If Keith had not had an experienced friend show him how to prune the grapes, he would never have done it correctly. Light pruning does not promote fruiting on grape vines. It takes a heavy-handed pruner, one who knows exactly how far down which vines to cut—and it is much farther than you would ever expect—to make vines that in the late summer provide both greater quantity and quality of grapes.
Roses also benefit from good pruning. Every January or February (remember that we are talking here in Florida before you follow this to the letter) you should cut off 1/3 to ½ of the mature canes, plus all dead or dying branches, as well as those that cross or stray out of the general shape of the bush. That is how you get more flowers and larger blooms, and healthier, prettier bushes altogether.
God believes in pruning too. John 15 is full of the imagery of pruning grape vines, cutting off those that no longer produce and throwing them into the fire, which just happens to be where we throw all our prunings as well. God has done a lot of pruning throughout history.
The wilderness wandering was nothing but one big pruning exercise. All the faithless, those men of war responsible for the decision not to take the land, had to die, and a new generation be prepared. Do you realize that if you only count those men, on average throughout those forty years, 40 men died every day? That does not count the people who died of accident, disease and childbirth, and the women and priests who simply died of old age. Every morning the first thing on one’s mind must have been, “Who died yesterday?” Those people must have done nothing but bury the dead every single day for forty years. No wonder they moved so often.
Then there was the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel worked for seventy years preparing the next generation to return to the land as a righteous remnant while the older one died off. Pruning made them better, stronger, and more able to endure those months of rebuilding, and the years that followed.
And what else was it but pruning that made God cut off some branches (Jews) and graft in others (Gentiles)? They were broken off because of their unbelief, Paul says in Rom 11:20, and then goes on to say that if God will prune the natural branches, he will certainly prune those that had been grafted in if their faith fails.
God still prunes. We tend to call it by other metaphors these days—refining our faith as gold, Peter says in one of those passages. “Discipline” the Hebrew writer calls it, adding that the Lord only chastens those he loves. But all these figures mean the same thing. Pruning can be painful. The best pruning shears are the sharp ones, for the wound will heal more quickly the cleaner the cut.
We carry a lot of deadwood on us that God has to whittle away through the trials and experiences of life, and with our own growth in the knowledge of the Word as we learn what is and is not acceptable to God. It is up to us to use that pruning, shedding the dead wood and cultivating new growth, bearing more fruit, higher quality fruit, and more beautiful blooms. If I am not growing, I can expect nothing more than my whole vine to be cut off and cast into the fire.
We want to be that productive grape vine with fruit so heavy and juicy we almost break from the sheer weight of it. We want to be the rose that brings the oohs and aahs, whose perfume wafts on the breeze to all those around us. We must submit to the pruning of the Master Gardener, glorying in His work in us, no matter how painful, so that we can “prove to be his disciples,” John 15:8, faithful to the end.
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, John 15:2.