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The Story of the Vine
1. The vine tree is a type of Israel. When Jesus Christ gave the parable of the vine and the branches He said: "I am the True Vine, and * * ye are the branches." We immediately wonder who the vine which was not the True might represent. In the 80th Psalm, this query is definitely answered.
We read: "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt." We know that Israel was brought out of Egypt. Therefore Israel was the vine which was untrue. Let us see if we can find out why Israel was untrue to her calling as a vine.
2. Israel was a fruitless vine. In the 15th of John there is this statement: "Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." The Book of Hosea clearly tells us; "Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit."
When God called Abraham, He called him to be a blessing. That is another expression for fruitfulness. The hand of God sought continually to use Israel for a people, a praise, a name, and a glory, but Israel would not hear.
We have read how, in the days of David and of Solomon, the fame of Israel went everywhere as she established the name and the glory of Jehovah to the ends of the earth. However, soon after Solomon's death, the kingdom was divided and apostasy began to take hold of Israel. Now and again, good kings, faithful to God, arose and led Israel in the paths of righteousness; but steadily the declining of the faith and the lack of the bearing of fruit came upon God's people, until, instead of being a blessing, Israel carried a curse whithersoever she went.
The Book of Ezekiel makes this very plain when it says: "And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned My holy Name." The result of this is clearly set forth in the Book of Hosea, where Ephraim is described as joined to her idols; as oppressed and broken in judgment; as a cake not turned. The result of all this was that strangers devoured her strength; she made many altars to sin; and her glory fled from her as a bird flieth.
3. Israel shall one day be fruitful again. Hosea once more describes God as a Father, saying, when Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt." "I taught Ephraim also to go." "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love." Then, as God the Father beheld the wanderings of Israel His son, He is described as crying, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?"
The last chapter of Hosea then describes Israel's return unto the Lord her God, and God is saying: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him." Then again He says: "I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread."
Afterward, Ephraim is made to say: "What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard Him, and observed Him." Then comes the significant statement, " From Me is thy fruit found."
Thank God, the day is coming when God's Children of Israel, who were broken off because of their fruitlessness, shall be grafted in again. Let us give this little warning to the Church: If God spared not the natural branches and they were broken off, let the church take heed lest it also shall not be spared. To the extent that the Church becomes a fruitless vine, it comes under the curse, and in danger of being trampled under the feet of men and burned with fire.
I. LOOKING BACKWARD (Psalms 80:8 )
1. "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt." The Holy Spirit is reminding Israel of her beginning as a nation. She had been 400 years in Egypt, and under most trying circumstances during most of that time. Yet, in spite of her slavery and serfdom, she had prospered into a great nation.
The Spirit is also reminding Israel that it was God who had brought her out. She had not come out, she was brought out; and brought out with a mighty deliverance. God had opened her a path through the sea, and she walked through on dry land. Then Pharaoh, who pursued her, was overthrown in the sea.
The Holy Spirit speaks of Israel as a vine brought out of Egypt, because the only province of a vine is to bear fruit.
Let us pause a moment. Has God not brought us out of Egypt, even out of the world? Has He not separated us from among the nations and unto Himself? Does He not call us His vine; and are we not saved to bear fruit unto Him? Yes, all of this is true.
2. "Thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it." The story continues to breathe great eternal verities. The land where Israel, the vine, was planted is known as "Caanan." That land was inhabited by seven nations who were ripened in their iniquity, These were all cast out before the onward march of God's conquering hosts.
It was not, however, Israel's great armies which gave her victory; it was not her ability as a trained force; it was God who cast out the nations before her. Let us again take all of this to heart. When God called His Church unto Himself, He promised her His power: "All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Go * * and, lo, I am with you." It is the power of God that leads us on to victory. Whether at home among the churches, or on the far-flung mission field, it is the same all-powerful Christ who leads us on.
II. MAKING READY FOR A PEOPLE (Psalms 80:9 )
1. "Thou preparedst room before it." God always went in the way before His people Israel. He went in a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. He picked out the place where they were to pitch their tents, When the time had come for them to move, He said something like: "Ye have dwelt in this Mount long enough." He gave orders to camp, and He gave orders for the march.
Here is something just as true of us as Christians. He goes before us, and He prepares everything ahead of time in our behalf. "The Lord is my Shepherd." This was true of Israel, but it is also true of us. He knoweth His sheep. He calls them by name. He leadeth them forth. The Holy Spirit has been sent down from Heaven to tell us when to go, and where to go.
