Isaiah tells the story of a man who planted a vineyard (Chapter 5) He chose some very fertile land in which to plant. Israel and the Jordan River Valley is home to some of the most productive land in the world. He worked extremely hard to build his vineyard.
“He dug it all around and removed its stones.” (v. 2) Wheel barrow after wheel barrow of rocks had to be removed. He worked for days to extract all the stones. There is a old saying that when God was spreading rocks about the earth in accidently spilled a great number in the area we call Israel. The owner of the vineyard had to hire a crew to remove all the rocks. He cut terraces in the land and used the rocks to fortify them.
“He then planted the choicest vine.” (v.2) He dug deep into his pockets and bought a very expensive, top-of-the-line vine stock. It was a vine known to produce the very best grape.
“He built a tower in the middle of it.” His vineyard was nearly complete and it covered many fertile acres. He was the envy of his neighbors. The tower was a two-tier affair. A watchman stood guard at the top of the tower to guard against thieves and wild animals and the bottom of the tower was used to store tools and implements to work in the vineyard.
“He then hewed out a wine vat.”(v.2)Tremendous effort was required to build this vineyard. The owner was very pleased with his finished product. He was anticipating filling his vat with bushels of grapes and dropping the rock on them to crush from them juices that would make the best wine in the area. He had risked a lot of money. He had contributed a great amount of time and effort and now it was time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
“He looked for it to yield grapes.” (v.2) But a tragic thing happened, instead, “it yielded wild grapes.” The fruit of this vine was weak. It produced tasteless berries that would provide a worthless wine. The owner was disappointed but also perplexed: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?” he asked.
Isaiah’s song is tragic. It is the story of the country he loved so much. God chose the most fertile land in the world and gave it for the people he had chosen. He removed the rocks, the pagan peoples who were intent on destroying his people. He built a watch tower to protect his people from invaders. He did everything that could possibly have been done to plant a people who would produce spiritual fruit and glorify him.
What does a farmer do with a fruitless vineyard that produces worthless berries? He curses his vineyard. He vacates the watchtower. He removes the hedge about it and ceases to prune the branches and hoe the rows. Briars and thorns eventually overtake it. It is trampled by wild animals and vagrants. Finally, the rains cease and the vineyard is wasted and produces nothing of any value.
This vineyard (Israel) was planted at the crossroads of the world to bear witness of the glory of God. Their failure was miserable and they were worthy to be judged of God. So, famine overtook the land and God rose up an enemy (Babylon) to take them into exile. Their homes were emptied, their streets quiet and lonely.
This prophecy was for the people of Israel but I can’t help but see parallels for my own country. Several hundred years ago our forefathers came here (America) with intentions of building a society that would grant them freedom to worship as they pleased and in which they could bring glory to the God they loved. God honored the desire of their hearts by leading them to a very fertile land with abundant resources. They had been afforded a great opportunity to become that “city upon a hill” which would be a light to show the way to a darkened world. The blessings God showered upon the American people were phenomenal.
But, America, much like Israel, began a slow descent into disobedience and unbelief. What started as a slow, gradual process is now a very slippery slope. Like a water slide at Six Flags, we are plummeting into rebellion and defiance against the God who blessed us.
The briars and thorns are now overtaking the vineyard. The judgment of God rests upon America. Our economic system is in shambles, our politicians habitually lie to us, our citizens are addicted to pleasure and leisure, our families are fragmented, our judicial system is filled with weak-minded judges who are far more interested in promoting personal agendas rather than uphold foundational laws.
I think Jesus was weeping when he looked down upon the city of Jerusalem and said, “”O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34) He foresaw the judgment that would come upon the city forty years hence.
O America, America. You despise the prophets sent to you and you ignore the message of truth. I think God must shed tears as he looks upon a once godly nation. “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” (Psalm 119:136)
Isaiah gives the reason the vineyard was cursed in verse 24. “They have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.” Many Americans have a twisted perception of God. They correctly see him as a caring Father whose love is longsuffering and patient and his mercy is incomprehensible. Many believe this perception gives them license to reject the laws of God. But his love for his children will not cause him to compromise his perfect justice. If God is not just God he is not God at all. His sorrow will finally turn to anger and his justice will be fearful and terrible.
Is he now asking us, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?”