Three thousand years ago, an old man with a long, tear-stained beard and rough, tattered clothes made his way to a rise on a hillside not far from here. As he turned around to face the growing crowd, the look on his face turned from brokenhearted sorrow to rays of joy that pierced through the most hardened of souls.
Israel had seen many ups and downs. Worshipping idols of wood and stone had fossilized the hearts of the people and left them empty, without a shred of hope. Could God forgive Israel in such a backslidden state? Was there any hope of a future?
The prophet’s eyes glistened. They were radiating with vision as he looked up into Heaven and then back down towards the people. Then he spoke with great emotion:
“Thus says the Lord, God of Israel: I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you….Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!…Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria. The planters shall plant and shall enjoy the fruit…” (Jeremiah 31)
The people of Israel knew that grape vines planted on the mountains of Samaria would be a sure sign of God’s favor and the coming redemption. Wine was an essential element of the service of the Temple. In order to fully turn from idolatry and worship the God of Israel, vines must be planted, grapes must be harvested, wine must be produced, and that wine must be set aside for libation offerings.
The following years of exile were endured with the hope that God’s presence would return to Israel. The first sign – branches shooting forth from the mountains of Israel!
In light of this, it is very significant for us Christians that Yeshua’s first miracle was turning water into wine!
Many of Yeshua’s parables about the kingdom of God were centered around the vineyard. One of particular significance to us as Christians is the parable where Yeshua speaks of the “Good Samaritan,” a non-Jew who uses wine and oil to bring healing to a wounded Jewish man. After all the horrific atrocities committed against the Jewish people by Christians, it is time for us to take Yeshua’s message to heart and make reparation for the sinful deeds of our forefathers.
Not long after Yeshua’s death and resurrection, the Holy Temple was destroyed and Israel’s vines were taken into exile by Israel’s conquerors. It did not take long for Italy and nearby areas of Europe to become world-renowned for their wine quality and production.
A hundred and fifty years after Yeshua, Rabbi Abba said: “There can be no more manifest sign of redemption than what is said by the prophet Ezekiel (in chapter 36:8), ‘But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel, for they will soon come home.’” Almost a thousand years later, another highly respected Jewish commentator known as Rashi, said, “When Palestine becomes so very fertile, Messiah’s advent is near, and there can be no clearer sign than this.”
A thousand years after, on the mountains of reborn Israel, a Christian farmer from Tennessee was introduced to Nir Lavi, an Orthodox Jew and vineyard owner from Har Bracha, Samaria, Israel. The once desolate mountains were shooting forth their branches as God’s chosen people returned to their ancient homeland. That same, vine-related, redemptive communication that Jeremiah, Yeshua, and so many others have understood, shook my father, Tommy Waller, to the core. Soon hundreds of volunteer vinedressers from nations all around the globe were coming to see and participate in this great, heralding miracle.
For some, it is difficult to find significance in something so simple. They say, “You are just picking grapes, right? What’s the big deal?” A few rather unlikely sources have acknowledged the gravity of this perplexing phenomenon.
The New York Times wrote that “HaYovel is effectively obstructing the creation of a Palestinian State.” A lawyer from Texas stated, “It is phenomenal that by this menial task HaYovel is shifting the balance of power in the Middle East!”
There is certainly something supernaturally significant about this ostensibly neutral enterprise! I believe it is for this same redemptive reason that Almighty God has opened the door for Christians from the nations to partner with the pioneering Jewish farmers of Judea and Samaria at this climactic time in history!
Isaiah prophesied that there would be a time when the nations of the world would come to Israel to worship God and to take part in the redemptive, agricultural restoration. These prophecies are being fulfilled today, right before our very eyes!
Since 2004, over three thousand volunteers have come from thirty-two different countries and harvested thousands of tons of prophetic produce. Thirty years ago there were no vineyards on the mountains of Samaria. Now, our volunteer teams harvest around four hundred tons of grapes every year!
Through the menial, simple task of harvesting grapes on the mountains of Samaria, we have connected to the Bible. We have partnered with God, bringing glory and honor to His name by physically fulfilling 3,000-year-old prophecies.
We have connected to the people of Israel, giving much-needed support to the valiant Jewish families that God has raised up and placed here as a sign for the world to see that His word is true and the time of redemption is here! Through this support, we have seen the depths of 2,000-year-old wounds begin to heal.
We have forever connected to the heartland. Our hands have held the sacred clusters of grapes that the holy prophets only dreamed about. Our faith has been made sight! We have connected to God’s supernatural plan of redemption in Zion. We have taken part in this miraculous process.
Flourishing vineyards, successful Jewish vineyard owners, and volunteer Christian vinedressers on the mountains of Samaria are boldly testifying to God’s unending faithfulness and giving the world hope that God is bringing redemption. May it be soon and in our day!