I watched in dismay as day by day, it expanded. Soon I noticed similar spots on more tomatoes. They were rotting before my very eyes! Even picking the green unblemished ones in hopes they would ripen without first turning brown didn't help. I never grew tomatoes in that blight-infested spot of the garden again.
If you've done any gardening, you may well have experienced something similar. And you will understand the disappointment in the voice of the gardener, singing the Vineyard Song of Isaiah 5:1-7.
In it, Isaiah describes how the farmer has lovingly tended his vineyard. But instead of the harvest he expects, the pampered plot yields only small bitter wild grapes. He is so exasperated, he has decided to take away its protection, stop weeding and cultivating it, and send no more rain. In other words, he will abandon it.
The vineyard is, of course, a picture or metaphor for Israel and Judah. God, fed up with their bad fruit, has decided to leave them to their own devices.
We can apply the message of this poignant poem to our lives too. We also are God's plants, which He needs to do stuff to to make fruitful.
I am fine with Him putting His hedge of protection around me— I like it that nothing can touch me without His permission. Similarly I like the rain He sends, and the weeds He pulls out. But the pruning...
Pruning hurts. In horticulture it involves cutting off extra stems so that more energy can go into the fruit-producing branches. In the spiritual realm, pruning may involve having a person in my life who brings out the worst in me so I see the carnal nature within myself that I need to deal with. It may mean a source of income dries up so I'm forced to expend my energies elsewhere. It may mean delaying the pursuit of dreams while I do my duty.
Pruning often seems harsh and random. But Isaiah 5 reminds us how intentional and purposeful is God's tending of us. His goal is never to hurt us in a sadistic way, but to hurt us so we will be successful and fruitful in His kingdom.
Curious about how to prune?
- Here's an article on how to prune a grape vine.
- an article on how to prune tomatoes.
- an article on how to prune roses.
Can you find more lessons about spiritual pruning from these examples of plant pruning?
Copyright © 2010 by Violet Nesdoly
(First published on Other Food: daily devo's August 13, 2010)