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September 9 – Powerful imagery foreshadowing the New Testament

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. – John 15:4

Scripture reading: Nahum 2:1-2 & John 15:1-13

The interplay of two names for the people of God is significant. It is easy to read a passage and miss this. In our short verse the elect are called Jacob and then Israel. When you read Genesis, you learn that Jacob is a sneaky deceiver. Though he is of the chosen line which will lead to Jesus, he is not an honourable person. Just before Jacob, now married and the father of many children, returns from a distant land to his parents, he encounters a stranger who wrestles with him. The reader learns this is a striving with God. Jacob’s name is changed by this encounter. The LORD calls him Israel. This means he strived, or he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32).

Why does this matter? When a person encounters God, the LORD of heaven and earth, he will be changed. Some, like the people of Nineveh, hear and ultimately reject the revelation of God. Others, like Jacob, are transformed by the encounter. Israel will be restored in majesty and Nineveh will be a pruned branch destined for destruction. Though earlier generations had responded to the word, the nation has ultimately rejected the Vinedresser.

The New Testament reveals Jesus Christ as the true vine. Those who reject Jesus prove this by their words and life, and are cut off and burned. Those who believe in Him are grafted into Him. They may experience hardship, a pruning, but this will be for greater fruitfulness. The greatest evidence of fruitfulness is love for God and love for one another.

Suggestions for prayer

Thank God, our Father, for His attentiveness and mercy so that His people bear fruit; pray for our nation, that her leaders may heed the warning to be fruitful for the glory of Christ our True King.

Rev. Richard T. Vander Vaart serves as a visiting prison chaplain in Moncton, New Brunswick for Redemption Prison Ministry. A few years ago he and his wife Carolyn became members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. They both enjoy hosting friends for dinner and games nights. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

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