I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” 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. – Isaiah 5:1-7
This passage is a logical continuation of yesterday’s passage about severe pruning. God is reminding the Israelites that He has done everything to make them a fruitful vineyard, but they are not bearing fruit. In fact they are in some cases bearing bad fruit.
The “gardener” here is God. He carefully planted and prepared a vineyard which is the nation of Israel. The purpose of a vineyard is to bear fruit to make wine or to eat. The problem that God is identifying here is that despite all His efforts to “clear the stones” and “plant the choicest vines” the vines are not producing. Not only are they not producing the fruit intended but they are in fact using all this careful preparation and oversight by God to produce bad fruit. God sounds a little like a very frustrated parent lamenting a child who despite all His efforts has chosen to squander His blessings.
I assume the bad fruit God is speaking about is the seemingly continual conflict, senseless sacrifice, and bloodshed that has been the norm for the Israelites since their exodus from Egypt. The Israelites have also turned to other Gods and their idols for comfort and provision rather than God. God is saying that He will withdraw His helping hand from Israel, “I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there”. He will “command the clouds not to rain on it.”
God has used droughts and rain in the past to get the Israelite’s attention. It is not clear whether this a reference to previous events or a prophetic reference about future events, although I am not sure it matters from God’s perspective. He wants faithful followers willing to go “all in” for Him and lead others to do the same.
There is a warning in the last couple of sentences that is as relevant today as it was when this was written…”he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” This certainly sounds like what is happening in the middle east today. I will not take sides in the ongoing conflicts and bloodshed. There is plenty of blame to go around for the seemingly endless pattern revenge and retribution, but God is saying in this passage that His patience will not last forever.
At some point there will be consequences for the failure to bear fruit and the production of bad fruit. The “wasteland” that is promised will not be pretty. There is much debate about the prophetic references in Isaiah about whether they predicted events that already happened or events that are yet to come. Does it really matter? God wants people who hunger and thirst for Him. He has gone to great lengths to “settle the matter“, now it is our turn to bear good fruit.
Prayer: God help us to bear good fruit from the blessings you give us.