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Faithlife Corporation

Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“Vindication Against the Vineyard”

Notes & Transcripts

This third prophetic sermon was a clever presentation of Israel’s present spiritual condition and its consequences. It starts out deceptively as a casual song, transforms into a courtroom drama, and ends with pure condemnation. Isaiah lured his listeners into hearing him by singing a sweet melody, but ends by playing the discordant notes of judgement.

I. THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD (5:1-7)

            1. this is one of the great pieces of prophetic literature in all the bible
                1. some even consider it one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written
            2. Isaiah, like a folk singer, begins by singing a song about a friend’s vineyard: “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard ... “
                1. you can almost see Joan Baez nodding with approval as Isaiah strums his lyre and croons his folksy melody
                2. Israel is frequently characterized as a vineyard in the Scriptures, so I’m sure Isaiah’s listeners thought, “Gee, he’s singing a song about us. How quaint.”
                3. they would not think so for long

A. THE IDENTITY OF THE VINEYARD (vv. 1-2)

    • "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 watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes." (Isaiah 5:1-2, ESV)
            1. the ballad is about a vineyard that had many advantages
                1. it belonged to a loving person—my Well-beloved
                    1. the KJV and the NASV both translate the word beloved as well-beloved
                    2. other translations simply translate the word as beloved
                    3. it’s a term of endearment and it’s literal translation is darling
                    4. Jehovah is the Well-beloved of this passage
                2. it was planted on a very fruitful hill
                    1. here, Isaiah is referring to the land itself
                    2. it was a land flowing with milk and honey and they took the blessings of the land for granted
                      • “When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant.” (Deuteronomy 31:20, NIV)
                3. the ground was carefully prepared
                    1. the Well-Beloved dug it up and cleared out all the stones
                    2. what is Isaiah alluding to?
                      • “I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.” (Exodus 34:24, NIV)
                4. it was planted with the very best stock
                    1. the Well-Beloved chose the choicest vines available
                5. it was a well-protected vineyard
                    1. a hedge had been built around it and a watch tower built in the middle of it
            2. with all the care, time, and love lavished on the vineyard, the Well-Beloved expected his vineyard to bring forth sweet grapes and a bountiful harvest
            3. sadly, it brought forth wild grapes
              • ILLUS. 2 Kings 4:39 refers to the “wild vine.” It looks a lot like cultivated grape vines, but its berries are bitter, foul-smelling, and poisonous in nature.
                1. the vineyard, of course, is Israel
                2. the “wild grapes” represents a self-willed and rebellious people
                3. this vineyard produced just what you would expect it to produce if nothing had been done to it

B. THE INDICTMENT OF THE VINEYARD (vv. 3-4)

    • "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men 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 looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?" (Isaiah 5:3-4, ESV)
            1. God asks Jerusalem and Judah to consider the story of the vineyard
                    1. the question is a simple one: “Who is to blame for the harvest of only wild grapes?”
                    2. is it the fault of the owner of the vineyard, or is it the fault of the vineyard itself
                    3. we know, and they knew, that farming is a matter of cause and effect
                    4. literally, one can never “blame” a vineyard for a lack of production
                    5. but in the Lord’s vineyard, indeed it is the vineyard which is a fault
            2. the Well-Beloved had left nothing undone to guarantee the vineyard’s success
                1. God cannot be blamed for the unrighteousness and unfruitfulness of Israel
            3. it is entirely possible for God to do a work in his people, but for His people to receive that work in vain
              • "Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain." (2 Corinthians 6:1, ESV)

C. THE JUDGMENT OF THE VINEYARD (vv. 4-7)

    • "What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for 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 briers and thorns shall grow up; 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 men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!" (Isaiah 5:4-7, ESV)
            1. Isaiah now shocks his audience by identifying the characters in his ballad
                1. the Well-beloved and owner of the vineyard is Jehovah—Lord of hosts
                2. Israel is the vineyard
            2. God vows to take away the vineyard’s hedge
                1. the hedge was a stone wall toped by thorn bushes that husbandmen would erect around their vineyards that kept out the critters that might destroy the vines and eat the fruit
                2. the result of tearing down the hedge is that the vineyard will be devoured and the vineyard trampled down
            3. God vows to let the vineyard ‘go to seed’
                1. it shall not be pruned, or hoed or weeded, nor will it receive rain
                2. God will give the vineyard exactly what it wants—it’s independence
                    1. the vineyard wants to be left alone and so the husbandman will leave it alone
                    2. the vineyard had resisted God’s care and protested the “pruning” and “digging” and “cultivating” and “watering” it had received from its owner
                    3. so now the owner says, “Fine. No more pruning or digging or cultivating.”
            4. as the vineyard disappointed the Lord, so this song disappointed its original hearers
                1. it proved not to be a love song, but a message of confrontation between Israel and her true God

