The vineyard is a staple metaphor throughout scripture. We see it in prophecy, in the parables of Christ, in Genesis accounts, in threats from foreign kings, in the Psalms, and even in the very words of Yahweh. The vineyard is everywhere.
Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
– Isaiah 5:1-2, ESV
In Isaiah 5:1-2 we find a declaration of God’s love for his people, his beloved, his “vineyard.” He worked hard for his beloved, preparing, feeding, protecting. But the vine yielded wild grapes.
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?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
– Isaiah 5:3-4, ESV
God, the owner, sower, and caretaker of this beloved vineyard cannot hide his disappointment. Regardless of the love and the care given to the vine, it has borne worthless fruit. No amount of attention from the vinedresser was sufficient to bring the vine to yield a crop of good fruit.
The vinedresser has a response.
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 briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
– Isaiah 5:5-6, ESV
The houses of Israel and Judah, those who should have known Yahweh more intimately and seen God more clearly than anyone on earth, chose to reject him, to not bear fruit. As a result, rather than abundant provision, the owner of the vineyard declared that he would lay it waste.
“Surely, this is a one-off matter,” we may protest.
But no. This is an oft-repeated refrain with the people of God.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
It sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
– Psalm 80:8-11, ESV
Sounds great so far, right?
Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
– Psalm 80:12-13, ESV
The question is rhetorical, to be sure. They knew why the vineyard was being ravaged. We have a picture of abject desolation unleashed on the unfruitful vineyard because the vineyard was abandoned.
So, they cry out for salvation.
Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted,
and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your face!
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand,
the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
Then we shall not turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
Let your face shine, that we may be saved!
– Psalm 80:14-18, ESV
Here’s the point (though I’m certain you already know). We are professionals at judging the fickle devotion of the Jews. Play with sin, play with sin. God abandons them. Turmoil results. “Oh, save us God! Save us!”
We are no different. N . O … Different!!
The vine cries out repeatedly for restoration, but we must come to grips with the reality that sin has consequences. We ignore God at our own peril.
Stay connected to and feed off of the vine. Here’s what that looks like.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
– John 15:1-11, ESV
The goal is not to oppress us and keep us down. The goal is that we have joy, and not just joy, but joy that is FULL. Abide in the vine and bear good fruit.