LEAVES ARE NOT ENOUGH?
Gracious Father, You are my enabler when courage fails, my protector in times of trouble, and my hope in life and death. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Read ISAIAH 5:1–7
The Song of the Vineyard
5 I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.
3 “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?
5 Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
6 I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.”
7 The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Loved with everlasting love, / led by grace that love to know; / … In a love which cannot cease, / I am His and He is mine.’1
It isn’t always easy to appreciate poetic writings when they are translated, but the wonderful creative imagery here is unmistakable, in any language! We can all picture the gardener, who is deeply loved by the poet and, as we read on, is clearly revealed to be God Himself. We see the care and hard work put into developing the vineyard. All the necessary resources are provided so that the vineyard’s purpose of growing wonderful grapes can be fulfilled. A vineyard is not there just to exist but to grow fruit the owner can use to provide food and drink. In spite of the gardener’s best efforts, however, this vineyard only produces bad, useless fruit. Nothing more can be done, so the only way forward is to get rid of the vineyard altogether: good grapes are clearly never going to be grown here!
Sometimes the meaning of poetic pictures is left for readers to work out for themselves, but Isaiah wants to be very sure that the people of Israel understand that he is talking about them. The fruit God asks them for is justice and righteousness, but they produce only bloodshed and despair. There is a clear challenge here for us. The New Testament leaves no doubt either of the fruit that we are supposed to be growing, or the fact that we can do that only if we remain attached to the vine – revealed as Jesus Himself – who can continuously provide us with the nourishment needed for us to bear fruit. Staying attached to the vine is essential, but it is not enough. Is my worship more about providing myself with the experience that I crave, or is it about providing fruit for other’s benefit? Do I care as much as God does about justice and righteousness?
What modifications could be made to your personal spiritual vineyard?
Father God, above all else I do not want to disappoint You. I ask for forgiveness of my sins and a clear sense of direction for my life.
1 George Wade Robertson, 1838–77, poet and hymn-writer