Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 2 “Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any other wood, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest? 3 Is wood taken from it to make any object? Or can men make a peg from it to hang any vessel on? 4 Instead, it is thrown into the fire for fuel; the fire devours both ends of it, and its middle is burned. Is it useful for any work? 5 Indeed, when it was whole, no object could be made from it. How much less will it be useful for any work when the fire has devoured it, and it is burned?
6 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so I will give up the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 7 and I will set My face against them. They will go out from one fire, but another fire shall devour them. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I set My face against them. 8 Thus I will make the land desolate, because they have persisted in unfaithfulness,’ says the Lord GOD.”
The people are declared useless because they were unfaithful. This statement calls for a defining of some terms. Let’s begin with ‘unfaithful.’ Merriam Webster defines it as: not adhering to vows, allegiance, or duty. This implies a commitment was made whether stated or not, and not kept. Synonyms include: disloyal, false, fickle, inconstant, perfidious, recreant, traitorous, treacherous, faithless, untrue. That’s a gamut of descriptive terms! Also,it is helpful to look at the type of vine as the Lord is specific. This vine is a vine in the forest, among the trees. It is not a vine in the fields, bearing fruit. Then there is the term ‘useless.’ This term is defined in this passage as both without worth during its time as a living vine and also useless after going through the fire. What do you see?
The passage begins with a question:
“…how is the wood of the vine better than any other wood, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest?…”
It goes on to point out the vine cannot be used for anything useful as the wood of the tree might. It does not even make good fuel for the fire. And after the fire, it is still useless.
“… when it was whole, no object could be made from it. How much less will it be useful for any work when the fire has devoured it, and it is burned?…”
Whereas the trees have use.
“… Is it useful for any work?…””…can men make a peg from it to hang any vessel on?…”
Because of the lack of usefulness, because of their unfaithfulness, God states he will set another fire after them and destroy them.
“…They will go out from one fire, but another fire shall devour them. …”
Reflecting and meditating on this passage then brings the heart, mind and soul to a place of searching. Which would we be in God’s sight?
A tree that has use, a vine that bears fruit, or the vine in the forest that is useless and actually does harm as it is capable of strangling all in its path. Witness the impact of poison ivy or kudzu on an area. It is useless as are those who are unfaithful. In fact those vines are harmful in that they strangle all in their path. Much the same can be said for the unfaithful believer who does not commit, does not embrace the work of the kingdom. Unfaithful is to declare for someone or something only to leave it for another. The unfaithful cannot be depended upon, they are not useful. In an organization there is little worth or value in those who cannot commit and cannot be depended upon. They’re divided in loyalties or intent and cannot be counted on to assist or accomplish much. In the Lord’s work, are we faithful, do we begin in the work then find that there are other things we leave the work of the kingdom behind so we can engage in them? Do we make commitments then not honor them? Can we be depended upon or are we divided between the Lord’s work and our own desires?
The vine can strangle the trees. The trees are useful, not so this vine. There is indication they don’t even burn as fuel well.
“…the fire devours both ends of it, and its middle is burned….”
And pull them from the fire and they are still useless.
“…How much less will it be useful for any work when the fire has devoured it, and it is burned?…”
Are there believers who can strangle the fellowship keeping them from the ability to accomplish something for the Lord by their lack of commitment? Let’s look at something as simple as attendance. Our presence is encouragement. Can we be present? Then there are those who go through the fire of tests and still cannot commit to the Lord.
The people in this passage, the citizens of Jerusalem, are likened to this vine. They have left their commitment and love of God for the gods of the nations around them. Today, do we see the church engaged in the same actions? Is it, once again, more important to be liked, be like our neighbors rather than love them into the kingdom? Are more and more professing Christians like the vine? Are they strangling the “trees planted by the water”? Do we see lack of commitment and a following after our own desires? One thing we learn from Ezekiel is that part of God’s nature, that looks for love and commitment, will judge and the judgment is complete. Are we a useful tree or a useless vine? Are we the vine in the forest among the trees, or a vine whose root is the Lord and are we bearing fruit rather than strangling the trees? Let’s be of use to the Lord, let’s be a part of the vine that bears fruit. In Christ we bear fruit.
Take note of the finality of the Lord’s statement:
“I will make the land desolate, because they have persisted in unfaithfulness,’ says the Lord GOD.”