1 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, what is
the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees
of the forest?” What is the vine tree, etc.? The prophet’s mind had apparently
been dwelling, after the close of his previous utterance, on the imagery of
earlier writers, in which
(Genesis 49:22; Psalm 80:9; Hosea 10:1; Isaiah 5:1:1-7; Deuteronomy 32:32;
Jeremiah 2:21), and to which he himself refers again in ch. 19:10. He saw
how men might pervert that image to their own destruction. And he expands
the parable, as our Lord does in John 15. Men might dwell, perhaps were
actually dwelling, on the thought that they were branches of the true vine,
and therefore could not perish. He exposes the groundlessness of that hope
in tones of scornful sarcasm. If the vine did not bear fruit, or if it only
brought forth wild grapes, then its special excellence was gone, and it
challenged comparison with other trees only as a timber tree, and what
its worth as such? If
and weaker than the heathen nations round it. So far the general thought
is clear. In dealing with details, we note that the words in italics, “or than,”
should disappear, and that the words should stand as in the Revised Version,
What is the vine more than any tree, the vine branch which is among the
trees of the forest?
3 “Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin
of it to hang any vessel thereon? 4 Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel;
the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it
meet for any work? 5 Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work:
how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath
devoured it, and it is burned? 6 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD;
As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the
fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of
face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall
devour them; and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face
against them. 8 And I will make the land desolate, because they have
committed a trespass, saith the Lord GOD.” Shall wood be taken thereof, etc.?
As a timber tree, then, the vine was confessedly valueless. No carpenter would use it,
even for the peg upon which men hang their cups, and which had become, as in
Isaiah 22:23, the symbol of political stability (compare also Zechariah 10:4). For
the unfruitful vine branch these remained the doom of being cast into the
fire (John 15:6). What was its worth when it was half burned at either
and in the middle? What would
low by the “fire” of God’s judgment? Probably the vivid picture of the
charred branch points to the successive judgments which had fallen first on
ten tribes, then on
“trespass” may refer either to the general guilt of the people, or to the last
crowning crime of Zedekiah’s rebellion. I rather incline to the latter, the
noun being in the singular.
The Worthless Vine (vs. 1-8)
The vine represents
fallen, corrupt nation. Our Lord has taken up the image already familiar to
us from Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5, as well as from this passage in Ezekiel, so
that His Church, now regarded as the spiritual
old analogies of the vine (John 15).
vine tree more than any tree?” It is usually regarded as of supreme
excellence. While fig trees grow by the wayside, vines are carefully walled
in and the vineyard protected by watchmen (Isaiah 5:2). Much labor is
spent upon the vine in tilling the soil, cleansing and pruning the branches,
and so preparing for the vintage. All this points to a special value in the
vine above ordinary plants. It is not difficult to see the ground of this
valuation. The vine is prized simply for its grapes. The abundance and
quality of the fruit give it its sole worth. “And he looked that it should
bring forth grapes” (Ibid.). Christ values His people just according
to their fruitfulness (John 15:8).
can no longer sustain its proud pre-eminence. On the contrary, regarded as
a tree, it must he taken for one of the poorest of its class. The forester can
set no price upon its limp and straggling boughs. If it bears no fruit, and is
therefore to be considered on its own account and not for the sake of its
product, it is of less value than other trees. Regarded as timber it is
Jews were then far inferior to the Greeks and Romans at the height of their
noxious institution; political clubs, scientific societies, chambers of
commerce, — these so called secular institutions are superior to a
degenerate Church. The fallen Christian is lower than the “man of the
world,” and of less use to society, as the fruitless vine is of less account
than the forest tree.
failed in fruit bearing; it is useless as timber; there remains only one
possible use for it. Flung into the oven it may serve as firewood. Indeed,
this is necessary. Similarly, the fruitless fig tree cannot be allowed to stand,
occupying space, absorbing nutriment from the soil, casting shade where
healthy sunshine would develop more profitable vegetable growth. “Cut it
down; why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luke 13:7). A fruitless Church
stands in the place of a useful one, and therefore it is positively injurious.
There is but one good that can come of it. The very destruction of it may
be a warning to others. Unfaithful souls are preparing for themselves a fate
of destruction. Negative fruitlessness is enough to doom them
REGARDED. It was of no use before it was burnt. What, then, will be its
value afterwards (see v. 5)? Chastisement, which corresponds to pruning,
is sent in order to improve its subject. But destruction cannot benefit the
thing destroyed. If “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), such wages
cannot be turned to any good account. We may submit to wholesome
correction, but we should “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7)
when that wrath is the consuming fire of destruction, the awful consequences
of persistent sin.
