“Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. (Isaiah 5:1)
Contrast this, beloved reader, the concept of fearing the Lord God. Would it surprise you to know that the love here is just the same mindset as the fear in other parts of scripture? Now, you may think (if you are not already aware of the topic of this passage) that the writer of Isaiah is going to be poetic and pastoral, drifting away on pink clouds and perfumed sky. No, fear is the closer emotion. And the result of there being a lack of fear, and love, of the Divine.
“He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.” (Verse 2)
Here in Oregon, grape growing is a growing business and occupation, as well as a hobby. In my childhood I knew of green grapes, sweet and succulent without seeds. I have learned about red grapes and black grapes, which are actually better than the green grapes you get here on the west coast. But there is a small very sweet green grape called champagne grapes; you can just taste the potential in them. The Beloved of the writer of Isaiah expected succulent juicy grapes but instead got bitter grape that would roil and upset the stomach. And the Beloved of the writer of Isaiah was very upset and roilec in his actions and affect.
“And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” (Verses 3 – 6)
The question lingers, how did this happen? Did poisonous foreign vines creep into the vineyard? We the vines that were planted compromised? Did someone come along and despoil the vineyard? We do not know, and are not told. But then this is a parable and metaphor, so such details will not be forthcoming.
“For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” (Verse 7)
The question lingers, how did this happen? Did foreign nations undermine the integrity of Israel & Judah? Did the people’s devotion to the Divine waver and lessen? Did human nature and human will draw the people away from what had been preached to them? I have studied Old Testament scripture trying to understand why and how Israel and Judah strayed so far. And all that I could conclude is that power corrupted . . . . absolutely. It almost seems that the nature and character of each king after King David swayed the devotion and character of the nation. And that is hard for me to believe. Yet, I look at the nation that is the United States, and compare its character and image now to the way it was some years back. Of course, and naturally, the leader of the United States do not stand in for every man, women, and child in the U.S. Of course not all of us within the borders of the US are the same. You can find compassion, care, and authentic Christian practice everywhere. But as a corporate nation, maybe we are a failed “vineyard.”
I am sitting here trying to think of some words of consolation and comfort – and I cannot. All I can do is remind you, beloved reader, that the same Lord God who crashed and smashed down a doomed vineyard also sent Jesus Christ to redeem those vines and branches that produce good fruit. Shalom & Selah!