Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Work of the Husbandman

"I am the true vine and my father is the husbandman." John 15.1

I've been doing a lot of reading this week about ancient farming practices. I've been especially interested in the ancient art of vinedressing. The vinedresser (also known as the husbandman) was the vineyard equivalent of the shepherd. It is hard for the twentieth century urban mind to understand the pride and concern that the vinedresser had for his vineyard. The vines were his charge. The fruit of those vines were his pride and joy. His life was consumed with first planting, then later tending that vineyard.

First, the vineyard had to be planted. In first century Israel, this was no easy task. First, the ground had to be cleared. There wasn't much vegetation to worry about, but there were rocks. There were lots of rocks. They were on top of the ground, sticking up through the ground, and just below the surface of the ground. These had to be removed to make way for the seed to be planted. Remember, before you were saved, God cleared out the "rocks"
which would have prevented you from receiving the Gospel. He was preparing the soil for planting.

After removing the rocks, the ground had to be plowed and the seed or seedlings planted. These young seedlings were vulnerable to the elements, to trampling by livestock, to being eaten by other animals. The vinedresser would guard the seedlings and protect them. He took those rocks that had been thrown out of the vineyard and used them to build a wall around it to keep out animals or even human enemies desirous of destroying the crop. He would build a tower out of the stone where he could see the approach of any threat to the vines. He kept watch during the day and slept in the tower at night ready to protect his vines.

As the vines grew, he would divert water from the Jordan or other rivers into irrigation ditches. This water needed to soak the roots of the vines to make the fruit sweet and juicy. How like our great husbandman who sends us the refreshing waters of the Holy Spirit to produce sweet fruit in our lives. 

As the vines aged, the dead branches needed to be cut away, as did certain wild offshoots. These dead or useless branches would take nourishment away from the productive branches and dilute the potency of the fruit. Have you ever felt the pruner's saw cutting away at branches in your life? Sometimes, the vinedresser would take a branch from one vine and graft it into another to create a new type of fruit. Sometimes the Great Husbandman grafts us together with significant others in our lives so that together we might produce a special fruit that will nourish others. 

Finally, at the end of the season, the vinedresser returns to harvest the fruit and carry it away to the great storehouse of the vineyard owner. There the fruit will fulfill its purpose in feeding others. Then, the vinedresser trims the branches, waters the vines, and waits for a new crop to emerge. I want my vine to produce much fruit for the husbandman who cares so much about his vineyard.

Lord, Thank you for all the work you  have put into me.  May my fruit be pleassing to you. Amen

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