The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

The True Vine

In this paper, we will follow the history of the Vine God has planted.

You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. (Psa. 80:8-9)

The vine is referring to Israel, brought out of Egypt. God cast out wicked nations for Israel’s sake and planted her like a Vine.

Yet, let us consider how many left Egypt vs. how many truly entered “the land.” How many members of the nation made it to the place prepared for it? Most Israelites fell in the wilderness. Caleb and Joshua were the only members of the original generation that entered in. The rest were “cut off” because of unbelief, because every branch in Christ which does not bear fruit is cut off. Were these Israelites branches in Christ? Yes–These Israelites ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink from Jesus, but then they tempted Him and were destroyed–an example we are exhorted not to follow (I Cor. 10:1-11).

Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. (Psa. 80:14-17)

The Psalmist notes the destruction of the vine of Israel and the vineyard after years of apostasy. But mention is made of “the man of Your right hand,” and the “son of man whom You made strong for yourself.” This is referring to Jesus, the hope of Israel. Through Him, the devastated vineyard would be restored.

The prophet Isaiah also pictured Israel as God’s vineyard, which had greatly disappointed Him thus far:

Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?
And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;
And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug,
But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it.”
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help. (Isa. 5:1-7)

A sad history of the vineyard God planted with “the Choicest Vine.” This vineyard is “the house of Israel.” The people were utterly without excuse, for everything necessary had been provided for their fruitfulness, but they produced wild grapes. The chapter goes on to summarize the wickedness of the people of Israel, and the dreadful judgments that would fall on them. While this describes the majority of the people, there was a remnant (including Isaiah himself) which was faithful to the Lord. The faithful remnant of Israel would not be cut off.

Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine? (Jer. 2:21)

The Seed is the Word of God (Jesus), which had been given to the people again and again. But the Word of God did not profit most of the people, not being mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2), and thus they became “an alien vine” producing alien fruit. God’s designation of the term, “alien vine,” indicates that He did not accept most of the people as belonging to Him. Yet, the True Vine was still present and active. The True Vine was the “Man of your right hand” from Psalm 80. The Word of God had its faithful adherents, including Jeremiah. Very soon, the Word of God would be made flesh and come dwell on the earth. Those in Israel who had ordered their conduct aright would see God’s Salvation (Psa. 50:23).

For the seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give its fruit, the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew—I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these.And it shall come to pass that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong. (Zech. 8:12-13)

A Word of hope is now given by Zechariah: the Seed/the Word of God/Christ (which accomplishes that for which it is sent) shall be prosperous, and the vine (Israel) shall give its fruit. And who will possess the fruitfulness of the vine and the dew of heaven?–only the faithful remnant! Just as most perished in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, so most in Zechariah’s day would not abide in the Word producing the fruit God requires. Only a remnant would do so. Israel had gone so far from God that it had become a curse among the nations rather than a blessing! But Israel would yet again be a blessing. This was fulfilled in the days of Jesus’ and the apostles’ ministries, when many Jews were born again and became a light to the Gentiles. These Jews were saved and became fruitful branches in the Vine.

Now consider Jesus’ own account of how God is dealing with His vineyard:

Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vine dressers, and went into a far country for a long time. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vine dressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vine dressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ But when the vine dressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vine dressers and give the vineyard to others.” And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!” Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people—for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. (Lk. 20:9-19)

The Jewish leaders knew Jesus was speaking against them. And His message was that God (the true owner of the vineyard) would destroy those who had charge of the vineyard of Israel and give it to others. (The same message is given in different words in Matt. 21:43.) Consider this carefully–according to Jesus, God would give the vineyard of Israel to others! It would not remain in the hands of those who, by natural birth, seemed entitled to it. This is not new; God had always worked this way. When the first generation of Israelites rebelled in the wilderness, God destroyed them and gave the promise to others (the remnant). When the Israelites in later years rebelled, God destroyed them but preserved His remnant, who alone would possess the fruitfulness of the vine and the dew of heaven. In the days immediately after Jesus came, God would destroy those who abused His vineyard, and give the vineyard to others (all those who would obey His gospel). God, throughout history, has preserved His true Vine, but all branches in Him that were not fruitful were cut off and lost possession of it.

In response to Jesus’ testimony that God would take the vineyard from them, the leaders of Israel declared, “Certainly not!” They were sure they were “the chosen ones” and their apostasy could not alter their destiny. But Jesus pointed to Himself being the Chief Cornerstone, upon which the True House of Israel–the habitation of God–is built. Their rejection of Him (the Word of God) would be their downfall. They were like builders casting away the necessary cornerstone, or branches rebelling against the Vine which alone could give them life. This insistence that apostate Israel will “certainly not” lose the vineyard continues to this day, and even many Gentiles have bought the lie despite faithful Hebrew testimonies from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. to the contrary.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (Jn. 15:1-2)

Here, in Christ, we see the fulfillment of Zech. 8:12-13. Jesus taught that He is the True Vine. In calling Himself the True Vine, He revealed that He is the True Israel of God. Out of Egypt God brought a Vine, and out of Egypt God called His Son (Matt. 2:14-15; Hos. 11:1). As the King of Israel, Jesus represents and leads and provides for the true Israel–that is, those who are true to Him. Many branches in Him had already been taken away, throughout history, but the faithful remnant had been left and had brought forth fruit. These were the remnant of the natural Israel (which included Gentiles), and as these became a light to the Gentiles, more Gentiles came to abide in Jesus also, and thus the Vine spread throughout the earth.

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