“Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning his vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And he built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then he expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. “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? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? “so now let me tell you what i am going to do to my vineyard: i will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; i will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.” (Is5:1-7NASB)
The first thing to observe is God’s reference to Israel as His “beloved”. Courtship language in this context is not uncommon within the Old Testament; Yahweh presenting Himself as Suitor, and Israel the chosen nation whom He wished to make His own. Within human relationships, the suitor normally pursues his beloved because there is something attractive or desirable about her; not so with God with respect to His chosen people (Israel and the Church). In terms of whom God elects it is a matter of free grace; but as I never tire of asserting, that is not because he does not care for the rest:
Now then (Israel), if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine (ex19:5)
All the earth is God’s and He is fair to all its inhabitants: those predestined to be “His people” are given responsibilities as well as immense privileges, a part of which for the present is to enlighten and act as a template for the rest of creation, towards most of whom His intentions are also benevolent. Any following this series of posts should discern this to be the focal point of what I believe I have been shown by the Spirit through Scripture and wish to impart to others by underpinning such hopes from Scripture – assuredly not from any liberal or merely hopeful perspective. Regrettably that involves exposing some traditional scriptural hermeneutical errors which are nothing short of foundational – relating as they do to the anthropological consequences of the Fall (Gen3 / Rom7:15-24 / 1Thes5:23) and the implications of the reprobation of Cain (Gen4 / 1Jn3:12 / Jud1:11), both of which have been considered in earlier posts and more systematically in my e-book. I pray that others might come to be convinced by these observations, more especially those willing and able to examine their overall intrinsic coherence. A mutual acknowledgement of past error would undoubtedly be painful yet potentially restorative, not just for a divided Christendom and the various versions of the Gospel currently emanating from her, but for the whole Israel of God. The Lord well knows that His scattered and divided people cannot adequately be prepared for His coming until there is a consensus concerning what is required of them, especially concerning such essential matters as the nature of the Eucharist. Likewise it is only right and just that the rest of the world receive a coherent message from a united Body of Christ concerning the coming great and dreadful Day of the Lord (cf. Mt21:21; 24:14).
Returning to our texts, Israel was intended to be a light to the Gentiles (cf. Ex19:5), and from God’s perspective they were the vineyard He had planted (Is5:1). In Isaiah’s words the Planter had expected good grapes but it yielded what was worthless (v4). Note also how the Lord pleads with His people: “Judge between Me and My vineyard, what more could I have done for you?” God by no means wishes us to spurn human reasoning in the consideration of His actions and how we are to approach Him – such also was the teaching of Christ (e.g. Lk11:5-13). Note especially the consequences of His peoples’ failure, affirming my earlier comments regarding privileges resulting in responsibility: God’s own vineyard would (for a time at least) be laid to waste (v6). As for those privileged to be incorporated within the racially expanded “Israel of God” of the New Covenant:
“How shall we possibly escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (cf. Heb2:3) “How much worse a punishment will those deserve who have trodden underfoot the Son of God and have counted the blood of the covenant by which he is sanctified as a common thing and so outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Heb10:29)
Just as with our forebears, God to an extent “gave the wink” to ignorant idolaters (Acts17:30KJV) whereas to those privileged to be His elect nation He had said:
“You alone have I intimately known of the families of the earth. That is why I shall punish you for all your wrong-doings” (Amos3:2njb)
This may not be the emphasis one is used to, still less wishes to read about but it has been laid on my heart, partly I suspect as a caveat but above all to affirm our Lord’s equitable justice in His dealings with all who have been created in His image.
Illustration: Vineyard in Napa Valley, California – courtesy Wikipedia