Sunday, October 8
from Buried Cities Rediscovered, or Explorations in Bible Lands, 1884. (Thanks to Joann Schlesinger for the book !)
The desire for a vineyard and its vintage goes back to some of humanity’s earliest memories of working the soil. We read in Genesis 9 that Noah was a “man of the soil” – so it must have been particularly galling to him, to be stuck in a boat on the endless waters for such a long spell. Noah jumped off his ark as soon as it landed and immediately planted a vineyard. Presumably, the supply of wine on the ark had run out during the many months afloat, and he was in a big hurry to make more.
In the awful days of the Assyrian invasions of Israel and Judah, the prophet Isaiah compared the promised land to a vineyard which belongs to God, from which God expects to receive good fruit (Isaiah 5). But when God comes to His vineyard looking for the fruit of “justice” (Hebrew: mishpat), instead He finds “oppression” (Hebrew: mishah). When God comes to His vineyard looking for righteousness (Hebrew: tsedeqah), instead He hears “a cry” (of someone being mistreated: Hebrew: tse’aqah). As we read elsewhere in the Bible, God wants His people to bear good fruit: justice and righteousness. God is very angry with his vineyard for producing such wild, sour grapes. God’s disappointment has severe consequences:
God says to Judah and Israel,
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.
Isaiah 5: 5 – 7
But it was always God’s desire to reconcile with His people. In Isaiah 27, God through the prophet tells His people what He really wants to say to them:
A pleasant vineyard, sing about it !
I, the LORD, am its keeper;
every moment I water it.
I guard it night and day
so that no one can harm it;
I have no wrath.
If it gives Me thorns and briers,
I will march to battle against it.
I will burn it up.
Or else let it cling to me for protection,
let it make peace with Me,
let it make peace with Me. (Isaiah 27: 2 – 5)
In the very first chapter of Isaiah, God says to His people,
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before My eyes;
cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16 – 17)
Our gospel lesson this week features a parable that Jesus told to the religious leaders, when he came into Jerusalem and they challenged his ministry. Jesus told them another story about a vineyard, with many similarities to the story the prophet Isaiah had told, hundreds of years before. That same story has a serious message for us today. I hope you will tune into it with me.
“When the harvest time had come,
he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce.”