The Worthless Vineyard (vs. 1-8)
The prophet was inspired to point the reproach of the Hebrew people, by
reference to their ingratitude, their unfaithfulness, and their failure to fulfill
the special purpose for which they were exalted to a position of peculiar
privilege. In this passage, as in a similar passage in Isaiah 5, the similitude of the
vine is employed to set forth:
o on the one hand, Divine care, culture, and forbearance; and,
o on the other hand, national barrenness and uselessness.
Plain truths are uttered which serve to justify before every rightly judging mind the
action of the Lord in this time of
ACCOUNT OF NO EXCELLENCE OR MERIT OF HER OWN. So
far as its wood is concerned, the vine has no advantage above other trees; in
fact, it “is meet for no work,” and compares unfavorably with other and
serviceable timber. Similarly, although in the progenitors of the Hebrew
race there were remarkable gifts and remarkable moral qualities, and
although in the course of Jewish history many great men arose, still it is not
to be denied that the nation, as such, was a rebellious, disobedient, stiff-
necked people. God had a purpose in selecting Israel, but His selection was
one to prove His independence of human agencies and instrumentalities.
The people were wont to boast of their ancestors, but in themselves there
was nothing of which to boast.
PRODUCTION OF PRECIOUS AND ACCEPTABLE FRUIT. If the
wood of the vine is of little use, its fruit is wholesome and delicious, and
the juice of the grape, though too often, like other gifts of God, abused,
“maketh glad the heart of man” (Psalm 104:15). But if the vine yields no
clusters of grapes, what is its use?
that the Law given might be reverently obeyed, in order that Jehovah, revealed
in temple worship, might be purely and devoutly worshipped. God looked that
His vine should bring forth fruit, valuable, wholesome, and acceptable to
after year, seeking fruit, but found none.
Ø He looked for progress, and there was deterioration.
Ø He looked for obedience, and there was rebellion.
Ø He looked for spirituality, and there was formality and hypocrisy.
Ø He looked for sincere and cordial worship, and there was idolatry.
Opportunities of devotion and of service were neglected and abused.
Temptations, instead of being resisted, were succumbed to. The long
suffering of God led not to repentance.
PROFITABLE AND DIVINE END. It was this which especially
oppressed the mind of the prophet; it was this which aroused the
displeasure of the great Lord and Judge. “They have committed a trespass”
was the complaint and reproach of Jehovah against His people. Because
THEY WERE BARREN, they were unprofitable.
ISRAEL. There is something truly terrible in the declaration of Jehovah: “I
will set nay face against them.” It is very important to have a view of the
Divine justice and retributive government which it is most important that
every reader of Scripture should take, and that habitually.
DISASTER. The worthless wood of the unfruitful vine was cast into the
fire for fuel. And of the inhabitants of
shalt go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them.” The history
of the nation informs us how exactly such predictions were fulfilled. The
calamities which came in rapid succession upon
REPEATED CASTINGS INTO THE FURNACE OF RIGHTEOUS
RETRIBUTION and idolatrous people were:
Ø despised, and
Ø all but consumed.
Their land was made desolate, and their national life seemed all but
extinguished. But a remnant was spared. The fires through which they
passed purified, but were not suffered to consume them. IN THE
MIDST OF WRATH GOD REMEMBERED MERCY! There was a
and He who first chose the nation DID NOT NOW ABANDON IT!
Useless if Fruitless (vs. 1-8)
The nation of the Hebrews is often represented under the image of a vine.
This, with the olive, was its staple production. It may be that ever since the
visit of the spies, who brought back the gigantic cluster of grapes from
Eshcol (Numbers 13:23-24), the vine had served as a standing emblem of the
empire. In the Psalms of David, and in the poetical utterances of Isaiah, frequent
mention is made of
ancient buildings in
architrave, may still be seen.
every part of some trees is serviceable to man. The bark is used for
cordage or for tanning. The root is often a valuable medicine. The juice
which exudes is a precious gum. The fruit is wholesome food. And when
cut down, the wood is devoted to house building or forms implements of
husbandry. Which fact is a parable. For some nations serve many good
purposes. A nation may produce a superior literature which shall serve for
the education of other lands. It may bring to perfection the decorative arts
— painting and architecture and sculpture. It may invent a useful system of
jurisprudence. It may be famous for legislation, for commerce, for
manufactures. If it should fail in one respect, it might yet excel in others.
