Summary: Sometimes God moves in our lives in such a way that it causes us pain, and our wounds are fresh and oozing. God is working a great work in our lives, even if we do not understand what is happening at the moment.
When Pruning Season Comes
In the early morning, just as the sun begins to brighten the sky, a man moves silently through a vineyard. He has work to do, and he does it with determination and precision. He pauses to sharpen a pruning knife, because he knows that he will be most effective if his knife is sharp. He works with skill, reaching first here, then there, slashing a branch loose from the vine. Occasionally he will even slice through a cluster of grapes, dropping them on the ground as useless. When he has finished with that particular vine, he moves on, leaving behind a stump of where a branch used to be. The rising sun glistens on the sap as it oozes from the fresh wounds the vinedresser has just created.
Sometimes God moves in our lives in such a way that it causes us pain, and our wounds are fresh and oozing. At the time it is occurring we do not necessarily think, “Well, this hurts, and it may be God working in my life to cleanse me of what I don’t need.” But it is so necessary for us to know that much of the time, God is working a great work in our lives, even if we do not understand what is happening at the moment.
According to our fresh understanding of John 15:2, we read it this way now, Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He lifts, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful. What this means, plain and simple, is that if you are a branch in the Vine which is Christ, then you will undergo a pruning in your life. It is inevitable, inescapable, and necessary. We all go through a pruning season in our Christian lives. And since it will come to all us, when it does it is essential that we remember certain vitally important truths.
1. Remember that your Heavenly Father is the Vinedresser, v. 1
Why does Jesus speak of Himself as the “true” vine? His disciples would readily understand what He meant. The image of the vine was a vivid one for them, since the land of Israel was covered with vineyards. It even was used in the Old Testament as a symbol for Israel’s relationship with God. Isaiah spoke of the house of Israel as the vineyard of the Lord (5:7). Jeremiah said that God had planted Israel as His choice vine (2:21). The prophet Hosea pointed out that because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, they had become like an empty vine. From beginning to end, God’s role is as the Vinedresser. Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Israel as a vineyard that produced only wild grapes:
1Now I will sing a song for the one I love about his vineyard:
My beloved has a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. 2He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with choice vines. In the middle he built a watchtower and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks. Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes, but the grapes that grew were wild and sour.
3 “Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah, you have heard the case; you be the judges. What more could I have done to cultivate a rich harvest? Why did my vineyard give me wild grapes when I expected sweet ones?
5 Now this is what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will tear down its fences and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. 6I will make it a wild place. I will not prune the vines or hoe the ground. I will let it be overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no more rain on it.”
7 This is the story of the LORD’S people. They are the vineyard of the LORD Almighty. Israel and Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected them to yield a crop of justice, but instead he found bloodshed. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of oppression. Isa. 5:1 through Isa. 5:7 (NLT)
Down through Hebrew history, the grapevine became the symbol of Israel. At one point in their history, the symbol of the vine was even on their coins. Josephus, a Hebrew historian writing for the Romans, described Herod’s Temple (which was the one in place during the time of Jesus) as having a huge cluster of gold grapes hanging around the outside of the Temple. He wrote that “under the crown-work was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and the workmanship of which were an astonishing sight to the spectators” (Antiquities of the Jews, 5.5.4). We are told that those who wished to honor someone would pay to have another grape added to the cluster, and it became a badge of honor to be able to afford to do so. The Jews took great pride in this, and saw it as a symbol of their nation.