FRUITLESS ENDEAVOR

Opening Prayer

Lord, may your Word penetrate my defenses, and bring life and strength to my inner being.

Read ISAIAH 5:1-7

The Song of the Vineyard

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.

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New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Give thanks for ways in which God has blessed and nurtured you in your life. Name those who have been God’s means of discipling you.

Think Further

Isaiah the folk singer starts up a love song which quickly takes on a blues feel. He moves from Cliff Richard to Leonard Cohen and remains in that darker mood without the respite that we have come to expect in his passages of hope. He sings on behalf of a vineyard owner. The effort put into nurturing the vineyard or relationship is unstinting and carries expectations (notice the repeated ‘looked’ in verses 2, 4, and 7). The building of a watchtower and the construction of a winepress indicate that there is a crop needing to be protected and developed.

Our minds turn to Jesus’ assertion, ‘I am the true vine.’1 He, too, expects fruit with increasing yields in response to the love he showers on us. Fruit is no optional extra but a necessary consequence of being in Jesus. Here there is nothing to show for all the sustained nurture. The relationship lacks any mutuality. The result? The vineyard is turned back into wasteland. Delight (v. 7) turns to disappointment and soon we shall see what this means for Jerusalem (vv. 26–30).

What was this expected fruit? Justice and righteousness (v. 7), interpreted later by Jesus as sacrificial love for others.2 This is about treatment of other people. Bloodshed and cries of distress are the marks of a fruitless people. This could involve actual murders but may equally refer to policies in the nation that effectively killed the vulnerable. Much of the teaching in the New Testament epistles is devoted to how we relate to one another. James, for example, warns against quarrels that are tantamount to murder.3 This is abhorrent to the Lord to the point where he tears things down, allowing a slide into disarray. It is an enormously chilling prospect – God withdrawing from his people.

Apply

Think of all the expressions of fruitfulness you see in your community of faith. Then consider where justice and righteousness may be absent.

Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to walk closely with you so that my life will bear fruit—fruit that will last.

Last Updated on June 29, 2024 by kingstar

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