II. THE PAGANISM OF ISRAEL (5:8-24)

            1. here is the great “woe chapter” of Isaiah
                1. six times Isaiah utters woe upon the nation
            2. God has lifted His hand of blessing from the nation
                1. they want to ‘go to seed’ and He will let them with devastating results
            3. Jehovah’s crop was worthless because it produced wild grapes that manifested six blights
                1. the word woe is a term of lament and threat and introduces each blight
                2. you can almost picture Isaiah holding up a cluster of wild grapes as he utters each woe
            4. some of these woes are similar, so let me put them in four categories for you ...

A. WOE TO THE LAND BARONS (vv. 8-10)

            1. the picture is of greed that manifests itself in real estate buying and development
                1. the rich have bought up all the desirable property, leaving the rest of the people with no where to live
            2. in judgment, their real estate deals will not be successful, and they will leave behind many vacant houses

B. WOE TO THOSE WHO PARTY ENDLESSLY, AND CELEBRATE EVERYTHING BUT GOD (vv. 11-17)

            1. they have become a nation of God-rejecting drunks, living only for carnal pleasure
            2. the picture in these verses is of those who “work hard” to party endlessly and celebrate
                1. their lives are filled with substance abuse and music
                2. the result of their hedonistic lifestyle is that they have forgotten God
            3. the result of driving other people from their land and living only for pleasure would be, ironically, that the Israelites would be driven off their land and enjoy little pleasure

C. WOE TO THOSE WHO CONFUSE MORAL ISSUES, AND WHO THINK THAT THEY KNOW BETTER THAN GOD (vv. 18-21)

            1. they are filled with deceit and have mocked God, daring him to punish them
            2. these verses speak of perversity and conceit
                1. the people had redefined sin to allow for their lower moral standards
                2. they used God’s vocabulary but not His dictionary!

D. WOE TO THE CORRUPT, WHO PLACE GREATER VALUE ON DRINKING THAN ON FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE (vv. 22-23)

            1. they twist truth, saying that right is wrong and wrong is right

III. THE PUNISHMENT OF ISRAEL (5:25-30)

            1. the Lord’s people will suffer punishment for their sinful ways
                1. “therefore” points us backward to vv. 8-23 where Isaiah pronounces woe after woe upon the vineyard
                2. the disobedience and unfruitfulness of the vineyard is so severe that complete judgment is the only answer
            2. even as Isaiah utters his fateful word, God was already moving against Judah and we removing the hedge and breaking down the wall around His vineyard
                1. the Northern Kingdom had already gone into captivity for essentially the same sins as Judah
                2. but Judah’s thinking is, “It can’t happen to us.”
                3. Isaiah says, “That’s what you think!”

IV. LESSONS OF THE UNFRUITFUL VINEYARD

            1. God cares for His vineyard
                1. God had done everything possible to provide for us
                2. how has he provided for us?
                    1. maybe He has built a wall or hedge of protection around your life
                    2. perhaps He has erected a tower of refuge for you to reside
                    3. perhaps He has prepared the soil of your life so that you can produce sweet and abundant fruit
            2. God expects fruit form His vineyard
                1. there are two types of fruit that we can produce
                    1. good, sweet and bountiful fruit—fruit that is worthy of God and true to His goodness
                    2. or fruit that is sour and unpalatable
                2. what have we rewarded the Well-Beloved with?
                    1. have we given him hardness of heart instead of repentance?
                    2. have we given him unbelief instead of faith?
                    3. have we given him indifference instead of love?
                    4. have we given him idleness instead of industry?
                    5. have we given him impurity instead of hoiness?
                3. what does God expect
                    1. Praise
                    2. Changed lives
                    3. Growth
                    4. Soul’s brought to Jesus
            3. God judges the fruit
                1. we are God’s vineyard
                  • “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16–20, NIV)
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