things. These taught the world; they molded humanity. By their literature
and art and systems of government they are teaching mankind still. “Being
dead, they yet speak.” (Hebrews 11:4)
is the most prolific in bearing fruit. Under proper culture, its fruitfulness is
certain, regular, copious. All the life and vigor of the tree are poured into
its clusters. But failing this, it renders no other service to man. Its cells are
not stored with any known medicinal qualities. Its wood is too brittle to
bear any strain or burden. Hence, unless fruitful, it is worthless. In this
respect the vine is an apt figure of the Hebrew nation. It was raised up by
God for a single purpose, viz. to exhibit to the world righteousness, loyalty
to the will of the invisible God. Israel’s message was to be addressed to the
conscience of mankind. Israel was designed to be a lighthouse, to diffuse
on every side the rays of MORAL AND SPIRITUAL TRUTH! If it failed
in this, it failed altogether. It may as well not have
exerting a moral influence upon the Gentile nations was a loss incalculable to
humanity. It was a check upon the development of manhood. (And to think
LIKE ISRAEL, WHEN WE FAIL TO CARRY OUT OUR PURPOSE,
WE TO WILL GO INTO DEMISE! - CY – 2014)
trees, when felled, are yet valuable to man. They exude a fragrance. They
possess qualities suited for dyeing or tanning. They are useful for edifices
of all kinds. They afford timber for shipbuilding. But the vine has no such
virtues. If fruitless, it is cut down and set apart for fuel. So was it with
that of a vine branch severed from the tree and already burnt at both ends.
The final doom of such a branch had already begun. ISRAEL HAD
COMMITTED A GREIVOUS TRESPASS! The nation created to be
a witness for God HAD BECOME A WITNESS AGAINST HIM!
The medicine had become a poison. Hence the dunghill was its fittest place.
The doom of Israel had already begun. Its glory was in part consumed. Fire
should succeed to fire, calamity to calamity, until the lowest degradation
should be reached, The decree of God is written in steel, and cannot in the
nature of things be revoked. “My word shall not return unto me void,
but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the
thing whereto I sent it.”
The True Object of the Life of Man (vs. 1-8)
The principles involved here apply to ALL MEN and to EVERY MAN! We are
designed and created by God to produce THE FRUITS OF HOLINESS
AND FRUITFULNESS. If we do so, we honor Him, occupy an exalted
moral position, and benefit society. If we fail to do so, we dishonor God,
sink in moral character and condition, and are worthless or injurious to society.
What is the fruit which God designs that we should bear? Personal holiness
and social usefulness. “Ye have your fruit unto holiness” (Romans 6:22).
“Bearing fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). Holy character and
good works are the two great characteristics of the fruit which God requires
of us. They should not be severed.
o The holy character must bring forth good works.
o The good works must ever be connected with, and
the expression of, a holy character.
This fruit will be produced in various degrees and in various
terms, according to personal idiosyncrasies, abilities, and opportunities.
God does not require that Christian character shall be rigidly uniform, or
that Christian service shall all be of the same kind. What He demands is that
every one shall be faithful in the pursuit of holiness and usefulness, and
shall endeavor to realize these things in tile best manner in each individual
case. Our text further suggests —
THUS BEAR FRUIT.
Ø He is formed by God for this object. Man is endowed with faculties
fitting him for this.
o He has mind and soul by which he may perceive THE
REVELATION OF GOD!
o He has a will which was designed to work in sweet
harmony with that of God.
o He has a conscience which was constituted to accord with and
respond to THE ETERNAL RIGHTEOUSNES OF GOD!
o He has affections and aspirations which find their true object
in God, and their highest exercise in His worship.
Moreover, he has powers for expressing all these things in his life;
for feeling and speaking and acting holily, and so honoring God
by producing the fruit which He requires of us. We are also
fitted by God for usefulness in various ways. We have the power of
sympathy, of kind and earnest speech, of loving brotherly help, of
tender and trusty support, by which to be useful to each other.
There is no one but may help another in some form and to some extent.
Ø Man is blessed by God with culturing agencies for this object. What
agencies of help and culture God gave to His people
o the moral Law,
o religious ordinances,
o sacred memorials,
o consecrated priests,
o inspired prophets.
How many and influential are the means which we possess for
promoting our mental and spiritual growth and usefulness!
o an inspiring history,
o a glorious literature,
o the sacred Scriptures,
o opportunities of religious worship,
o divinely instituted sacraments,
o various Christian ministries,
o THE INFLUENCES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!
Even the very trials under which we smart and bleed are but the
prunings of the great Vine dresser, that we may bear more fruit.