When Paul assayed to go into certain cities, the Spirit suffered him not. He would have gone to Asia, but he was forbidden by the Holy Ghost. He assayed to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered him not. Let us, therefore, as Christians, await our marching orders, and when they come, let us be quick to follow.
2. Thou "didst cause it to take deep root." The Lord not only put Israel in the land, planting her as a vine is planted, but He caused her to take deep hold upon the soil. He rooted her in, so that she could not be thrown out. The story of Israel in the land of Canaan is remarkable. It is wonderful to consider. Even until this hour, God has a remnant in that land, and that remnant is steadily increasing.
Now, let us make our application to the Church. History repeats itself. What was true of Israel in her beginning, was true of the Church in hers. God also caused the Church to take a deep root. It was not long until thousands were turning to the Lord. It was not long until many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Within a few centuries the Word had gone forth into varied parts. The last statement of Psalms 80:9 is: "It filled the land." Israel filled her land, and the Church did as much. The numbers of the disciples multiplied greatly. Even in the days of Paul, he was spoken of as one who had turned the world upside down. Thank God for the march of missions, as the Church still sweeps on from victory to victory.
III. BLESSED IN ORDER TO BE MADE A BLESSING (Psalms 80:10-11 )
1. "The hills were covered with the shadow of it." The very word "shadow" bespeaks the fact of spiritual beneficence. Our Lord is described as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The people sought to get under Peter's shadow as he passed by. Thus Israel, as she prospered and covered the hills, became a shadow, a place of rest and protection unto the people who passed by.
2. "The boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars." We speak now of strength. The cedar lifts its head upward, but it also sends its roots downward. The adjective "goodly" describes the fact that Israel was sown among the nations, and known for her graciousness. It also suggests that she was acceptable unto God, and that she pleased Him well.
Once more we refer to the Church. It, too, was as a goodly cedar. It, too, stretched forth its boughs where the people might gather under its blessings. It too was goodly, both in the sight of God and of men.
3. "She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river." These words speak of the amazing growth of the Children of Israel, and how her blessings reached unto the Gentiles. She covered the land, and she covered the sea with her glory.
Did not the Church also have a marvelous beginning, as well as a marvelous sending out of her boughs unto the sea the nations? The Church was born on her knees, baptized in the Holy Ghost the day she was born. On that first blessed day, the Day of Pentecost, there were as many as a dozen nations represented, from whom many believed and were baptized and returned to their own countries to proclaim the gospel message.
Soon the workers went out from Jerusalem as far as Judea and Samaria. Then the Lord saved Paul under a commission to carry His Gospel far hence unto the Gentiles.
IV. BROKEN DOWN BECAUSE OF FRUITLESSNESS (Psalms 80:12-13 )
1. "Why hast Thou then broken down her hedges?" Here is a solemn question. A people so marvelously led of God, so wonderfully empowered by God, and at the first so fruitful unto God, became broken down. Her hedges, which God had put about her to protect her from her foes, were cast under the feet of men. Whereas she was once an honor among the nations, she became a password and a byword.
We cannot but think of Christ as He gave the message of the vine and the branches. We can almost hear Him saying: "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." When Israel became a fruitless vine, she became a useless vine; and was worthy of nothing, only to be broken down and burned.
Let the Church take warning. The only way we can glorify God is to bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. If we do not bear fruit, the same judgment which befell God's people of old will befall us.
2. Why do all which pass by the way, pluck her? Here is a picture of a mocking, taunting world. Israel, which was once the joy of the Lord and His glory among the nations, became no more than a byword among the nations. Those who passed by plucked her, "We have recently been in Jerusalem, and we beheld the present plight of the Children of Israel. Tourists come from all parts of the earth, and they pass by, only to be amazed at the depleted condition of God's people. The Arabs hold much of her former land, and they also are enemies to the people of God's former favor. Psalms 80:13 says: "The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it."
We refer to the nominal church. Just to the extent that it leaves the faith once delivered unto the saints, and turns its pulpit over to the social gospel, just to that extent do the boars of the wood and the wild beasts of the field devour it.
The true Church is under God's blessing only so long as it is a separated and sanctified people standing true to the Gospel of grace. To the extent that the gospel message is obliterated, God's blessing is removed, and the people suffer ridicule and mocking.
V. A PLEA FOR CHRIST'S RETURN (Psalms 80:14 )
1. There is the call, "Look down from Heaven, and behold." These words are uttered by a people who are trodden down, plucked at, and devoured. They are asking God to look down upon them, and to behold their plight. They are pleading for mercy.
As we visited Jerusalem we thought of its people at the wailing wall, still crying for mercy. They are beating their heads upon the wall as they cry. They have given themselves over to wailing.
