The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
Have you ever tried your hand at farming? Even if it’s a simple garden around the back porch of the house? Then you know the pain of failing. I am yet to meet a gardener who has already made their peace with failing. Unbecoming things might happen, but instead of reacting with frustration and anger at the plants, they look at them with sadness.
And I am not trying to say that all gardeners fail. Nothing could be further from the truth. In many cases, the failures are louder than the successes. Because the failure often speaks more to him about the character of his soil, crop, and even the environment. Sometimes the gardener tries everything, but the crop refuses to take up water or nutrients.
The Happy Gardener
In Isaiah 5, we meet such a gardener. He was excited and hopeful about the success of his crop. We can tell of his zeal and passion by his choice of planting land. He chose to plant his grape vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. Armed with experience, he got all his farming tools together.
He took time to prepare the land. He plowed the hard soils, cleared the stones, and planted the best quality vines. The choice of soil and crop shows an attitude of a patient farmer. He had such high hopes for the farm that he set a watchtower in the middle of the farm.
And as if that was not enough, he also constructed a wine press next to it. I mean, this is a picture of a person who is laboring for the long haul. He is not only excited about the grapes’ harvest but also thinking about the wine he will make from the grapes. Later in the chapter, Isaiah reminds us that Israel was the vineyard and God was the gardener.
Similarly, God is the farmer in the story, and we are His vineyard. He reached out and picked us from the fangs of the enemy, washed us and planted us in a fertile land. With an inviolable devotion to His crop, God hoped that when time for the harvest comes, we will produce sweet grapes for His wine.
The Disappointed Gardener
But Isaiah 5 unfolds the gardener’s anguish and the crop’s failure. The unexpected happened. The grapes matured, but they produced bitter grape juice. When we look at the story of Israel from
- the promises of Abraham,
- Exodus of Israel from Egypt,
- manna in the desert,
- the joy of eating what they didn’t plant,
- the leadership of the patriarchs
- and a shameful array of sin in the nation
We can then conclude that Israel did not produce the harvest God expected.
Fruitlessness doesn’t just break the heart of God, but it goes contrary to His essence. When you see the lengths the gardener went to make sure that the harvest would be bumpy and great, you see God’s unfailing love (Romans 5:8).
God didn’t leave us to a life of sin, disobedience, immorality, pride, or rebellion. Instead, He cultivated us, pardoned our past, and gave us His Holy Spirit. This is why the gardener can not wrap His head around the cause of the bad harvest.
What else could he have done? What more could God have done to prevent you from backsliding and to live an ungodly life? There is nothing He hadn’t done. Should He remove His protection around you for you to take godliness a bit more seriously? Indeed we should look at what God has done and turn our lives around.
The Good Harvest
Is God asking from us what exceeds our ability? Can we say that His expectation of us is unjust? No. He has already done most of the work that is needed for us to get the harvest. We don’t have to earn our salvation. He gave Jesus on the cross to clear our debt (Ephesians 2:8-9).
He doesn’t simply expect us to bear fruits; He instead provides all the necessary conditions to bear such fruit. This, child of God, is where God’s expectation stems from.
The good news is that all we have to do is align our lives with the conditions he has set to enjoy the fruitfulness He expects of us.
Our fruitfulness is first tied to our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. It’s imperative for any believer hoping to bear fruit to surrender their life to Jesus. Without Jesus, we will only yield sour grapes. But with Him we will yield not only sweet grapes but also a bumper harvest.
The second condition the Lord has set for us is the blessing of one another. The fellowship of brotherhood. The unfailing love of God brings diverse people into a single fold. And now that we share the same father, we become siblings in the Lord. We are therefore given to one another. To encourage, correct, exhort and follow after Jesus together (Hebrews 10:25).
God has also blessed us with all we need for life and godliness (2 Timothy 1:3). He has given us the Holy Spirit with whom nothing is impossible. We have the gift of the Word of God, which can provide direction in times of distress. We receive salvation of our soul when we rid ourselves of every prevalent filth and evil and accept God’s word into our hearts. Finally, God has blessed us with wealth and other earthly goods.
All these things are not only for the sake of our comfort while we are here. We must not forget that our time is limited. Every blessing God has bestowed on us should serve His purpose of having a beautiful vineyard.
Let us be careful lest we frustrate our gardener, and he cuts all the branches that bear no fruit (Luke 13:17). Lest God asks us how we could be so cruel to Him. Fruitfulness should remain to be the goal of every life that is centred on God.
I pray for you, dear reader, may you be a flourishing vine in the garden of the Lord. May you be richly laden with much fruit.
King James Version (KJV)
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
New International Version (NIV)
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his cherished garden;
he expected justice but saw bloodshed;
righteousness but heard a cry!
New American Bible (NASB)
For the vineyard of the Lord of armies is the house of Israel,
And the people of Judah are His delightful plant.
So He waited for justice, but behold, there was bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.
English Standard Version (ESV)
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!
The Living Bible (TLB)
I have given you the story of God’s people. They are the vineyard that I spoke about. Israel and Judah are his pleasant acreage! He expected them to yield a crop of justice, but found bloodshed instead. He expected righteousness, but the cries of deep oppression met his ears.