to God as an unfaithful people.
The book of Amos says, "they had gone awhoring after idols."
Listen, a man who spends his money on a prostitute is a man who is unfaithful to his wife.
And when the Bible says that Israel had gone awhoring it means they had become unfaithful to God.
They had turned their backs on God and their whole lifestyle was one of unfaithfulness.
Now thatís what verse 8 means in Ezekiel 15.
And I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful.
The newer translations say: because they have been continuously unfaithful.
And thatís correct.
It was not just a one time thing.
It was something they did on Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and all the way through Saturday...
Week after week, month after month, year after year...
Decade after decade, century after century.
God burned them on one end...they were unfaithful.
God burned them on the other...they were unfaithful.
God charred them in the middle...they were unfaithful.
God said, "This time Iím gonna put you in the fire and burn you up."
A picture of the failure of the OT vine.
>But now I want you to turn over to John 15, and see the NT vine.
In the OT, the vine was Israel.
But in the NT the vine is Jesus.
John 15:1...Jesus speaks and he says: I am the true vine.
Notice he didnít just say, ĎI am the vine."
If he had said, ĎI am the vine", they would have thought...
"Well he is simply speaking of his Judaism."
He is not casting himself as a part of Israel.
He is setting himself in contrast with Israel.
He said, "I am the true vine."
You see they were an untrue vine.
They were unfaithful.
But I, he says, "I am always faithful."
They rebelled against God.
"But I and my father are one and I always do the will of my Father."
Thatís what he says.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit."
You know what God was looking for from that OT vine?
He was looking for fruit.
Now what do you think God is expecting from this NT vine?
Heís still looking for the same thing.
Heís looking for fruit.
God is always looking for fruit.
>But not only is he looking for fruit, look there in verse 2, the last phrase..."That it may bring forth more fruit."
You see, Godís looking not only for fruit, God is looking for more fruit.
Then look in verse 5...
Heís not only looking for fruit...heís not only looking for more fruit...
Folks, I want to tell you, heís looking for much fruit...
And heís talking about you and you and you and me.
Jesus is the vine...we are the branches...God is looking for fruit.
And then heís looking for more fruit.
And then heís looking for much fruit.
>But then look down in verse 16....
He says, "Iím looking for fruit, and then Iím looking for more fruit, and then Iím looking for much fruit...
And then Iím looking for permanent fruit."
Fruit that remains.
Not this fickle fruit.
Not this up and down stuff.
Not this mountaintop/valley stuff.
Iím looking for fruit that remains.
Iím looking for folks that are the same yesterday, today and forever.
Iím looking for folks that are faithful, honest, consistent...
Whose yeaís mean yea and whose nayís mean nay.
Why should he expect that?
Because of the vine weíre attached to.
A grapevine produces grapes...
A watermelon vine produces watermelons...
A cantaloupe vine produces cantaloupes...
A honeysuckle vine produces honeysuckle.
But I want to tell you, bless God, a Jesus vine produces Jesus.
>That old hymn we used to sing, "While passing through this world below and others your life may view...
Where Ďere you go, what Ďere you do, do others see Jesus in you?"
Folks, I want to tell you, God is not impressed with the ability that we have to speak or sing...
Or play an instrument or talk or walk or play a game.
God is not impressed with our intelligence.
God is not impressed with the sheepskins that hang on our wall.
God is not looking for that in your life.
Godís not looking for that in my life.
Godís looking for Jesus in our life.
He wants to see the fruit of Jesus, and then he wants to see more fruit of Jesus...
And then he wants to see much fruit of Jesus, and then he wants to see that fruit that remains of Jesus.
God is looking for the fruit of Jesus in our lives.
>What kind of fruit is that?
Look in verse 12: this is my commandment, that ye love one another.
Look in verse 17. God stuttered: these things I cammand you, that ye love one another.
Now I want to tell you something, friends, you can talk about all the stuff you do for Jesus...
But Iím telling you, if in your life there does not come that manifestation of the love of Jesus for people...
I tell you God is not impressed at all.
You are a branch that is drying up and he will pluck you from the vine and cast you into the fire.
That doesnít mean the fires of hell.
It means the fires of death.
It means God will just get you out of the way because the vine must be pruned for the fruit to be at its best.
Thatís the fruit love.
The book of Galatians 5:22 says: the fruit of the spirit is love.
>Oh you say, "Now Bro. Joe, itís love, joy, peace, meekness, gentleness, goodness, faith...all that stuff."
No. The fruit of the spirit is love. Period.
All of those eight things are a part of the love cluster.
You see? Love, joy.
