The Expectant Lord
The Expectant Lord (Isaiah 5:1-7; Luke 13:6-9)
Are you interested in vineyards? The Lord must be. He repeatedly uses the vintage and the vineyard as emblems of His people. After the flood, Noah planted a vine, symbolic of a new age. The spies of Moses returned from Canaan with the grapes of Eschol, symbolic of the promise of the land. The prophets refer to God's people in the imagery of the vineyard. Jesus' first miracle was to reproduce what only a vineyard can do, turn water into wine. Jesus warned that His message was new wine that could not be placed into old skins. Throughout Scripture the vine and the grape symbolize God's expectations for His people.
Isaiah dramatically seized on this image to dramatize God's expectations for a mature, productive, fruitful people.
The Lord Provides Generously for a Fruitful People
Isaiah assumes the role of a folksinger. He sings a song about the vineyard of an unidentified Friend. Every conceivable provision has been undertaken to ensure that this vineyard produces the highest quality vintage. The vineyard is planted on a very fruitful hill, literally "a horn of fatness." This Owner tediously removed the unwanted stones. The Hebrew indicates that he provided it with the finest grapes grown in Syria. Customarily, a crude hut was constructed to keep watch over a vineyard. The Owner built a great tower, not only for protection but for pleasure of observation over the growing vineyard. The Owner even excavated a vat for the new wine out of the solid stone nearby. Nothing was wanting; nothing was spared.
Isaiah's parable originally applied to the nation of Israel. It cannot be applied to the United States for we are not God's covenant people, any more than Luxembourg or Liechtenstein. The church is now the vineyard. No provision has been left wanting for God's church, for God's staunch people, and, most pointedly, for our congregation. We are provided with more resources for fruitfulness than any generation of believers before us.
The Lord Waits Patiently for a Fruitful People
Having made every provision, the Lord had every expectation for a fruitful people. The fruit that the Lord expected is noted in the application of the parable, verse 7. The Lord looked for the inward attribute of "righteousness" manifested in the outward demonstration of "justice." Instead, His vineyard yielded the acrid and bitter grapes of oppression and the hollow cry of the abused poor.
Each individual inhabitant (v. 3) of Jerusalem is invited to give his judgment on the vineyard. Unwittingly, like David before Nathan, their judgment is a judgment on themselves. Did the Lord omit anything necessary for fruitfulness? Did the vineyard not in fact bring forth bitter grapes? Their very silence renders the verdict.
How long has God patiently waited upon you to become fruitful? Has he really omitted anything from your life that would be necessary? Nothing in all of His universe delights Him unless His people are fruitful. The stars in their orbits, the oceans in their immensity, and the sun in its intensity are nothing to God compared to the delight He has in the fruitfulness of His people.
The Lord Judges Ultimately a Fruitless People
The clear implication is that God builds a hedge of protection around His people while He awaits their fruitfulness. But verse 5 indicates a time when God irrevocably removes that hedge. Like domestic and wild animals running amok over what was once a carefully manicured vineyard, so would the nations trample over Israel. Our Lord Jesus in Luke 13:8 becomes the Vinedresser who pleads for one more year on behalf of His people. Jesus tells the story of a man who planted a fig tree. It was placed in the choicest location of attention, a vineyard. The owner looked for fruit for three years, more than adequate time to produce fruit. When it had no fruit, the owner wanted to cut it down. The vinedresser, a symbol of the Lord Jesus, pleaded for one more year that it bear fruit. Our Lord intercedes with the Father for our fruitfulness. He expects and provides for the best. He Himself is the Vine, our great Supply (John 15:5). Could this be our year?