One Grape at a Time
August 14th, 2020 – 24th, Av, 5780
Let’s not talk about politics, protests, riots, or COVID-19. It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing you’re ready to hear about something else. Let’s talk about a phenomenon. A miracle, actually. Are you ready?
The land of Israel is a tiny piece of real estate. It’s smaller than the state of New Jersey. I want to talk about a piece of land that is even smaller than that. Close your eyes and imagine Israel. Are you there yet? Once you’re hovering over Israel in your imagination, zoom in on the center of the country. Let’s go to the Heartland. Many people know it as the West Bank. Some call it occupied Palestine. Neither of those are its real name. Its real name is Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, historically known as Israel’s biblical heartland.
About 700,000 Jewish residents live here. If you take out East Jerusalem, there are just over 400,000 in the territory north of Jerusalem known as Shomron (Samaria) and the area just south of Jerusalem, known as Judea. Tell me, when a Jew settles in Judea, how can that area become known as “occupied Palestine”? I still haven’t figured that one out.
There is a legend about this area. During the era of the second temple, Judea and Samaria produced a lot of wine and olive oil. Today they have discovered more than 300 wine and olive oil presses in this small area. During the times of the Temple, fruit from these regions would have been used in the sacrifices and offerings.
The legend goes that when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and conquered Israel, they took vines back to Rome. Ever since that time, the land of Judea and Samaria has lain desolate. Instead of vineyards and olive groves dotting the barren landscape, rocks and thorns covered her barren hillside.
In the meantime, Italy’s wine production expanded to surrounding countries, and since then, that region of the globe has become world famous. In the wine industry, “old world” regions are renowned for producing the world’s best wines. The very nation responsible for destroying Jerusalem became famous from their conquered foes’ very vines!
For 2,000 years, Israel’s glory was gone. Her land lay desolate.
Something happened this week, however, that completely obliterated this history of destruction and desolation. On a cool, foggy morning just after sunrise, the first grapes of 2020 were harvested in the Mt. of Blessing vineyard. Not only that, but this year’s harvest looks absolutely amazing! The crazy thing is, this particular vineyard is one of many scattered throughout the biblical heartland. None of them are more than 30 years old, yet they’re all producing stunning wines that are winning medals when up against wines from old world regions in international competitions.
How did this happen? Well, to put it simply, when God speaks through His prophets, you can guarantee that His words will not return void, even if we have to wait for thousands of years for them to come to fruition.
Not only did the prophets declare that the Jewish people would return to their land, the nation of Israel would be restored in one day, and the Hebrew language would come back to life (all of which have happened). The prophets also said that Israel would blossom and bloom once again! It gets better though. Ezekiel said that Israel’s mountains would shoot forth her branches. Amos said that there would be oil and wine dripping from the mountains. Jeremiah said that one day vineyards would be restored on the mountains of Ephraim. (See Ezekiel 36, Amos 9, and Jeremiah 31)
They were talking about Judea and Samaria! This is where Israel’s mountains are located. The prophets spoke God’s word, and we are living it more than 3,000 years later!
This week I stood beside Israelis picking grapes in the vineyards on the mountains of Ephraim. Young, old, religious, secular, IDF soldiers – they all came to show their support and excitement for the restoration of the land of Israel. Together, we harvested beautiful, juicy clusters of grapes that are a direct fulfillment of God’s word.
As crazy as it may sound, grapes being harvested in Israel are all part of God’s plan to bring redemption to the whole earth. Whether you live in America or Australia, South Africa, England, Germany, or France, you can be a part of the blessing that God promised to Abraham so many years ago.
If your country is experiencing COVID-19, protests, riots, violence, or persecution, remember that God is in control, and He is guiding the world down a path towards redemption. Remember that God’s light will emanate from Zion to the entire world. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and remember that God’s blessing in your life and country is directly tied to this tiny piece of real estate in the Middle East.
Even if you can’t come to the mountains of Israel this year to pick grapes, you can still long for, pray for, and support the work that is happening here. Together, with God’s help, we will see His Kingdom restored in Jerusalem – one grape at a time.