Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Isaiah 5: 3-5

“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
“What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes 
did it produce worthless ones?
“So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.

As God is telling His story in Isaiah, Chapter 5, He turns to His listeners and says, in verse 3, "And now...," what do you think the ending should be?" We have read in the first two verses of this chapter of this beautiful vineyard, established and cared for with the greatest of skill and love. But the plot in the story turns to "sour grapes." And what is the ending? Isaiah left the decision to the "inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah." (vs. 3)

Will you follow God or will you follow the "vineyard," the chosen people of God who have turned away and against Him? "Judge," discern, reason, go figure, given the information provided, how this story could end any way but how God spells it out in verse 5. In rhetorical questions, really, God asks, "What more was there to do....?" Had He not provided for everything and shown incredible grace to His people, even in their waywardness? Psalm 80, once again, appears as a cross-reference:

"You removed a vine from Egypt;
You drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground before it,
And it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shadow,
And the cedars of God with its boughs.
It was sending out its branches to the sea
And its shoots to the River."
--Psalm 80: 8-11

It should have been a fabulously fruitful grape. But there was no fruit worth picking! Sour, stinking, worthless, nothing of a grape.

It will not be the only time Judah and Jerusalem are compared with a vineyard in Scripture. As Jesus shares what we know as "the parable of the landowner," He talks with his critics about the end that faces the vine-grower who selfishly and at no cost whatsoever tends his vineyard.

"'Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?' They said to Him, 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.'"
--Matthew 21:40-41

What the chief priests and Pharisees determined to be the ending of Jesus' story is the same conclusion that God reaches with Judah and Jerusalem. And, what we learn over time is that this storyline plays out in Israel over and over throughout history into modern times. From my study Bible, "As punishment for her unfruitfulness, Israel became desolate and accessible to any nation wishing to invade her, such as happened in the Babylonian invasion of 586 B.C., and will happen repeatedly until her national repentance at the second coming of the Messiah."

The hedge of protection has come down and the walls of Jerusalem next, says the Lord in verse 5. With this calamity comes the revealed vulnerability of a nation that will not receive God's gracious protection in the manner in which it had known it until a time yet to come.

"Why have You broken down its hedges, so that all who pass that way pick its fruit? A boar from the forest eats it away and whatever moves in the field feeds on it."
--Psalm 80: 12 and 13

When the chosen vineyard yielded bad fruit, something had to change. The "boar from the forest" might well be King Nebuchadnezzar, who came in to devour Judah, selecting his kinsman Zedekiah to rule as the Babylonian captivity began. Even in this tumultuous time, as God tried to speak to Judah, the people seemed to be lost, pondering God's question from Isaiah 5:3, looking back and forth at their choices: Him or the vineyard? Him or the vineyard?

"The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy.... 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.
--II Chronicles 36: 15-16 and 19 (italics mine)

Isaiah spoke to a people who did not hear him. How much, I'm sure, he was hoping to be the "remedy" of which II Chronicles speaks. Isaiah would be told a great deal more by God, and we will soon read of his calling by God in Chapter 6. We know that more is to come from Isaiah on the true Remedy. But His message would be one that would leave the Jewish nation continuing not to hear, yet open the way for you and me.

"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it."
--Matthew 21:43

Official study break! Enjoy a peace-filled week....'Til Wednesday in 2 weeks!


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In 2 weeks: Isaiah 5: 6 and 7

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).