“Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood.” A vine is of use if it is fruitful, but if it is barren, it may have no greater worth than to be kindling for the fire. It certainly cannot be used as a supporting beam in a house. It will not even make a strong peg for hanging up a piece of pottery.
If a vine is of no use prior to being put in a fire, it will not be of any value at all after it is badly burned. “Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything!”
Why would the Lord be talking to Ezekiel about the comparative virtues of the various “trees of the forest?” Throughout the Bible the Almighty used the illustration of a vine to speak about His people. In Ezekiel 15 God was speaking about “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” who would be brought through the fire of divine discipline. The Lord said, “I will set my face against them.” Though they might “escape from the fire” of Babylonian oppression, God would still bring them through very severe trials.
What good result could come from such tragedy? They would “know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.” Israel and Judah deserved the troubles that they would receive from the God of glory. There was much evidence of their deliberate rebellion against Him. Jehovah said, “I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly.”
The covenant people in any age can easily fall into one of two errors when they consider their own personal usefulness. They may imagine that they have no worth at all, ignoring the consistent testimony of the Bible that all human beings have the dignity of being image-bearers of the Creator. On the other hand, they may also overestimate the righteousness of their own works, guessing that God has chosen them because He saw how they great they all were.
The Lord Jesus died on the cross for His people not because we were the best “trees of the forest,” but because God loved us in our weakness and has credited us with the towering strength of a better Man. Jesus was like a perfectly fruitful “tree planted by streams of water” written of in Psalm 1:3. In John 15:5 Christ teaches His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Yet as Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Wood that might have been “given to the fire for fuel” has now become a very fruitful vine. This could only have been accomplished by the grace of God.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O God, will Your church be a useless vine? Are we so set on our own pride that we will not be useful for anything? Make us to be a strong tree, planted by the waterside, full of the Holy Spirit. Look upon us again, not in wrath, but in the faithfulness of Your covenant love.