Heard it through the (grape) Vine


If you are wondering why a little wrinkled brown thing clutching a microphone is pictured atop this blog post, you, my dear child, are obviously not of a certain age. Or else you are of a certain age, but have led a very sheltered life. That’s a California Raisin, and he’s singing that he “Heard it through the Grapevine”. Because that is the song (exquisitely sung by the late great Marvin Gaye) that I cannot get out of my mind this morning. And, unfortunately, the ad agencies of America also burned an image of little California Raisins singing this song into my mind as well.

(Actually, the image I really prefer to remember is the one of the actors in the movie, The Big Chill, cleaning up the kitchen after the funeral of one of their friends. One of them puts that song on to play. The characters gradually begin to dance, a dance that turns into a kind of joyous celebration. To misquote the book of common prayer, “in the midst of death, we are in life”.)

But what does ANY of this have to do with today’s psalm? Well, I’ve been meditating on the phrase: ” a fruitful vine” that is found in Psalm 128. (vine…grapes…grapevine…fruitful… it all fits… well, all but the raisins…)

(In case you are just now tuning in to my blog, here’s a brief recap. I have been posting based on a Bible study I am involved in: “Stepping Up: a Journey through the Psalms of Ascent.”. Beth Moore is the author of the workbook we are using, and the lecturer on the DVD we watch once a week when we meet. Beth asks us to study and meditate on the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) and at the end of our study of a particular psalm, to write our own version of that psalm, applicable to our own life situation.)

Here’s the text of Psalm 128:

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in his ways.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Thus is the man blessed
who fears the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion
all the days of your life;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
and may you live to see your children’s children.

Peace be upon Israel.”

Wow! There’s so much packed into that first verse alone, that really, perhaps I should be posting only on that.

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in his ways”.

Many years ago I participated in a study called “The Life and Teachings of Moses”, and the principle that came up again and again throughout that study was that “blessing follows obedience”. When Moses and the Israelites were careful to revere and obey God, (during the 10 plagues, during the Passover, during their escape from Egypt, as they traveled through the wilderness, by building the tabernacle following His directions, as they prepared to enter Canaan), God blessed their obedience. And when they chose to NOT revere God (to worship the golden calf, to grumble and complain, to doubt His ability to lead them into the promised land) there were consequences – sometimes dire consequences.

The lesson I have carried into my own life from that study is that when I hear the voice of God calling me into obedience on a particular matter, and I put Him first and obey Him, blessing follows. It may not be immediate. In fact the timing may seem distantly removed, but I have found it to be true in my own life as well: that revering God, and behaving in ways that reflect His character ultimately brings blessing into my own life.

For example, when I choose to forgive, and love my enemies – I am released from carrying around the hatred that actually holds ME captive. When I choose to behave generously, I myself am the one who ends up being infinitely richer by having made the sacrifice. As I choose to love my dear husband and keep myself to him only, it is I who find sweet contentment, and my children who live in a loving, stable home. Obedience to God brings GREAT blessing and reward.

Beth took that third verse:

“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.”

and really gave it a bit of an unexpected twist as she talked about it, but it was for me the most meaningful part of the psalm.

She reminded us of the unity of the Bible in its one theme: the theme of redemption. The theme of God pursuing fallen man in order to have a restored relationship with him, and of His willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice – the giving of His own life – that we might be reconciled to Him. In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as God’s straying, unfaithful spouse. In the New Testament, believers in Jesus are the Bride of Christ. Same covenant relationship.

In this psalm, the wife is pictured as a fruitful vine. In the New Testament, Jesus calls Himself the True Vine, and we are the branches, chosen to bear much fruit as we remain in Him. It is my heart’s desire to be a fruitful branch, fully connected to Him at all times, with the channel between us wide open. I want His sap, His Life-Giving Spirit flowing into me, completely unobstructed. I want to be producing fruit by His power. I want to be a fruitful little branch, bringing joy and pleasure to His heart.

Don’t you?

Anyway, here’s my own personal little Psalm 128:

It is a blessing to revere God and reflect His ways with my life!
God’s blessing follows my obedience.
God promises my work will be productive and I will find satisfaction in it.
My marriage and family will be blessed because of it.
These are the ways God blesses those who fear and honor Him.
May God bless you from heaven so that you may see the growth of His kingdom here on earth,
and even live to enjoy your grandchildren –
both biological, and spiritual grandchildren.
Peace be with His people.

To contort the lyrics that Marvin Gaye sang just a bit, I want to be able to say that I’m living the way I’m living, because I heard it through the Vine.


Yum
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