In the two previous blogs, we began to examine the Parable of the Vineyard found in Isaiah 5:1-7. We first considered the Song of the Prophet in verses 1-2 and the Proceedings in the Courtroom in verses 3-6. We now come to the Conclusion as it is presented in verse 7:
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
And the men of Judah his delightful plant.
Thus he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
The expectations of the LORD were utterly reasonable. He looked for justice in his people—fundamentally, the ability to distinguish between good and evil. Such a capability was available for the asking, as Solomon and others had learned. But Israel was too proud to ask: they were “wise in their own eyes” (Isa. 5:21). Thus they stumbled about in moral confusion, “calling evil good and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). This absence of moral discernment came to poignant expression in their courtrooms, where the wicked were justified for a bribe, and the righteous had their rights taken away (Isa. 5:23). In Jerusalem there was no justice; as for righteousness, it had vanished (Isa. 1:21). While God longed to see righteousness—lives patterned after the divine standard of the moral law—what he found was weeping, “a cry of distress” (Isa. 5:7). Sin never brings fulfillment, but it always brings tears, sorrow to oneself and to others around us.
The history of Israel illustrates the history of the human race, beginning with Adam and Eve, and continuing to the very day in which we live.
By common grace we are blessed beyond what we really deserve. We have food and friends, clothing and shelter. In the church, the goodness of God is further heaped upon us. We have the Word of God, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the law and the gospel, the elders and the saints.
How though have we responded to the divine bounty? Have we not been like Israel of old? In ourselves and from ourselves, we have not produced a rich harvest of fruit pleasing unto God. Our grapes have been worthless. We have shown moral confusion in choosing the evil over the good and in our attempts to rationalize our sins, defending the indefensible with one excuse after another. Righteousness has been absent. We have been unwilling to listen. The voice of God has gone unheeded.
Our failures have been widespread, total, and complete. We are beyond the point of self-repair. God must act. This is our only hope. And this is exactly what the gospel announces: God has acted. He has given to us a gift, a remarkable present. “A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us,” the prophet declared (Isa. 9:6). Upon his arrival—in fulfillment of the prophetic expectation—Jesus the Messiah made the announcement, “I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
In our next meditation, we shall reflect upon the implications of this remarkable statement that Jesus makes—while Israel turned out to be a false vine, Jesus came to be the true one.