“Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes.” (Isaiah 5:1-2)
Sadly, the above love song (penned by the prophet Isaiah) ends on a sour note. We see a vineyard with incredible potential producing nothing but bitter fruit.
In this poignant ode, Isaiah’s beloved is the Lord. The vineyard represents the nation of Israel – a once enslaved people whom God mercifully delivered from Egypt. Though it took an entire generation for them to return to the land of promise, we see from Isaiah’s song that the conditions were absolutely ideal for a fresh, new start.
LET IT FLOW, LET IT FLOWJesus
Firstly, the vineyard was situated on a fruitful hill. Vineyards are often planted on slopes to allow for proper drainage. This way plants don’t die from root rot. Hills also allow for steady run-off so crops below can be irrigated. This tells us that Israel was positioned to bless others. She was to be a land flowing with milk and honey not flooded with milk and honey.
Where I live, in the Texas Hill Country, we don’t get a lot of rain but when we do we appreciate it. It keeps things green, lush and beautiful. However, there are those occasions “when it rains it pours” and there’s a lot of flooding. The results are devastating. Whereas a steady flow of rain sustains life, flooding kills it. The same can be said for milk and honey.
For a land to be flowing with milk, you need lots and lots of cattle. Next, you need pastureland and acres upon acres. This all requires fertile soil, sunshine, rain, etc. Now, for the honey you need lots of bees, pollination, flowers, plants, trees, soil, more sunshine, more rain and the list goes on. (Leave it to the cute little bees and cattle to keep everything well pollinated and fertilized.) I’m sure you get the picture by now. A land flowing with milk and honey speaks of abundance! It promises a future and hope, prosperity and security, luxury and livelihood.
God poured into Israel that she might pour out to others. She was to be flowing — not flooded. Unfortunately, Israel soaked up her blessings but became a lousy dispenser. Her people eventually got ‘run off’ because there was no healthy runoff. As Christians, we must learn from their experience. Living water must pour out as quickly as it pours in. Should we horde, our roots will rot and we will wither.
We also learn from Isaiah’s song that God placed great value on Israel. He refers to her as the ‘choicest’ vine. The choicest vines are the reddest ones. They yield luscious purple grapes which are used for fine wines.
Finally, God placed a winepress in His vineyard. This shows us that He anticipated an abundance of good fruit. The best way to tell a good grape from a bad one is to crush it. That’s what the winepress is, it’s a crusher. Its purpose is to produce something better, not bitter. When you crush good grapes, the flesh is torn away and out pours sweet wine. Wild grapes just whine when crushed. God does allow his children to go through the crusher. He uses this process to tear away at our flesh, build character and produce spiritual depth. If we’re not growing better it’s because we’re bitter.
What robbed Israel of her blessings was bitterness. This thankless bunch whined all the way from the wilderness to the Promise Land. Rather than praise, they chose to protest; instead of rejoicing, they revolted. Good fruit can never be produced under these conditions, there will only be sour grapes.
Only by embracing the presence of God can one ever become fruitful. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” Once we become detached, we quickly lose sight of what God has done, what He is doing and what He has promised to do. That’s when sour grapes start to surface.
Jesus taught, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8) Remember, we are not fruit producers. Jesus is. He’s the vine. We’re the branches. Hang onto Him and fruit happens. When it does, there are no sour grapes, only joy. Jesus assures, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
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Calvary Chapel of Austin Church
1601 Pecan St., Pflugerville, TX 78660