How To Be Fruitful (5)
You must submit to the pruning process. ‘He prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops.’ Pruning entails cutting off dead branches and cutting back living branches. Both are necessary to shape the tree and stimulate [encourage] growth.
Professional pruners will tell you that most people are too hesitant when it comes to pruning. But God is not. He not only cuts off that which is sinful and superficial, He cuts back that which is alive and successful; a business that’s doing great, a satisfying relationship, or a plan that seems to be working well. God doesn’t just cut off the ‘bad’, but the ‘good’, in order to give you the ‘best’. It’s not pleasant, but it’s absolutely essential for spiritual growth. What does God want in your life? ‘Much fruit.’ (John 15:8KJV) So, you are going to be pruned! You may be undergoing pruning right now, and it may not all be deadwood. God cuts off things we view as productive so that more fruit may be produced in our lives.
This can be perplexing. We believe we’re being faithful, so we are puzzled, even frustrated, by His pruning. ‘Why are You doing this, God? I have given my business to You, but it’s unprofitable. I have committed my health to You, now I’m in the hospital. I’ve been tithing faithfully, yet I’m going bankrupt.’ What’s happening? ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’ (Hebrews 12:11 NIV)
You’re being pruned for greater fruitfulness.
Isaiah 12–16 ()
12:1 You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
13:1 The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.
2 On a bare hill raise a signal;
cry aloud to them;
wave the hand for them to enter
the gates of the nobles.
3 I myself have commanded my consecrated ones,
and have summoned my mighty men to execute my anger,
my proudly exulting ones.
4 The sound of a tumult is on the mountains
as of a great multitude!
The sound of an uproar of kingdoms,
of nations gathering together!
The LORD of hosts is mustering
a host for battle.
5 They come from a distant land,
from the end of the heavens,
the LORD and the weapons of his indignation,
to destroy the whole land.
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near;
as destruction from the Almighty it will come!
7 Therefore all hands will be feeble,
and every human heart will melt.
8 They will be dismayed:
pangs and agony will seize them;
they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.
They will look aghast at one another;
their faces will be aflame.
9 Behold, the day of the LORD comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people more rare than fine gold,
and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
and the earth will be shaken out of its place,
at the wrath of the LORD of hosts
in the day of his fierce anger.
14 And like a hunted gazelle,
or like sheep with none to gather them,
each will turn to his own people,
and each will flee to his own land.
15 Whoever is found will be thrust through,
and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed in pieces
before their eyes;
their houses will be plundered
and their wives ravished.
17 Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them,
who have no regard for silver
and do not delight in gold.
18 Their bows will slaughter the young men;
they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb;
their eyes will not pity children.
19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
when God overthrew them.
20 It will never be inhabited
or lived in for all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there;
no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
21 But wild animals will lie down there,
and their houses will be full of howling creatures;
there ostriches will dwell,
and there wild goats will dance.
22 Hyenas will cry in its towers,
and jackals in the pleasant palaces;
its time is close at hand
and its days will not be prolonged.
14:1 For the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob. 2 And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the LORD’s land as male and female slaves. They will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them.
3 When the LORD has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, 4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
“How the oppressor has ceased,
the insolent fury ceased!
5 The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked,
the scepter of rulers,
6 that struck the peoples in wrath
with unceasing blows,
that ruled the nations in anger
with unrelenting persecution.
7 The whole earth is at rest and quiet;
they break forth into singing.
8 The cypresses rejoice at you,
the cedars of Lebanon, saying,
‘Since you were laid low,
no woodcutter comes up against us.’
9 Sheol beneath is stirred up
to meet you when you come;
it rouses the shades to greet you,
all who were leaders of the earth;
it raises from their thrones
all who were kings of the nations.
10 All of them will answer
and say to you:
‘You too have become as weak as we!
You have become like us!’
11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,
the sound of your harps;
maggots are laid as a bed beneath you,
and worms are your covers.
12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you
and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
who shook kingdoms,
17 who made the world like a desert
and overthrew its cities,
who did not let his prisoners go home?’
18 All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
each in his own tomb;
19 but you are cast out, away from your grave,
like a loathed branch,
clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword,
who go down to the stones of the pit,
like a dead body trampled underfoot.
