Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Psalm 80:7-19 1
7 Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. 8 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. 9 You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. 11 It sent out its boughs to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. 12 Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? 13 Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it. 14 Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, 15 the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. 16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. 17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. 18 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. 19 Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. 

clip_image098Background

This psalm was composed around some calamity, which impacted the tribes of Israel after their division into two kingdoms but before the captivity of either of them. Called the psalm of Asaph, the psalmist prays for the tokens of God’s presence, ver. 1 – 3; Complains of heavy distress, ver. 4 – 7; Illustrates this, by the comparison of a vine, ver. 8 – 16; and Concludes with a prayer for mercy, ver. 17 – 19. An Asaph was a Levite; one of the leaders of David’s choir (1 Chr. 6:39). He is mentioned along with David as skilled in music, and a “seer” (2 Chr. 29:30).

Biblical Truths

Psalm 80 is a community lament in time of military defeat. Using the familiar image of Israel as a vineyard, the people complain that God has broken down the wall protecting the once splendid vine brought from Egypt (Psalm 80:9-14). They pray that God will again turn to them and use the Davidic king to lead them to victory (Psalm 80:15-19).

A vine: a frequent metaphor for Israel. (Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2-5; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1; Matthew 21:33).

The sea: the Mediterranean. The river: the Euphrates. (Genesis 15:18; 1 Kings 5:1). The terms may also have a mythic nuance–the seas that surround the earth; sea and river are sometimes paralleled in poetry.

The man at your right hand . . . the one: the Davidic king who will lead the army in battle.

Items for Discussion

  • What is the way that the vine is used to describe Israel in this Psalm?

 

John 15:1-10
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

Background

There are numerous Old Testament passages which refer to Israel as a vine: Ps 80:8-16, Isa 5:1-7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1-8, 17:5-10, 19:10-14, and Hos 10:1. The vine became symbolic of Israel, and even appeared on some coins issued by the Maccabees.

Ezek 17:5-10 contains vine imagery which refers to a king of the house of David, Zedekiah, who was set up as king in Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah allied himself to Egypt and broke his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar (and therefore also with God), which would ultimately result in his downfall (17:20-21). Ezek 17:22-24 then describes the planting of a cedar sprig which grows into a lofty tree, a figurative description of Messiah. But it is significant that Messiah himself is not described in Ezekiel 17 as a vine, but as a cedar tree. The vine imagery here applies to Zedekiah’s disobedience.

Therefore, for the modern day Christian, John’s verses on Jesus as the Vine provide us new teaching and new insight into our Creator and Savior.

Biblical Truths

15:1. I am the true Vine (cf. v. 5). This is the last of the seven great “I am” statements in John (cf. comments on 6:35). Israel was God’s choice vine on which he lavished care and attention (Ps 80:8; Isa 8:1-7; Jer.2:21; 6:9; Ezek 15; 17:5-10; 19:10-14; Hos 10:1; 14:8). He longed for fruit, but the vine (Israel) became degenerate and produced rotten fruit. Therefore Jesus, as “the true Vine,” fulfills what God had intended for Israel. The Father is the Gardener who cultivates and protects the Vine.

15:2. He (i.e., the Gardener, the Father) desires fruit, which is mentioned eight times in this chapter (vv. 2 [three], 4 [twice], 5,8,16). A progression is seen: fruit (v. 2), more fruitful (v. 2), and “much fruit” (vv. 5,8). The fruit which God desired from Israel was loving obedience, righteousness, and justice (Isa 5:1-7). Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He cuts off. The phrase “in Me” does not mean the same thing as Paul’s words “in Christ.” Here it is part of the metaphor of the Vine and seems to mean, “every person who professes to be My disciple (a ‘branch’) is not necessarily a true follower.” A branch that bears no fruit is obviously dead. Therefore, like Judas, it is cut off. (See comments on John 15:6.) Every year in Palestine gardeners prune their vines. They cut off the dead wood which has no life in it and trim the living branches so that their yield will be greater.

