There’s something about blackberries found in the countryside that makes them taste far better than those you buy or even those that you grow in your own garden. Whether it’s the sense of surprise, or the fresh air, they are a real blessing to be enjoyed – leaving a few for others!
I don’t remember ever finding wild grapes, but I suspect there’s something of the same sense. Through Hosea, God says,
Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel.
Like the first fruit on the fig tree, in its first season, I saw your ancestors. (9:10)
It’s another vivid image of God’s joy in his people – having found them barely formed, in the middle of the wilderness, he saw the fruit they could bear and be, and nurtured them. But (as we might expect, given Hosea so far!) things hadn’t stayed that way. God’s love had taken Israel from the wilderness and cultivated her in a vineyard – one of the images that runs through the Old Testament and the words of Jesus. But she had not grown healthily.
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit.
The more his fruit increased the more altars he built;
as his country improved, he improved his pillars.
Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt.
The LORD will break down their altars, and destroy their pillars. (10:1-2)
When we prosper as a result of God’s blessing and care, the responsibility on us to remain faithful is always there. What a tragedy it is if we lose the fruitfulness which God first noticed, as comfort, perhaps reputation and plenty, make us more complacent.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus calls the church in Ephesus to return to the love she had at first. Perhaps there’s a call to return to the fruits we bore at first.
When you first heard God’s call, with what enthusiasm did you answer? Even if some of the ways in which you first tried to serve him now look naive, even embarrassing or inept, what are you doing now that shows the same life, faith and enthusiasm for his love?