20 You will not be joined with them in burial,
because you have destroyed your land,
you have slain your people.
“May the offspring of evildoers
nevermore be named!
21 Prepare slaughter for his sons
because of the guilt of their fathers,
lest they rise and possess the earth,
and fill the face of the world with cities.”
22 “I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the LORD. 23 “And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD of hosts.
24 The LORD of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand,
25 that I will break the Assyrian in my land,
and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
and his burden from their shoulder.”
26 This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
27 For the LORD of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back?
28 In the year that King Ahaz died came this oracle:
29 Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you,
that the rod that struck you is broken,
for from the serpent’s root will come forth an adder,
and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.
30 And the firstborn of the poor will graze,
and the needy lie down in safety;
but I will kill your root with famine,
and your remnant it will slay.
31 Wail, O gate; cry out, O city;
melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you!
For smoke comes out of the north,
and there is no straggler in his ranks.
32 What will one answer the messengers of the nation?
“The LORD has founded Zion,
and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”
15:1 An oracle concerning Moab.
Because Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night,
Moab is undone;
because Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night,
Moab is undone.
2 He has gone up to the temple, and to Dibon,
to the high places to weep;
over Nebo and over Medeba
On every head is baldness;
every beard is shorn;
3 in the streets they wear sackcloth;
on the housetops and in the squares
everyone wails and melts in tears.
4 Heshbon and Elealeh cry out;
their voice is heard as far as Jahaz;
therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud;
his soul trembles.
5 My heart cries out for Moab;
her fugitives flee to Zoar,
For at the ascent of Luhith
they go up weeping;
on the road to Horonaim
they raise a cry of destruction;
6 the waters of Nimrim
are a desolation;
the grass is withered, the vegetation fails,
the greenery is no more.
7 Therefore the abundance they have gained
and what they have laid up
they carry away
over the Brook of the Willows.
8 For a cry has gone
around the land of Moab;
her wailing reaches to Eglaim;
her wailing reaches to Beer-elim.
9 For the waters of Dibon are full of blood;
for I will bring upon Dibon even more,
a lion for those of Moab who escape,
for the remnant of the land.
16:1 Send the lamb to the ruler of the land,
from Sela, by way of the desert,
to the mount of the daughter of Zion.
2 Like fleeing birds,
like a scattered nest,
so are the daughters of Moab
at the fords of the Arnon.
3 “Give counsel;
make your shade like night
at the height of noon;
shelter the outcasts;
do not reveal the fugitive;
4 let the outcasts of Moab
sojourn among you;
be a shelter to them
from the destroyer.
When the oppressor is no more,
and destruction has ceased,
and he who tramples underfoot has vanished from the land,
5 then a throne will be established in steadfast love,
and on it will sit in faithfulness
in the tent of David
one who judges and seeks justice
and is swift to do righteousness.”
6 We have heard of the pride of Moab—
how proud he is!—
of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence;
in his idle boasting he is not right.
7 Therefore let Moab wail for Moab,
let everyone wail.
Mourn, utterly stricken,
for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.
8 For the fields of Heshbon languish,
and the vine of Sibmah;
the lords of the nations
have struck down its branches,
which reached to Jazer
and strayed to the desert;
its shoots spread abroad
and passed over the sea.
9 Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer
for the vine of Sibmah;
I drench you with my tears,
O Heshbon and Elealeh;
for over your summer fruit and your harvest
the shout has ceased.
10 And joy and gladness are taken away from the fruitful field,
and in the vineyards no songs are sung,
no cheers are raised;
no treader treads out wine in the presses;
I have put an end to the shouting.
11 Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab,
and my inmost self for Kir-hareseth.
12 And when Moab presents himself, when he wearies himself on the high place, when he comes to his sanctuary to pray, he will not prevail.
13 This is the word that the LORD spoke concerning Moab in the past. 14 But now the LORD has spoken, saying, “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all his great multitude, and those who remain will be very few and feeble.”
Luke 1:39–56 ()
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
Psalm 10:12–18 ()
12 Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.
16 The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17 O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Proverbs 1:17–19 ()
17 For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.