Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Isaiah 5: 6 and 7

“I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.

Although there is more to come from Chapter 5, the Parable of the Vineyard ends with our last two verses today, Isaiah 5: 6 and 7. In verse 6, Isaiah completes the picture of the vineyard as it will stand under God's providential care--neither pruned nor hoed, and rife with briars and thorns. 

I've just come back from my extended family's yearly trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We always pass by a vineyard, well cared for with its vines staked and its bases clear of weeds. Tiny globules forming off the vine in the hot sun. Not the time to see ripened grapes, but I can sense that the excellent care of the vine and foundational grounding will allow for the best possible fruit at harvest.

Not so the vineyard in the parable, as God says that He will "lay it waste," going so far as to order the clouds "to rain no rain." [I love that phrasing, even though I'm not sure what else God planned for the clouds to rain down.] The point is that God is in charge of this entire effort, and His intentions are purposeful and non-negotiable.

"'Have You completely rejected Judah?
Or have You loathed Zion?
Why have You stricken us so that we are beyond healing?....

Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain?
Or can the heavens grant showers?
Is it not You, O Lord our God?
Therefore we hope in You,
For You are the one who has done all these things.'"
--Jeremiah 14: 19 and 22, excerpts

God gave Jeremiah a prayer for mercy during this time of proposed drought that God shared through Isaiah. The "waste" that was to land upon Judah would certainly appear as a rejection by God. But, this was a nation that, for all intents and purposes, didn't acknowledge that God brought the rains in the first place. Their sin and its consequences would be as the stinging briars left behind in their land, though felt in their hearts all the way to Babylon.

"Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles. Those who had escaped from the sword he [Zedekiah] carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia...."
--II Chronicles 36: 19 and 20

Isaiah closes out the parable by explaining what the symbols are: the vineyard being Israel (Israel and Judah), and the men of Judah, "his delightful plant." But, as we know from reading earlier, what God had planned to be a plant of great personal enjoyment and productivity had become a vineyard of stinkin' bad fruit. His care in the staking, pruning and tilling of the perfect soil had been contaminated by worldly bugs, rampant unbridled growth and a resulting yield of sour grapes. This was a vineyard that would face complete devastation, but not at the hand of a God who had run out of grace in His storehouse.
"Note, God, in a way of righteous judgment, denies his grace to those that have long received it in vain. The sum of all is that those who would not bring forth good fruit should bring forth none. The curse of barrenness is the punishment of the sin of barrenness, as Mark 11:14 [Christ's cursing of the fig tree]."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

God waited in expectation of fruitfulness, but the wages of sin is death--death to a vineyard! God had given His grace in abundance, but the field of thanksgivings to Him and His Name lay barren. His people had turned against Him and against themselves. [Isaiah 3: 14, "It is you who have devoured the vineyard...."]

"It is very sad with a soul when instead of the grapes of humility, meekness, patience, love, and contempt of the world, which God looks for, there are the wild grapes of pride, passion, discontent, malice, and contempt of God—instead of the grapes of praying and praising, the wild grapes of cursing and swearing, which are a great offence to God."
--Matthew Henry

"Woes for the Wicked," as we leave our parable for an exposition on six judgments facing Judah.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 5: 8-12

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

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