The Father as Vinedresser
What a beautiful analogy the Holy Spirit has given us in the gospel of John: God the Father as Vinedresser and Jesus as the true Vine. Many extant commentaries discuss the theology hidden in Jesus’ description of Himself and the Father, but I wanted to start with just plain old agriculture!
And what a discovery of hidden gems I unearthed. First, I simply ‘googled’ vinedresser. Of the top seven hits, five were Biblical commentaries (great!) but the one I chose came from work.chron.com which solely gave the ‘job description’ for vinedresser. Put simply, a vinedresser is an agriculturalist ‘involved in the daily pruning, tending and cultivation of grapes.’ Vinedressers need to work year-round to create the best grapes to produce the finest wine.
A vinedresser’s main tasks include pruning, ‘pest’ management, irrigating (or giving them Living Water) and of course, harvesting!
But of these, their pre-eminent task is pruning. I will just lay out all that I learned about pruning and you can apply it to your own life circumstances. This information certainly illuminated some of my own. Pruning removes dead, diseased or stunted fruit to make room for new growth, ultimately leading to a healthy and productive vine. This process begins merely weeks after planting! Once we have come to Christ, the Father gets started working on us right away taking away not only those dead parts (2 Corinthians 5:17) but also those parts that are diseased or stunted and we may not even be aware of their underlying condition. Excellent pruning demands a keen eye, the best possible eyes.
Pruning involves both cutting off dead wood but also cutting back on the amount of living wood so that the plant’s energy can go into producing fruit and not merely growing vegetation. In my life, I was thinking of how much I produce that is merely for appearances and not really producing anything of substance. According to God’s plan, those parts are using up too much of my vitality and need to go.
There are two main types of pruning: cane pruning and spur pruning. Canes are shoots that grow directly off the Main Vine. Spurs are little arms that grow from a cordon (a semi-permanent branch that grows horizontally from the trunk). Cane pruning involves cutting back 90%!! of last year’s growth by first removing dead two year old canes. Spur pruning includes look at the newest growth and keeping only 1-3 buds and removing the rest (sometimes with a handsaw!)
The styles of pruning show me just how much God wants me to grow and produce fruit each year, much more than I am currently imagining for myself. In cane pruning, you select two well-formed canes coming directly out of the Head of the vine (that are 1-year old with tightly spaced, healthy buds) and these two are tied to the trellis. The Lord is keeping only the healthiest buds and then we are to be tied to Him and hang on to Him for dear life! J
God’s work doesn’t involve just pruning; he is also feeding and watering us as well as controlling the pests. An agriculturalist closely monitors the vines to ensure that they are receiving the correct amount of water, particularly during growing season. Have you ever noticed that you seem closer to the Lord when you are going through a ‘tough season’ or a growing season when you need more of Him? That’s part of the Father’s plan. Vinedressers also tend the soil, preparing it even before planting, to improve the production of crops. God was preparing our hearts and our soil long before we gave our lives to Him. Finally, the Father must constantly evaluate the vineyard and be vigilant against pests (like THE pest, the enemy himself) because invasions could compromise the next growing season. We must guard our hearts daily, while the Father Himself is keeping vigil over us for our next growing stage.