Friday, January 10, 2014

I Heard it Through the Grape Vine

My Bible gives subtitles to sections of scripture and the one for Isaiah 5 gives the subtitle, "The Song of the Vineyard."  That song tells the story of a vineyard that was loved by its owner.  He had done everything right to produce a bumper crop of grapes.  The land had been prepared, the planting was to perfection, a watchtower and wine press had been provided.  Every detail had been properly considered and carried out, so the vineyard owner could anticipate a huge success with his crop of grapes.

The story continues and gives the bad news that in spite of all the hard work in the vineyard and the high quality of the vines, bad grapes were produced. They were terrible!  So bad was the crop of grapes the vineyard owner decided to abandon his plans for the vineyard.  He would remove the protective hedges which surrounded the vines.  He would remove the surrounding walls which had added even more protection, and all the vines would end in destruction.  Soon the vineyard was a wasteland. 

Our eyes are opened to the real sadness of the vineyard story, when we learn it was an illustration for the dreams God had for Israel.  Verse 7 sums it up:

”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.".

The remainder of Isaiah 5 carries another subtitle.  It says "Woes and Judgments."  It doesn't take a highly educated Bible scholar to understand when the Word of God uses the word, "Woe," things are not going well.  In this case, where vineyards once flourished, plush homes now are desolate.  God pronounces further woes on them by saying they rise early in the morning and start drinking wine, and late at night they are inflamed with wine.  Sadness is revealed again when God says, "They have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, and no respect for the work of his hands."  The whole chapter is filled with additional woes, but I think you can picture the situation.  It shouldn't surprise us to read the closing words of that chapter, "If one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds."

The same dismal picture can be seen if we have no regard for God, or no respect for the work of his hands. Yes, there is good news which follows when God, through his love for Israel, rescues them again. 

What I want you to see is God's love for you through Jesus Christ, who says in John 15 , "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."

Everything we are and hope to be, is dependent on our relationship of abiding in Jesus.  Just like vines and branches, we draw real life-giving sustenance only from him and apart from him we can do nothing. We are the vineyard that produces fruit for him. He longs for a good crop, as we produce the fruit of the Spirit. 


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