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; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
“And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people 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 expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
“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. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”
Pause. Pray. Reflect.
In this parable from the prophet Isaiah, the vineyard owner is frustrated when his efforts yield wild grapes. At first, I wondered what would be disappointing about “wild” grapes, in contrast to a domesticated variety. I investigated and learned that the biblical usage indicates that they are poisonous; the term “wild grapes” can also be interpreted as, "stinking or worthless things" or "stinkberries." Knowing this, and understanding that God is speaking to and chastising his people, I chuckled at God the Father’s use of this language to reprimand his children.
But for the Beloved, the vineyard owner, this is a serious matter. He protected the grape vines, nurtured them, and invested much time and energy to cultivate the land for a worthy harvest. The love and labour He offered would have cost Him tremendously, and it was reasonable for him to expect to see beautiful grapes grow that He could press into wine — a sign of joy. It would have been disappointing to see no fruit, but even that would have been better than having wild grapes grow in their place; these are noxious and their presence is a threat. If someone unknowingly consumes them they could become sick or die. They cannot fulfil their intended purpose, and so the owner expresses righteous anger in response.
This passage alludes to the consequences of sin, and how it prevents Israel (and us, His Church) from being a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6) to point and lead others to His goodness. God speaks of His tireless love and provision, along with the pain He suffers when we refuse (or are unable) to receive His love and to abide in Him. It is great to be affirmed and to understand that we are made to be a source of joy and delight, and sobering to understand how our misuse of human freedom leads us far from His plans and purpose towards chaos and destruction. All of this points to our need for a Saviour, and in Christ we find the One who can heal and restore us so that we can bear fruit that will last — the fruits of the Kingdom of God.
Holy Spirit, please teach us to abide in you and help us grow in love, so that we may bear good fruit that leads all into the joy of your presence. Amen.