Isaiah speaks of his well beloved that has a vineyard in a fruitful location with every imaginable accommodation to provide that good grapes should come. Unfortunately, the vineyard brings forth wild grapes. In frustration, the viticulturist expresses, “what more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done?” Then he destroys the vineyard so that grapes may never grow there again. This whole parable illustrates this picture, “the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel”. Isaiah looked for justice and righteousness in the land of Israel but there was oppression and a cry. Each sought to gain more and more for himself and indulged themselves excessively in the fruits of their own vineyards. Many instruments and good wines were in their feasts, but they regarded not the work of the LORD (Isaiah 5:2-12).
In this parable we see such harsh warnings. All was given to Israel. She had many prophets, such as Isaiah, who served as faithful vinedressers to keep the vineyard and preserve it so that she might bring good grapes. God even gave good spiritual kings to lead the people, yet wickedness prevailed. After only a few kings, the nation already had to be split into two parts because they could not live in charity and unity with one another. This parable has much warning for us today. We must live in humility realizing all that we have received from God. May our service be true and sincere from the heart, and may we realize it is all of Him that we are His people.
First, our life as those nourished and cultivated by God must be lived as true children. Our worship may not be mere lip service. May we never be those children which God nourished and brought up but rebelled against Him (Is. 1:2). The LORD asks, “to what purpose is the multitude of sacrifices unto me?” Do we sacrifice merely because our fathers did? God continues to answer, “I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats” (Isaiah 1:11). Rather, our calling is to live sincerely. Sacrifices will still be made and good fruits produced, but out of thankfulness and constant acknowledgment that all is from Him.
A distinction must be made in this picture. By no means does this parable suggest that God extended His grace to some but they would not accept it. God does not desire salvation and fail to deliver it. Rather, this text teaches the responsibility of a fallen man. God reveals Himself to all men and yet they will not confess His name. Even the most prosperous man who feasts in the morning will not acknowledge God’s hand. This warning is even stronger to those specifically who grew up in Israel, or today within the church. God gives faithful men to tend to the vineyard. God gives peace, prosperity, and much knowledge to His people as we see in the parable. The Reformed or Biblical faith has never been as developed, recorded, and accessible to God’s people as many of us are blessed to receive today. Do we sit idle and ignore the preaching we sit under, the library of reformed books in the church or perhaps even in our parents’ homes?
Secondly, we now realize that this call to faithfulness is not that we might save ourselves from being an unfruitful vine. It is not to protect ourselves from being burned as was the vineyard that brought wild grapes. We must always remember it is only because the LORD of hosts has left unto us a small remnant that we are different from Sodom and Gomorrah (Is. 1:9, Rom. 3:23). The LORD alone can preserve the faithful city so that she does not become a harlot (Isaiah 1:21). The Lord alone washes away the filth of the daughters of Zion and keeps the wicked from his church so that all which remain may be called holy (Is. 4:3-4). We may never puff ourselves up in pride. “Oh I’m, [insert church membership] and I go to church every Sunday of course I’m holy.” We may not say such a thing, that implies we have washed our own souls and made ourselves holy by our work (acquiring church membership) and are not required to live in gratitude or even acknowledgment of God. Where is the thankfulness and acknowledgement that God gives all good gifts in a statement like that? Rather we humbly praise God for the true church He has blessed us with and ask He help us to be more holy and fulfill His calling to cease from doing evil and learning to do well (Is. 1:16-17).
This calling from Isaiah is one which causes us to pause and examine our own life to see if we have forsaken the blessings we have been given. Do we say thank you to God each day by everything that we do? Or do we go the exact opposite direction and even worship idols of our own hands instead of God (Is. 2:8)? Remember this, “the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and join every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low” (Is. 2:12). We may never be proud of ourselves but rejoice in Christ and exalt our King. May this parable of the vineyard be a wake up call to any lethargic member of the church (which if we are honest we are all that member). Live in His blessings and seek that He continues to sustain and uphold you. Praise the Lord that there be any among men which can be called, “the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Is. 1:26). Only by an amazing work of Christ to make His righteousness even to be ours can we be called righteous. Astonishingly, by Christ and His Spirit within us we can even be called faithful. Though we are by no means close to perfect we do indeed bear fruit. By Jesus’ faithfulness and love for the Father worked in us and given unto us we may be called faithful. How awe-inspiring and complete a salvation given!! Receive with gratitude.
Luke Christian Potjer