“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land” (Psalm 80:8).
Do you ever wish you were a more fruitful Christian? Perhaps you long to love people more deeply, to grow in godliness, to radiate Christ’s goodness in your workplace and amongst friends. Or maybe your desire is to be increasingly effective in sharing your faith, or to develop a more disciplined prayer life. Well, the good news is that God is fully committed to your fruitfulness as a Christian. Indeed, he passionately longs for his people to burst with the fruit of the Spirit.
God desired the exact same thing from his people Israel too. With all the dedication and skill of a perfect gardener, God cleared the ground and planted his chosen people as a vine. The Lord rescued them from slavery in Egypt, drove out other nations before them and brought them into the Promised Land. And it was a fertile land, ripe for growth. God describes it in Exodus 3:8 as “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
God rightly expected his vineyard (the people of Israel) to yield good fruit from the choice vines he had planted. He had called Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, to shine like a light to the surrounding nations. But instead, she produced wild grapes (Isaiah 5:4). Rather than responding in faith and loving obedience to God’s great rescue, his people disobeyed his commands. So their enemies mocked (v 6) and their walls were broken down (v 12).
Now if this was the outcome for God’s chosen people Israel – those “entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:2) – we might wonder what hope there is of us producing fruit. But Christians have been rescued by God from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13). Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14), witnesses to the grace and truth of God before our unbelieving friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. However, when God looks at us does he find the choice fruit of distinctive lives or the wild grapes of compromise and careless living?
Well, if you recognise areas of your life and character that are not producing the expected fruit and are in need of pruning, there is great hope. Because God’s vine Israel, points us forward to another, better vine. A few verses on, the Psalmist puts it like this: “But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!” (v 17).
Jesus makes it clear that the Psalmist’s cry to God is fulfilled in him: “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-dresser” (John 15:1). He is the one through whom the life of God flows. So if we desire to be more fruitful as Christians, we need to cling to the fruitful one. In fact, we’ll be unable to bear any choice fruit unless we remain fully connected to him. Because as Jesus declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).