Isaiah 5:1-7, 11:1-5
(sermon note: 11-19 sermon note)
Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watch-tower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry!
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a father who wrote a quick letter to his imprisoned son one day. The letter read, “Dear son, your mom and I love you very much, and we miss you dearly ever since you went to prison. I especially miss you now that spring is here, and it is time to plow the fields. The ground is hard, and my back is old. I’m afraid I will never be able to plant the crops in time. Love, Dad” A few weeks passed until the father received a response from his son. “Dear Dad, whatever you do, don’t go digging in the field! That’s where I hid that thing. You know I can’t say what it is because they read our mail. Just don’t dig out there! Love, your son” A few more weeks passed until the son finally got a response from his father. “Dear son, the cops came out and dug up my fields. They said they were looking for something. Thanks, son. It looks like I’ll get the crops planted after all. Your loving and grateful father”
The love shared between parents and their children can be both powerful and clever. I don’t suppose that father would have imagined such a clever solution to the problem of his unplowed fields. But left to endless hours of being stuck in his own imagination, the son was sure able to come up with it. Not to mention the added incentive of sticking it to the prison authorities! I’m sure the son was delighted to lead the prison authorities on a pointless scavenger hunt! And to have that scavenger hunt somehow benefit his aging father? Brilliance! Love can create some powerfully clever solutions to life’s problems.
Just look at our reading for today. The prophet, Isaiah, spoke on behalf of our pretty disgruntled God, not unlike the prophets Elijah and Hosea in the last few weeks. Again, we hear God speak words of frustration and dissatisfaction. Isaiah uses the imagery of a vineyard and its creator to represent the people of Israel and God. The vineyard owner loved his vineyard and took great care tending to his vineyard. The vineyard should have produced grapes that were best suited for eating or making wine but instead it produced sour, inedible wild grapes. And it wasn’t because of anything the owner failed to do! The vineyard was planted on “very fertile hill” and the stones were hauled away. The vines themselves were considered “choice vines,” ideal for producing choice fruit. The owner even built a watchtower to keep an eye out for anything that might sneak in and poison the vineyard. Yet despite all these precautions, the vineyard still produced inadequate fruit. And the angry owner contemplated tearing down its walls that would allow briers and thorns to overtake it. He even considered not sending any rain upon the land! The vineyard was certainly under threat from its angry owner.
Now what does this situation have anything to do with the love between parents and children? Nestled in the heart of God’s angry outburst, we hear God ask a rather revealing question: “what more was there to do for my vineyard that have not done in it?” I say that’s a revealing question because it reveals the true heart and love of the owner. The owner doesn’t want to give up on his vineyard. The owner thought he had created the best opportunity for his vines to produce quality fruit and he desperately wants to know where and how he went wrong. Sure, the threatens to destroy his vineyard but not before knowing where and how he went wrong. He’s invested his heart in his vineyard. He LOVES his vineyard! Isaiah went on to explain that the vineyard represented God’s beloved people, Israel, and of course the owner was none other than God himself. God LOVES his people! God LOVES US! God created us and this world with the expectation that we would produce nothing but choice fruit and yet sin finds its way in and corrupts us. Not all of us produce choice fruit. Some of us produce sour, inedible fruit. And God has the justifiable inclination to destroy us all. But He doesn’t. Why? Because He loves us so much that He’s unwilling to give up on us. He finds a much cleverer solution to the problem of us. He sends us the Messiah as we heard in the 2nd half of our reading for today. “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse.” A totally unexpected, out-of-the-box solution to the problem of us! We know Jesus to be the prophesied Messiah and all of Isaiah’s descriptors of the Messiah seem to fit Jesus. Jesus is the solution to the problem of US! The love of God is far more powerful and clever than anything we could ever imagine!
You see, at the root of our reading is the love of God. It is a love seen and heard and praised for all throughout scripture. David proclaims in his 36th psalm, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgements are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (vv. 5-7) And what better show of love is there than the love revealed in John 3:16? “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” God didn’t need to send his Son to us. God chose to send his Son to us! And God chose to do it knowing full well that we would foolishly kill him! Friends, God’s love for us is for more powerful and clever than anything we could ever imagine! Later in Isaiah, we again hear the prophet speak powerful words on God’s behalf: “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (vs. 54:10) This is a love we can’t even imagine! God’s love is so unlike any love we know!
As we head into a week of thanksgiving, let us be particularly mindful of God’s love. All of us have much to be thankful for this year, most importantly for the gift of God’s generous and unconditional love. He is a loving God, always has been and always will be. Let us ask him to be particularly generous in his love in the year ahead and give thanks for all his blessings in the year past. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.