The Song Of The Vineyard Part 2
Last week in our study of Isaiah 5:1-7, we saw that God noted his people had not produced righteous fruit after everything he had done for them (5:1-2). Now, in in verses 3-4 Yahweh indicts his people.
The bitterness of rebellion did not go unnoticed. Like Nathan who came to King David with a parable and invited his decision so the king would indict himself (2 Samuel 12:7), Yahweh invites the judgment of Judah and Jerusalem. They all knew the score. They all knew God had done every for them that could be expected. His grace toward them was limitless. And so he asked them "what more could I have done for my vineyard that I not have not already done?" (v.4). It is a rhetorical question designed to cause the audience to admit their wrongdoing.
Understand, God's expectations are always reasonable. He is not asking for anything out of the ordinary. His people should have responded with faith, love and obedience. But the expectations were not realized.
It is also important to see that this song does not imply God did some preliminary work and then walked away from the vineyard hoping for the best. Rather, he remained involved with his vineyard. This is implied by the description of the vineyard and the things associated with it. There was a watchtower, a wine press and wall. There was a need for ongoing cultivation; all imply a long-term interest and involvement on the part of the gardener. Thus, God was constantly cultivating and caring for the vineyard. There was no excuse for Israel and Judah's disobedience.
It is the same in our relationship with Jesus. Our Lord tells us the Father prunes the branches that bear fruit (John 15:2). There is an ongoing cultivation and care of the branches. And so, God provides everything necessary - not just at the beginning but in an ongoing fashion.
After indicting his people for bearing worthless fruit in verses 3-4, the Lord indicates he will punish them in verses 5-7. It is not all talk and no action for Yahweh. Remaining in the metaphor of the vineyard, God describes the punishment he intends to bring upon Judah and Israel for their rebellion. In a nutshell, God says he will no longer protect the vineyard. As a result, Israel and Judah were laid waste by Assyria (2 Kings 15:29, 2 Chronicles 28:20). Israel was essentially wiped out. Judah remained, only to be overthrown by the Babylonians a hundred years later (2 Chronicles 36:17-21). Basically, Isaiah's words are a brief, figurative description of the cursing promised for covenant unfaithfulness as listed in Deuteronomy 28. It is significant that even in the midst of pronouncing judgment, Yahweh affirms his love for his people, his pleasant garden (v.7).
So there will be no question about the meaning of the song, the audience is finally told in verse 7 that it refers to Israel and Judah. Moreover, the specific sins of the people are listed. They were unjust and oppressed the weak and vulnerable (v. 7). Instead of righteous behavior - godly behavior - there was violence throughout the land. Now, these two things are tied together. Throughout the Bible we find that God has a heart for the poor, the oppressed, the weak and needy (Deuteronomy 10:18, Psalms 68:5, Isaiah 1:17-23). And throughout the Bible God warns against mistreating that class of people (Isaiah 10:1-3).
We will return to this study in a couple weeks.
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