There is only one way to have a relationship with The Lord. A relationship with God is not just an acquaintanceship, it is friendship on such a deep and intimate level that we can only give it a pale imitation on earth. The marriage relationship is our gift and reflection of the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. But there is only one way to that rapport with Holy God, and that is Jesus Christ. He paid our debt for sin and made a way for us to be reconciled to God.
We are reconciled, that is joined in unity and peace to our God, not because of anything we do ourselves, but through what He does for us. It is The Lord who does it all. He calls and leads us to Himself. He is the Good Shepherd. (For more about what it means that Jesus is our Good Shepherd read the Salt & Light devotional on Psalm 23). Verses 1-3 read,
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
stir up your might
and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
God shepherded Israel out of the slavery of Egypt, through the wilderness to the freedom of the Promised Land. He leads us out of the slavery of sin, through the world, to eternal life. Jesus, our Righteous King is enthroned on the cherubim. That is the mercy seat, or the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a holy relic which contained Moses’ broken tablets of the 10 commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a jar of manna. (Hebrews 9:2-5).The Ark was the physical manifestation of God’s presence with His people. The manna represented God’s miraculous provision. The tablet’s represented God’s holiness and His law. Aaron’s rod represented the rights of the Levites to be priests and God’s working of miracles through His chosen priests.
The lid or mercy seat was made of gold and featured two cherubim with wings reached out toward each other. God said He would meet the people from that mercy seat on the cherubim. (Exodus 25:17-22). Cherubim are not the chubby baby like angels people imagine. They are fierce warriors of The Lord and agents of God’s wrath toward sin. (Ezekiel 10). The High Priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat so that the people’s sins would be atoned. (Leviticus 16:14).
It is that Mighty Holy God who is our Shepherd who leads us out of slavery into freedom. In John 10:7-18 Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.
“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God. He leads us to Himself and He forgives our sins, so that we do not have to suffer God’s wrath for sin but instead we experience God’s great peace because Jesus is not only enthroned on the mercy seat, He is our mercy seat. It is His sacrifice, His blood and His resurrection that atones our sins. Because Jesus is our propitiation, our conciliation, we do not suffer God’s wrath. We enjoy peace with Him. Verses 4-7 describe that moment when we have been led to Christ and ask for forgiveness as we repent from sin.
“O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
6 You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
and our enemies laugh among themselves.
7 Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
Do you remember the sorrow you felt when you realized how great your sin was? Do you remember the tears that flowed in sorrow and the tears of joy which followed? Jesus brought us to awareness of our sin and our Holy Spirit convicted us. We were freed from condemnation and punishment and united with God.
Jesus is the True Vine. He led us out of slavery, He provides great fruit and unity with The Lord. Some reject Him, some do not. As the Vine, Jesus provides comfort and shade in His branches, joy in the drinking of His fruit, and salvation in the grafting. Israel was once part of the vine, but they rejected faith in preference of law, and so were cut off the vine. Verses 8-13 describes Israel as the vine and the destruction the vine faced without the root of Christ and the care of the Vinedresser.
“You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.”
Without Jesus as the true vine, and without the Father as the vinedresser we the branches grafted in and growing from the root have no hope. Jesus described it this way in John 15:1-11,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
We choose to abide in Him and be reconciled with God, or we choose to be cut off and separate from God. Jesus is the only way. We can’t be good enough to earn eternal life. We can’t keep a list of rules and merit salvation. We cannot deserve it. Jesus makes us worthy because only He is worthy and He gives us the gift of reconciliation. But we have to ask, confess, and receive it. We have to submit to Him. But submitting to God is easy because He loves us so deeply.
God planted His children in the Kingdom of God, just as He planted Israel in Canaan. He can graft us in or cut us off. He makes us strong, He prospers us. He makes us bear fruit. It is only God who can care for and nurture us, His vine. Verses 14-17 read,
“Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15 the stock that your right hand planted,
and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
17 But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!”
Some try to cut us down burn us and otherwise destroy us. God will deal with them. But in Jesus, the Son of God, we are made sons of God. God nurtures, trims, and prunes His vine so that we will grow strong and mature to be indistinguishable from Jesus the True Vine to whom we are grafted. Verses 18-19 read
“Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!
19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts!
Let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
If Jesus is your Lord, your Shepherd, and your True Vine you are one with God. You are united to Him so tightly that you cannot be separated from Him. He gives you life, He gives you peace in Him and with Him. He conforms you to His image so that as you shine, and glorify Him more people will be led to Him, and saved.