Thus said the LORD of hosts, They shall thoroughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine…
The text, no doubt, tells of the utter and complete desolation which would result from the Chaldean invasion of Judah and Jerusalem. In vivid dramatic form Jehovah is represented as bidding the invading armies go over their ruthless work again, and make the desolation yet more awful, Like as the grape-gatherer, after he had to all appearances stripped the vine of its clusters, would "turn back his hand" amongst the tendrils, and search once more over the whole branch to see that no solitary cluster had escaped him ("tendrils," rather than "baskets," are what is meant; see Exposition); so, if there were a solitary village or homestead which had escaped the fury of the foe, they are bidden go back on their work, that none whatever might escape. Such the meaning, and it was ruthlessly fulfilled. But the form of expression may be applied, not merely to the ministers of God's vengeance, as in the text, but to those who serve him in ways far more acceptable and ordinary. We, therefore, take the charge, "Turn back thine hand as a grape-gatherer," and address it -
I. To THOSE WHO ARE AT WORK FOR GOD. The self-satisfied, who look at their work with too much content, as if it could not be bettered, - these need this charge. And the discouraged, who are for throwing up their work, abandoning it in sorrow and despair, believing they can do nothing more, - to them God would say," Turn back thine hand." To those who desire to do their work thoroughly. Go over it again. See how Paul was constantly in the habit of "turning back his hand," i.e. going over the Churches that he had established, revisiting them, in order that he might "confirm them in the faith (cf. Acts, passim). Line upon line, line upon line," is God's counsel to us in this matter.
II. To THE STUDENTS OF HIS WORD. To none more than to these is this charge necessary, if they are to keep a living interest in God's Word. We come to be so familiar with the main themes, and the forms in which they are expressed, that reading of the Bible comes to be a work in which no thought is aroused, or attention arrested, and we weary of it terribly. Now, it is to the diligent searcher, who will "turn back his hand," go over his work again, and not be content with the truths which lie only on the surface and which every eye can see, - to him shall there be revealed clusters of precious truths which he had never seen before, and the Word of God shall yield to him what it yields only to searchers like himself.
III. TO THOSE ANXIOUS FOR THE FRUITS OF GOD'S GRACE IN THEMSELVES. To true-hearted believers it is often a cause of regret that their fruits seem so few and so poor. How often the confession is made of this spiritual fruitlessness! But we need not, ought not, to stay in complaints and confessions. "Turn back thine hand," and search if there may not be more fruit found, and of a better kind. "In me is thy fruit found," says God, and it may be we have been looking in the wrong places and to wrong sources for that which we so earnestly desire to see. We may "go on unto perfection," for so bids us the Word of God. Our "whole body, soul, and spirit may be preserved blameless," and we maybe "the sons of God without rebuke;" for Christ "is able [has power] to save to the uttermost," and therefore we may be "filled with all the fullness of God." So, Christian brother," turn back thine hand as a grape-gatherer," and think not thou hast gathered all the fruits of the Spirit that may he borne by thee. Thou hast not. In conclusion, note how the subject tells of:
1. The worth of those objects which we search after. The action of the grape-gatherer, in carefully going over the branch again, testifies to his sense of the value of that for which he searches. And so here in I., II., III.
2. And what is yet left to be gathered will be more readily found because of the others that have been gathered. The solitary remaining clusters are seen more easily now that the others which hid them are cleared away. And he who desires to do more work for God, to know more of the truth of God, to bear more fruit unto God, shall find that his former work has been for his help, and on account thereof he is more sure of success. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit;" therefore "turn back thine hand." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall throughly glean the remnant of Israel as a vine: turn back thine hand as a grapegatherer into the baskets.