15:3. The disciples had been cleansed by Jesus and His message, but one, Judas, was not cleansed (cf. 13:10-11).

15:4. Fruitfulness is the result of the Son’s life being reproduced in a disciple.

15:5-6. A disciple’s continual abiding with Jesus (If a man remains in Me) — and the indwelling of Jesus in a believer (and I in him) — result in abundant fruit (cf. v. 8). But those who do not believe face disaster. A branch without life is dead and cut off (v. 2). It is worthless and therefore is thrown into the fire and burned.

15:7-8. In contrast with verse 6, the emphasis in these verses is positive: remain with Jesus and bear much fruit. Effective prayer is based on faith in Christ and on His words remaining in believers. Christ’s words condition and control such a believer’s mind so that his prayers conform to the Father’s will.

15:9-10. A believer is motivated by the wonder of Jesus’ love, which is patterned after the Father’s love in its quality and extent. Remain in My love might seem to be mystical but Jesus makes it very concrete. Obedience to the Father’s commands is the same for a disciple as it was for the Son (cf. 14:15,21,23; 1 John 2:3; 3:22,24; 5:3). Active dependence and loving obedience are the proper paths for all of God’s children.

Items for Discussion

  • The word remain, a key word in John’s theology, is mend which occurs 11 times in this chapter, 40 times in the entire Gospel, and 27 times in John’s epistles. What does it mean to remain?
  • What do you think Jesus meant by these symbolic words about vine branches being burned?
  • How would remaining in Christ the vine lead to more answered prayer?
  • In summary, Jesus was instructed His disciples on three vital relationships. Can you simply all of this into those relationships?
  • As a result, we as disciples have three respective duties. Can you summarize those?

Discussion Challenge

  • What are the most important choices that Christians can make to “Remain” in the vine?
Additional Study Notes

Items for Discussion in Psalm 80

  • What is the way that the vine is used to describe Israel in this Psalm?
    • The Old Testament passages which use this symbol appear to regard Israel as faithless to God and/or the object of severe punishment. Ezek 15:1-8 in particular talks about the worthlessness of wood from a vine (in relation to disobedient Judah). A branch cut from a vine is worthless except to be burned as fuel. This appears to fit more with the statements about the disciples than with Jesus’ description of himself as the vine.

Items for Discussion in John 15:1-10

  • The word remain, a key word in John’s theology, is mend which occurs 11 times in this chapter, 40 times in the entire Gospel, and 27 times in John’s epistles. What does it mean to remain?
    • It can mean, first, to accept Jesus as Savior (cf. 6:54,56).
    • Second, it can mean to continue or persevere in believing (8:31 [“hold” is remain]; 1 John 2:19,24).
    • Third, it can also mean believing, loving obedience (John 15:9-10). Without faith, no life of God will come to anyone. Without the life of God, no real fruit can be produced: Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
  • What do you think Jesus meant by these symbolic words about vine branches being burned?
    • These words have been interpreted in at least three ways:
    • The “burned” branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, e.g., 3:16,36; 5:24; 10:28-29; Rom 8:1.)
    • The “burned” branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch is thrown away and withers.)
    • The “burned” branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (cf. Matt 25:46). Judas was with Jesus; he seemed like a “branch.” But he did not have God’s life in him; therefore he departed; his destiny was like that of a dead branch.
  • How would remaining in Christ the vine lead to more answered prayer?
    • Since his prayer is in accord with God’s will, the results are certain – it will be given you (cf. 1 John 5:14-15). Fulfilled prayers bring glory to the Father because, like Jesus, His disciples are doing the heavenly Father’s will (cf. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth” [Matt 6:10]).
  • In summary, Jesus was instructed His disciples on three vital relationships. Can you simply all of this into those relationships?
    • Disciples are to be rightly related to Jesus (vv. 1-10), to each other (vv. 11-17), and to the world (vv. 15:18-16:4).
    • As a result, we as disciples have three respective duties. Can you summarize those?
    • To remain (abide), to love each other, and to testify.

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
Share