Branching out

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

Photo by Grape Things on Pexels.com

Ezekiel 15 and John 15

Ezekiel brought a prophesy against the nation of Israel for being dead in their relationship with God. The nation was not bearing fruit because they were not worshipping YHWH, they had stopped producing spiritual fruit. Ezekiel’s prophesy was at a time when false prophets tickled the ears of the nation. Tickling ears refers to saying things that did not offend. False prophesy is when you pronounce things that you were not given to say by Elohim. This was indicative of a lack of fear for YHWH. Instead, these false prophets were filled with a great deal of self-importance, which lead to idolatry by men and women.

In the prophesy Israel is compared to a fruitless vine, the branches are deemed useless as they do not bear fruit, the wood can’t be fashioned into tools or implements and is also useless. The branches are not even thought of as fire wood as they burn too quickly, therefore they are discarded and burnt as waste. In John 15: 1-8, Yeshua talks of branches that are useless being piled up and burnt. Yeshua tells us that YHWH will cut off dead and useless branches and throw them into the fire, Ezekiel prophesied the same, he even said that those that escaped the fire would be burnt for sure. This was a dismal prophesy for the nation.

Let us for a moment consider what the nation had done that caused the branches to die. In Ezekiel 3:7 we read that the people had become hard-hearted and stubborn. They had stopped listening to YHWH, stopped obeying Him and therefore no longer followed Him. A song comes to mind, “I’m doing it my way”. The nation had taken to following their own gods, listening to ear tickling prophesy – things that they wanted to hear because it suited them. They had built alters and shrines to worship idols. In Ezekiel 7: 10 we pick up on words such as wickedness, violence, pride. Ezekiel 7:14 – ‘no one listens’. Ezekiel 7:19-20 – mentions of wealth being used to create idols. Yeshua did warn that man can’t serve two masters, it is either mammon or YHWH. There are further references made in Ezekiel 12: 2 & 24 to rebelliousness and listening to prophets that told of false visions and made false predictions. Ezekiel 13:2 & 17 refers to false prophets bringing words of their own, not from YHWH and deceiving the nation. There is mention of women as false prophets with their magic charms.

Even when Ezekiel physically demonstrated the impact of these ways on the nation, they still did not turn from their ways. The prophecy that Ezekiel brought was not an ear tickler and the hearts of the nation were hard. We may very well stand back and judge this nation, but that is dangerous to do because if we examine our own life we may find some of these attitudes, and actions, in our own hearts. I may be harbouring stubbornness, not wanting to let something go, or not wanting to forgive and forget. Holding on to the past and allowing it to fester, and eat, away at the sap in my branch. This is likely to make me unbearable to be around and I am definitely not bearing fruit of the Spirit. There may be a sense of self-importance, and pride, in what we have achieved giving no recognition to YHWH for the provision of the opportunities and talents. I did it my way, it is my way or the highway? This is a spirit of stubbornness and rebellion.

We don’t drive past houses and see big shrines in the garden depicting the family idols, but there are idols in our lives. They could be jobs, family, cars, possessions….the list goes on. An idol is anything that you devote more time to than YHWH. It keeps you from prioritising Him, from serving and obeying His call. Should we not have possessions and take care of them? Is our family not our responsibility? Yes, and the Father gives us many things, but when you loose focus, when these things become your reason for living, and stop you from spending undistracted time with Him, then it is time to check where our priorities lie. Chasing a dream can become an obsession and quickly turn into an idol, where you devote all your time in trying to make it happen. Instead let YHWH guide you, and show you what His dream is for you. When you achieve something, and know that you did not do it alone, praising Him will guard your heart and mind against pride and self-importance.

In John 15, Yeshua tells us how to be branches that bear fruit. This passage is the Good News, it is not a prophecy of doom, but an encouragement to living a fruitful and blessed life. Yeshua is the vine, He is the root of our lives. Yeshua refers to YHWH as the gardener that tends the branches on the vine by pruning them. Some branches are pruned back so that they will grow strong and produce more fruit, others are cut off from the vine because they are useless and dead, as in Ezekiel 15. We have a passion fruit vine that I regularly prune and retrain so that the vine produces a good crop. Retraining the branches allows me to direct the branches in the direction I wish them to grow in. This is how the Father prunes us, He chops off the bits that are getting a bit wild, and He puts branches that are straying off on their own back on the right track. The branches that remain on the vine feed off the sap of the vine, we that are in the vine are fed by the Word of God, and guided by the Set-Apart Spirit of Truth. This is life-giving and the fruit we produce is found in Galatians 5:22 – love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Yeshua tells us that people will know we belong to Him by the fruit that we bear. Remember in Ezekiel 15, the nation no longer bore fruit because the branches were dead.

Yeshua urges us to remain in Him, to obey Him, and to produce fruit that will last. In John 15:16 there is a promise that if we act in, and out, of the knowledge that we have been chosen and appointed by Yeshua, the Father will give you whatever you ask in Yeshua’s name. If you are joined to the vine you will love others, serve the Lord, and want the best for those around you. You will want to honour, esteem, and bring glory to the Lamb above all. You will acknowledge His goodness and mercy, and know that the plans of the Father are to give you an expectancy and future, that they are good. When you pray from this foundational knowledge, your prayers will not be self-seeking or full of pride, they are prayers for others, prayers in love, and in line, with the will of the Father for the glorification of the Son.

There is no room for idolatry because we know that all we have comes from Him. All we have and are is because of Him. We boast in Christ alone. Remaining in Him means living with Him, praying, and reading the Word, walking like a child in wonderment, and awe, at all He has planned and set apart for us, in the now and in the Everlasting. It is not always rosy and plain sailing but we have the hope, and assurance, that He, YHWH, is omnipresent, omnipotent and loving-committed to those He calls friends and children.

Oh Father, search my heart and reveal to me those areas that I am stubborn about. Remove the hard-heartedness in my spirit, and break down the shrines I have built around me that hinder me from being all I can be for You. Please do not severe me from the Vine, but prune and retrain me, filling me with Your Set-Apart-Spirit of Truth that I may bear fruit and bring glory to the Son.

Amen