Beware the Flattened Fence

May 12, 2014 at 9:38 am | Posted in Isaiah, The Fives | 8 Comments
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God compared the kingdom of Judah to a vineyard. He had planted this vineyard Himself and given it every advantage. He had chosen the most fertile ground and the best vines. He removed the stones and built a strong tower in the midst of it. There was no legitimate reason why the vineyard should not have produced excellent grapes.

But it didn’t. It produced “wild grapes:” grapes which were unfit for consumption, and which brought dishonor to the owner of the vineyard. This happened because of the disloyalty, disobedience, and egregious sin of God’s chosen people.

He had given them His promises, His prophets, His Word, His blessings, His victories, and poured out His Spirit upon several of their leaders. Yet they insisted on doing things their own way, and now there would be consequences.

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

Isaiah 5:5

Vineyards in those days were bordered by hedges to keep out trespassers, marauders, and thieves.

If the hedges fell into disrepair or were damaged, the vineyard was exposed to danger and would be destroyed. God was about to allow the hedges protecting Judah to be weakened, broken, and trampled down. The result would be severe chastening and destruction.

What has God planted in your life that is supposed to bring Him glory? Have you been given a Bible, a church, a family, a home? Food, shelter, clothes, health? If so, what has been your response to your Lord? Are you serving Him with passion, zeal, and faithfulness? Are you being a good steward over the vineyard of your life by giving Him praise, and by serving your neighbors in His name? Or is your life a cluster of “wild grapes” gathered for your own pleasure and squandered in your own vain winepress?

How often we hear Christians praying for “a hedge of protection” around our lives! We need to make sure that what we are asking God to protect is actually worth protecting according to His standards.

The Bookends of Faith (Part 3)

December 29, 2010 at 10:11 am | Posted in John, The Bookends of Faith | 7 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Last time, we looked at what our response should be to Jesus’s proclamation that, “I AM the Bread of Life.” That was His first “I AM” statement in the Book of John. Now we move on to His last.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life. The two words that John 6:35 and John 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – “unending” and “unbeginning”). He was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:4; 1:8; 4:8) I once heard a catchy song on the radio with the lyric:
He’s not the God who one time did,
He’s the God Who does.
That’s why they call Him the Great I AM,
And not the great I was.

When I say that God is “uncommon,” I mean that He is truly unique.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

This is an illustration – the vine and the branches – which is not as familiar to us as it was to those who first heard it. Vineyards were almost as common to Jesus’s audience as gas stations are to us in the 21st Century. (Hey, maybe there’s a lesson there: He is the Gas Pump – we are the car – we won’t work unless He fills us up!)

If you have actually been in a vineyard or around grapevines, you may have a mental picture of the vines and branches being thin and easily broken, but those in Israel back in Jesus’s day were thick and strong. The image of the vineyard or the grapevine is common in Scripture. God had provided for and chastened Judah and Jerusalem throughout the Old Testament. If there ever should have been a vineyard to the glory of God, it should have been that nation. However:

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:4

The Jewish people were God’s vineyard, but there is also a worldly vineyard in Scripture.

And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Revelation 14:18-20

The grapes in this worldly vineyard are ripening for God’s judgment. Those are two of the vines found in Scripture. Then there is Jesus – the True Vine. Whenever there are “types” of Christ in the Bible, Christ fulfills those types, and is a “better than” those types. He is the Vine from which all other vines are copies or imitations.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

John 15:1-2

He is the Vine. We are the branches. God is the husbandman (vine-dresser). Branches can be strong when they are fed from the vine, but if something closes off the flow of sap from the vine, the branches become brittle and weak – and fruitless. Can these fruitless branches be used for some other purpose, such as for building? They can’t be used for building when they are strong because they are connected to the vine. They can’t be used for building when broken off because then they are weak. Abiding – connected – branches are good for one thing: bearing fruit. Broken – disconnected – branches are also good for one thing: burning. (Actually two things if you count hiding places for serpents.)

The branches of the “copy” – of an actual grapevine – have little choice but to abide. They they have no consciousness or responsibility. But believers on the True Vine must abide in order to bear fruit. There is responsibility involved. “Abide” means to take up residence – to “remain.” Abiding is not intending to make a temporary home. People don’t normally go to a hotel or make an encampment with the intention of “abiding.”

Next time, we will try to learn how to be good abiders.

Curtis Hutson Encouraged Young Men to S.W.I.M.

August 20, 2009 at 10:03 am | Posted in Quotes | 2 Comments
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I would say this to you young men here who have a vision and a burden: Of course, it is not going to be easy. You are going to have to sacrifice. There are going to be some hard times and some discouraging times. But the grapes of incomparable blessings are worth the battles that you have to go through to get them.

Somebody commented that those grapes were so big that when Joshua and Caleb started back across the river with them, Caleb stepped on one of them and shot the heart out of it. Then he took the hull and made a swimming cap out of it. Then, putting it down over his head, he started swimming across the river and splashing water; and Joshua jumped out of the way and said, “You’re going to drown me, you fool!” (Of course, you will have to find that in the original Hebrew!)

It doesn’t come easy. I don’t know how big those grapes were, but I can imagine they were big enough to make swimming caps out of the hulls.

Since there are grapes of incomparable blessings, there are giants of immense opposition. We are attracted by the grapes but discouraged by the giants.

“There are big grapes over there. And it is a land flowing with milk and honey! Man! It is fantastic..! BUT… there are big walls over there and big giants too.” Attracted by the grapes but discouraged by the giants – that is true in a lot of things.

Curtis Hutson

And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Numbers 13:23-33

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