December 16 – Grapes
Genesis 9:20; Proverbs 31:6-7; Luke 20:9-18; John 15:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:23
Grapes have been a staple of life since the beginning of civilization. Details of grape production are found on hieroglyphics of the 4th Egyptian dynasty (2400 BC). Hunter-gatherer societies were lightly populated and often able to find clean fresh water in the environment. Once agriculture came into widespread use, previously nomadic peoples settled down. Surface water sources rapidly became contaminated with waste from humans and animals, but subterranean water accessible by wells was sometimes available. People drank wine, free of the disease-causing germs found in water, as a regular part of their diet. Wine was thought to have medicinal properties, and its effects on the brain were well known. Raw grapes and raisins were other important products.
Viticulture was an important activity in the Holy Land throughout the Canaanite era, the Judges and Kings, and the Roman era. Under Muslim rule, many vineyards were destroyed and grape production went into decline, but was renewed in modern times. The conditions are favorable, boasting bright sunshine, heavy dew at night in the late summer, and gentle hillsides. Growers in Palestine built high stone walls and watchtowers around vineyards to protect the produce from animals and thieves. They also included a wine press, cut out of solid rock and lined with mortar. Ancient underground wine cellars kept the wine in jars at about 20 degrees Celsius, but the climate was mild enough to prevent freezing. Grapevines need constant pruning and several years of cultivation before they begin to bear fruit. The work was hard but the rewards were great…abundant wine was a sign of affluence in ancient Israel, and a gift suitable for kings.
The parallels of the grape vine to the life of a believer are profuse. Jesus directs the times and environments in which we live. He plants us in fertile soil in the right location. He feeds and waters us physically, as well as with the sunshine of His Word and His Living Water. He builds high walls of protection around us and keeps watch over us, with His heavenly angels, against enemies. He prunes us relentlessly so that we will produce the most, best fruit. As grapes are harvested and pressed to produce wine, so the fruits of Christians are squeezed and crushed, the Greek word refers to tribulation, in His service. During the Incarnation, Jesus Himself underwent all of these things as we do.
Many common items such as grapes remind us powerfully of the work of God in us. In His perfect wisdom, He has written His Word so that despite our feeble, fallen bodies, we can remember His love. The toxic pace of the modern world can’t take away these reminders, but can make us forget their meaning. How easily we are overwhelmed with activities and material stuff, and how despite how much we have and do, we always want more. Let us live with less, and thereby gain Christ, and the abundant life He provides.