2. There is the call, "Return, we beseech Thee, O God of Hosts." Israel is, even now, turning her face upward with this very plea. There are many in her midst who are asking for the Messiah to come to deliver Jerusalem. This cry is the same as in Isaiah 64:1-12 , where Israel is heard to say, "Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down."
Therefore Israel seeks for Him for whom, for so many years, they have sought not. He who has been spreading out His hands to them, now sees them spreading out their hands to Him. Zechariah puts it this way, "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications."
We wonder if there is no similar longing upon the part of the true Church of God? We, too, are saying, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." Our hearts are looking upward, to wit, for the redemption of our bodies, and for the Coming of the Lord with His rewards.
3. There is the call, "Visit this vine." This final call of our verse makes sure for what Israel is calling, for she is the vine which God brought out of Egypt, and planted; she is the vine that is trodden down. Now she cries, "Visit this vine; and the vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that Thou madest strong for Thyself." What an admission is this to be found upon the lips of a people who have, for centuries, refused His favor, and rejected His grace.
Israel must yet acknowledge that God planted her, and made her strong. She must again turn her face toward Him in true repentance. Her hope shall yet be in Him.
VI. THE MAN OF GOD'S RIGHT HAND (Psalms 80:16-17 )
1.Psalms 80:16; Psalms 80:16 continues the cry: "It is burned! with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of Thy countenance." What a confession. Israel at last reaches the place where she acknowledges that her burnings, and her cutting down, have been from the hand of Jehovah. In this she conceded her sins, and acknowledges her judgments as from God.
This verse dovetails perfectly with John 15:6 , where Christ said, "if a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." This verse is also in line with Ezekiel 15:6 , "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 Jerusalem." God does not burn them, but He delivers them to men to be burned.
2.Psalms 80:17; Psalms 80:17 continues with a strong and indubitable acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus Christ. It reads: "Let Thy hand be upon the Man of Thy right hand." Who is this? It can be none other than the One whom Israel delivered unto death, but whom God hath raised from the dead. It is the Christ, risen, exalted, and seated at the right hand of God, awaiting until He shall come again.
Now, even Israel acknowledges all of this, and concludes by saying, "The Man of Thy right hand, * * the Son of Man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself." What a marvelous admission! Here is Israel not only acclaiming the Lord she crucified, as the Man of God's right hand, but also acknowledging that He is the Son of Man, whom God made strong for Himself. The Son of Man is the Name that Christ used of Himself so often, as He spoke of His relationship to Israel. Israel now admits His claim.
VII. A FINAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF CHRIST AS SAVIOUR (Psalms 80:18-19 )
1. "So will not we go back from Thee." Israel is telling Jehovah that if He will send Christ again to her salvation, she will not only acknowledge Him, but she will be saved, never to backslide again. This is all in keeping with other Scriptures. For instance, Ezekiel says, "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God."
2. "Quicken us, and we will call upon Thy Name." All self-trust is gone. Israel is crying for a quickening. The word "quicken us" suggests a new birth, a new heart. When God deals with Israel again, He will deal with her as He has dealt with the true Church; He will give her a new birth. This will mean more than a creation, it will mean a begetting.
3. "Turn us again, O Lord God of Hosts, cause Thy face to shine; and we shall be saved." Thank God for such a prayer. When God has done a work for Israel it will be a perfect work. She will not stand before Him on any plane of works, but upon the plane of grace. He will do the quickening, the turning, the saving. He will cause His face to shine.
Israel is a recipient of grace. She is a suppliant and a pleader. How we wish that the Church would keep her place as such an one. When we turn from grace to achievement and self-trust, we turn from redemption and the new birth to a formal, self-made hope that can never save, and never keep. Let us stand before Him, by way of the Cross.
It is wonderful how God can take the roughest of lives and soften them and make them capable of bearing fruit, and, in so doing, make them to magnify His great transforming power.
"The story of Murillo's masterpiece that hangs in the Seville Cathedral, I suppose one of the great paintings of the world, is interesting. You could not price it. There is nothing to compare with it. Do you remember how it was painted? The great artist was in a monastery, and one morning he was inspired to paint it was an irresistible impulse. He called for some canvas; but they had no artist's canvas in the monastery, so they searched around and they brought him some rough brown canvas little better than sacking; that was all they had, and he took it, rough and coarse as it was, and stretching it across a board, he painted on it the world's masterpiece.
And some of our lives are a bit rough and ugly. The Lord Would fill you with His own Spirit, so that you may go out and live a life that is sweet." The Gospel Graphic.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Psalms 80". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter