In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. (Isaiah 27:2–3)
The vineyard was the symbol of the people of Israel, in whose midst the True Vine was to stand. The branch is the symbol of the individual believer, who stands in the Vine. The song of the vineyard is also the song of the Vine and its every branch. The command still goes forth to the watchers of the vineyard—if only they obeyed it and sang until every feeble-hearted believer had learned and joined the joyful strain—
Sing ye unto her…I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. (Isaiah 27:2-3)
What an answer from the mouth of God Himself to the question so often asked: Is it possible for the believer to abide always in Jesus? Is a life of unbroken fellowship with the Son of God indeed attainable here in this earthly life? Truly not, if the abiding is our work, to be done in our strength. But the things that are impossible with men are possible with God (Luke 18:27). If the Lord Himself will keep the soul night and day, yes, will watch and water it every moment, then surely the uninterrupted communion with Jesus becomes a blessed possibility to those who can trust God to mean and to do what He says. Then, surely the abiding of the branch of the Vine day and night, summer and winter, in a never ceasing life fellowship, is nothing less than the simple but certain promise of your abiding in your Lord.
In one sense, it is true, there is no believer who does not always abide in Jesus; without this there could not be true life.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth. (John 15:6)
But when the Savior gives the command, “Abide in me” (v. 4), with the promise, “He that abideth in me…bringeth forth much fruit” (v. 5), He speaks of that willing, intelligent, and wholehearted surrender by which we accept His offer and consent to the abiding in Him as the only life we choose or seek. There are two chief objections raised against our right to expect that we will always be able thus voluntarily and consciously to abide in Jesus.
The one is derived from the nature of man. It is said that our limited powers prevent our being occupied with two things at the same moment. God’s providence places many Christians in business, where for hours at a time the closest attention is required to the work they have to do. How can such a man, it is asked, with his whole mind on the work he has to do, be at the same time occupied with Christ and keeping fellowship with Him? The consciousness of abiding in Jesus is regarded as requiring such a strain, and such a direct occupation of the mind with heavenly thoughts, that to enjoy the blessing would imply a withdrawing of oneself from all the ordinary activities of life. This is the same error that drove the first monks into the wilderness.
Blessed be God, there is no necessity for such a going out of the world. Abiding in Jesus is not a work that needs the mind to be engaged each moment, or the affections to be directly and actively occupied with it. It is an entrusting of oneself to the keeping of Eternal Love, in the faith that it will abide near us, and with its holy presence watch over us and ward off the evil, even when we have to be most intently occupied with other things. And so the heart has rest and peace and joy in the consciousness of being kept when it cannot keep itself.
In ordinary life, we have abundant illustration of the influence of a supreme affection reigning in and guarding the soul while the mind concentrates itself on work that requires its whole attention. Think of the father of a family, separated for a time from his home, that he may secure for his loved ones what they need. He loves his wife and children and longs to return to them. There may be hours of intense occupation when he has not a moment to think of them, and yet his love is as deep and real as when he can call up their images; all the while his love and the hope of making them happy urge him on and fill him with a secret joy in his work. Think of a king: in the midst of work and pleasure and trial, he all the while acts under the secret influence of the consciousness of royalty, even while he does not think of it. A loving wife and mother never for one moment loses the sense of her relation to her husband and children: the consciousness and the love are there, amid all her engagements. And can it be thought impossible for Everlasting Love so to take and keep possession of our spirits, that we too will never for a moment lose the secret consciousness: we are in Christ, kept in Him by His almighty power?
Oh, it is possible; we can be sure it is. Our abiding in Jesus is even more than a fellowship of love—it is a fellowship of life. In work or in rest, the consciousness of life never leaves us. And in the same way, the mighty power of the eternal life maintains within us the consciousness of its presence. Or rather, Christ, who is our life, Himself dwells within us, and by His presence maintains our consciousness that we are in Him.