Read Ezekiel 15
Jerusalem as a Useless Vine
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, how is the wood of a vine different from that of a branch from any of the trees in the forest? 3 Is wood ever taken from it to make anything useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on? 4 And after it is thrown on the fire as fuel and the fire burns both ends and chars the middle, is it then useful for anything? 5 If it was not useful for anything when it was whole, how much less can it be made into something useful when the fire has burned it and it is charred?
6 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. 7 I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the Lord. 8 I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
Ezekiel 15 begins with a harsh declaration: Jerusalem (and the people in it) are similar to a useless, fruitless vine that is good for nothing. The imagery of a vine is common throughout scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments and the implication is always the same: you want that vine to be fruitful. At times in Israel’s history, they were thriving and bearing fruit like a healthy vine should. The prophet Hosea compared Israel to a vine full of fruit (Hosea 10:1). The prophet Isaiah also described Israel as like a vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7). But times had changed. Now, this fruitless vine was indistinguishable from any other branch in a forest. Its only purpose was to be used as fuel on a fire.
Pastor David Guzik in the Enduring Word commentary says this about Ezekiel’s warning:
“We sense that in using this illustration, Ezekiel answered a question or a protest: God won’t judge us; we are His chosen people, we are His special vine. We have been burned by past crises, but God will deliver us. Ezekiel wanted to destroy this false sense of confidence in Israel’s status as God’s special vine.”
Perhaps there was a spiritual arrogance from the Israelites. They thought because they had been protected before (physically and spiritually) that they were invincible, but it’s clear in this message God gave Ezekiel that this was no longer the case. God was going to set His face against them (v. 7) and this time there would be no escaping the consequences of their unfaithfulness to their covenant with God. The city would be wiped out and the land would be a desolate wasteland (v. 8).
Reading this passage as Christ-followers, it brings to mind Jesus’s words in John 15 where He reminds us that He is the true vine. We have the opportunity to follow Jesus’s instructions and remain, or abide, in Jesus (the true vine) and if we do so, we will be like branches who bear fruit. If we don’t abide and choose to go our own way, we too will be fruitless and not of use to further God’s kingdom here on earth.
- What stuck out to you most as you read this chapter? Why?
- Can you relate to the spiritual arrogance the Israelites felt? Why or why not?
- What does it look like in your life to abide in Christ? How have you seen your life bear fruit when you are abiding vs. when you’re not?