In biblical times, vineyards were common. It was a great source of income, food, and drink as well as a place to enjoy and celebrate. Yeshua often referred to vineyards or the vines in His teachings, but for us that are removed from that culture, we often miss what was readily understood to His listeners. Recently, I had the opportunity to join some friends working in the vineyards of Samaria during the annual vineyard pruning. With pruning shears in hand, this is a little of what I learned about vines, pruning and portions of John 15.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1-2
Pruning is necessary if good fruit is to be produced. While dead branches are always pruned, it also involves pruning seemingly healthy branches that are not in the right position. This provides more life giving nutrients to the best positioned branches that will produce the best crop. In the same way, our western culture often looks for as much fruit as possible. This is not the way of the vineyards. If the vinedresser simply looks for quantity over quality, all of the fruit will be average at best. If he prunes wisely, there may be a slightly less fruit, but the fruit that is grown is in the best condition. Effective pruning always produces the best fruit.
“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
Many branches are found growing on the main vine. Yet the further away from the vine these branches grow, the harder it is for them to get the needed nutrients to produce what the vinedresser desires. Branches that are growing to the side or underneath the vine are trimmed since they will have a harder time getting the needed sunlight. It also is simply easier to harvest a branch that is growing straight up. So after pruning the underside and sides of the vine, few branches may be growing close together. The vinedresser will keep the most upright and the others are pruned. The closer the branch is the vine, the healthier and more fruitful it will be. Likewise, if we are going to bear fruit that the Father desires, the closer we are to Yeshua, the better.
When the dead branches are removed, the underside and wayward branches are trimmed, the spacing of the remaining branches is considered. Upright and fruitful branches need at least 4-5 inches from each other so as to allow the wind (or “ruach” in Hebrew) to pass through them. These branches will still produce large and beautiful fruit, but if the wind is not able to pass through them, the fruit will become moldy, attract insects and be ruined. In Hebrew, the word wind and spirit are the same – “ruach.” Even though we have been pruned and produce “quality fruit” in our life, this is not enough by itself. If the Spirit (Ruach) is not able to blow through that fruit, our crop is in danger of being lost. It is wise to take the time to be alone and allow the Spirit to blow over us. He is the one that keeps us healthy until the time that our Vinedresser comes for the harvest.
It is easy to look at God’s pruning of our lives as painful or difficult, but this in not His intention. It is His way of ensuring that we produce the best fruit possible. May we stay close the Vine, live upright and feel his “ruach” around us.