Joy is the emotion of love.
Have you ever seen anybody full of joy who was full of hate?
Theyíre as mean as hell...thatís how mean they are.
You wonít ever see anybody full of joy who is overcome with hate.
But Iíll tell you, you find somebody full of love, bless God, they are happy folks.
I mean theyíre gonna be full of joy and it doesnít matter what the stock market does.
It doesnít matter what the House Judiciary Committee does.
Their joy is not in this world...their joy is in Jesus and heís the same.
Peace...I want to tell you, peace is the experience of love, amen?
When you are full of love you are at peace.
You donít have to sit around wondering, "How can I get back at that person?"
But friend, when you are full of joy, when youíre full of Jesus, when youíre full of love, youíre gonna have joy.
All of these are manifestations of the fruit of the spirit, which is love.
>"Now Bro. Joe, how can I do it? You say that God wants fruit in my life...
More fruit, much fruit, abiding fruit, and that fruit is love.
How can I manifest that in my life?"
Well first of all, you canít, and secondly you donít have to, amen?
You canít and you donít have to.
Friend, all youíve gotta do is keep attached to the vine.
Itís not the burden, itís not the responsibility of the branch to produce fruit.
Itís the vine that produces fruit.
The branch is just a vessel through which it comes.
"Abide in me". Thatís what Jesus said.
He didnít say, "Take a study course."
He didnít say, "Learn how to win friends and influence people."
He said, "You want to have fruit, more fruit, much fruit, abiding fruit? Abide in me."
Folks, heís always producing, amen?
You know one of the reasons I love summer...the only reason I love summer is because of the tomatoes.
I hate winter tomatoes, but I sure do love summer tomatoes.
But folks, I want to tell you, Jesus, heís just always producing, amen?
I mean it doesnít matter what season of the year it is.
Heís always open for business...heís always producing.
>Now how do I abide in him?
Let me give you three little clues and then Iíll be just about through.
>#1 Ė if you want to abide in Christ, youíve got to stay in the word.
Look in John 15:7: if ye abide in me, and my words abide in you.
Folks, youíll never abide in him if you donít stay in this book.
Youíve gotta stay in this book.
Youíre not gonna abide in him if all you read is the Sentinel Record or Readerís Digest or the National Enquirer.
If youíre gonna abide in Jesus, youíve got to stay in this book.
>#2 Ė if youíre gonna abide in him, youíve got to spend much time in prayer.
Look there again in verse 7: if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask for what you will, and it shall be done unto you.
Prayer...prayer is asking...
Now there are times to praise God.
There are times to thank God.
But prayer is asking.
All of that is well, fine and good, but prayer is asking.
Jesus said, "Ask".
You want to abide in Jesus?
Youíve gotta spend time in his word and youíve gotta spend time in prayer.
>And thirdly, you must live an obedient life before the Lord.
Look there with me if you will in verse 10.
>Now you know if anybody else were to say that it just wouldnít be right.
Bro. Buddy and I have been friends a long time.
Long before I came to be on staff here he and I were already friends.
I love him as much as any brother Iíve ever had; and I never had a brother.
He is a brother to me.
There arenít five men living on the earth that I love more than him.
But if Buddy were to come to me and say, "Now, Bro. Joe, you can be my friend if you do everything I tell you to do."
You know what Iíd tell Buddy?
Iíd say, "Buddy, take your friendship and shove it because your friendship doesnít mean that much to me."
>Now what if I were to say to him, "Buddy, you can be my friend if you do everything I command you to do."
He could say to me, "Your friendship doesnít mean that much to me."
You see, we donít have a right to make those demands of each other.
We donít have a right to demand that of our spouse or our children.
But when Jesus said it, it just sounds right, doesnít it?
"You are my friends if you do whatever I command you to do."
He has a right to do that because he is the one who died for us, was buried for us and was raised from the dead for us.
Heís the one who came and cleaned our old dirty hearts of all the sin.
Heís the one who gave us the HS.
Heís the one who promised us a home in heaven.
Heís the one who saved us.
He has a right to do it.
No one ever cared for me like Jesus.
>Well, Jesus is the vine...weíre the branches.
God is looking for fruit, much fruit, more fruit...
Abundant fruit, abiding fruit.
We produce that fruit only as we abide in the vine.
We abide in the vine by staying in the word, by praying and by living obediently unto the will of God.
And if we donít do it, there are sobering words in verse 6 of John 15...
>"Bro. Joe, will God really do that?"
Ask the nation of Israel in 586 BC, if God really does that.
May God help us to abide in the vine.