Saturday, July 2, 2022

A Vine Out of Egypt (Psalm 80)

"Look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted"(Ps. 80:14b–15a).

Psalm 80 describes God’s people as a vine and a vineyard. This metaphor of the people of God extends into the New Testament where the root of the vine is Christ (Rom. 11:18), and the branches are believers (John 15:5). God’s people in every age are like vines—they need cultivation and preservation by the keeper of the vineyard. When God removes His care, the vine withers and fails to produce fruit. This is what happened to Israel when this psalm was written. God had removed His protecting hand from His people for a period of chastisement, and they responded by pleading that He forgive them and resume His care of the vineyard.

The basis of the people’s plea is that God had made a covenant with Abraham, that God Himself planted the vineyard and He could not forsake it forever. “What is stated amounts in short to this, that it is unbecoming that God should now suffer the vine which He had planted and cultivated so carefully with His own hand to be wasted by wild beasts,” Calvin wrote. “God’s covenant was not made to last only for a few days, or for a short time: when He adopted the children of Abraham, He took them under His keeping forever.” God brought His people out of Egypt and cleared the land before them. The vine flourished in Canaan by the goodness of God as He swept the area clean of foreign nations and built a hedge of protection around His vineyard. Maintaining the vineyard required continual digging and cleansing. Otherwise it would degenerate and cease to produce fruit.

Why, then, did God abandon the care of His vineyard in Psalm 80? “The people were brought to desolation on account of their own incurable obstinacy; but God did not fail to save a small number of shoots, by means of which He afterwards restored His vine,” wrote Calvin. When the people of God turns to sinful ways, God will root out the error and clean His vineyard. The process is painful, but He does not forsake the true vine; He saves some of the branches that His promise might be kept. When God’s noble vine had become the “degenerate plant of an alien vine” (Jer. 2:21), God tore down its hedges that His people might humble themselves and seek His face for restoration.

Read Isaiah 5:1–7. Why did God uproot the hedge around His vineyard? Now read John 15 and consider what happens when you reject Christ. What promise does God give to those who remain in the vine? Today and this weekend think about what it means to remain in Christ and pray that you bear godly fruit.