What does such a constitution as ours mean? What do all these
agencies mean? What is their mission? That we may
bring forth fruit, even holiness and usefulness.
“Heaven doth with us, as we with torches do;
Not light them for themselves: for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, ‘twere all alike
As if we had them not. Spirits are not finely touch’d,
But to fine issues: nor nature never lends
The smallest scruple of her excellence,
But, like a thrifty goddess, she determines
Herself the glory of a creditor,
Both thanks and use.”
(Shakespeare, ‘Measure for Measure,’ act 1. sc. 1.)
tree does not produce grapes, it fails of the one object of its existence, and
is worthless. If man does not produce the fruit of excellence in himself and
serviceableness to others, he misses the end of his being. Other objects for
which men live are unsatisfactory. The:
Ø pursuit of pleasure,
Ø the race for riches,
Ø the struggle for power,
Ø the toil for knowledge, or
the possession of any of these things or all of them, cannot be the chief object of
human life. I assign only one reason in proof of this assertion, but that is a
sufficient one, viz. because they secure only a partial development of our nature.
God has endowed us with no superfluous powers. He would have us
exercise and develop every faculty of our being. He is ever opposed to
waste. But any one of the objects mentioned, or all of them combined,
involve the neglect of certain great faculties of our being, the wasting of
important powers. He whose supreme aim is the attainment of pleasure
generally develops only his sensuous tastes and appetites, to the grave
neglect or injury of his mental and moral powers. He who lives for riches
develops his acquisitive faculties, to the detriment of his communicative
powers; he grows in commercial sagacity and keenness, to the great risk of
his tenderness, uprightness, and reverence; he becomes rich in his purse,
but poor in his soul (Psalm 106:15). He whose great object is to obtain power,
if he pursue it wisely will develop several faculties of his nature; e.g. his powers
of observation and analysis, of self-control and control of others; he will
acquire knowledge of men and of times; but he is likely to lose conscience,
to become unscrupulous, overbearing, tyrannical. And he whose chief
purpose is to acquire knowledge will develop his mental faculties, become
more clear in intellectual perception, more comprehensive in mental grasp;
but he will lose sensitiveness and strength of sympathy, tenderness of
feeling, reverence of spirit. We see, then, that, taken singly, these things are
not satisfactory as the chief object of human life. But supposing one could,
combine all four — knowledge, power, riches, pleasure — as his object in
life, and attain them, what then? Still he has not the true object of life, and
for the reason already assigned; for in all:
Ø the acquisitive faculties are developed at the expense of the
Ø man’s relationship to God is ignored;
Ø man’s highest nature is neglected. Tenderness, sympathy, adoration,
service, are overlooked.
Turn now to the object suggested by our text — holiness or heart and life,
and usefulness of influence and action.
Ø It affords scope for the harmonious development of every faculty of
Ø That development is beneficial, not only to the individual, but to
SOCIETY in general also. This, indeed, is part of the object or
Ø That development is acceptable to God. It includes reverent worship
of Him, loyal obedience to His will, etc. Hence we conclude that THIS,
AND THIS ALONE, IS THE TRUE OBJECT OF LIFE!
ONLY FOR DESTRUCTION. Of what use is a hopelessly fruitless vine?
“What is the vine tree more than any tree, the vine branch which is among
the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to make any work?”
etc. If the vine does not produce fruit, it is not fit for timber; it is fit only
for fuel. The Jews at this time had signally and completely failed as to the
end of their existence as a nation, and THEY WERE DOOMED TO
NATIONAL DESTRUCTION! So with the life of men. If we do not
answer God’s design we are doing harm rather than good, our life is a bane
instead of a blessing; and if there be no hope of thorough change in this
respect, WE ARE FIT ONLY FOR DESTRUCTION! Of the fruitless
vineyard the Lord saith, “I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall
be eaten up; I will break down the fence thereof, and it shall be trodden
down; and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned nor hoed; but there
shall come up briars and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they
rain no rain upon it” (Isaiah 5:5-6). “The axe is laid unto the root of the
trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down,
and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). “He said unto the vine dresser,
Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find
none: cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground?” (Luke 13:7).
PERSISTENT FRUITLESSNESS means RUIN, DESTRUCTION!
Ø Have we our fruit unto holiness? Are we bearing fruit in
good works? Then let us seek after increased fruitfulness!
Ø But if it be otherwise with us, let us penitently seek to amend
our ways, lest our barrenness LEADS TO RUIN!
"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.
Materials are reproduced by permission."
This material can be found at:
If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.