“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;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.” (Isaiah 5: 1-2)
I was hoping to pick the path of lest resistance today – a passage that would lay itself open before me and I can leisurely pick my way through the verses, commenting lightly and ending with a poetic finish. Instead I am here in Isaiah, trying to understand what is going one. Amongst the choices this week, the Isaiah passage seemed to hold the most hope for an above treatment. I am hopeful in the days that follow, I will be up to the more ambitious verses.
This portion of Isaiah is a metaphor for God choosing the Hebrew people as the “called” and “chosen” people, but it did not work out as expected.
“And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people 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 expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” (Verses 3-4)
I have at various times of my life tried growing things, with varying degrees of success. My latest project, which is not so much growing something new as much as reviving something old, is growing a poinsettia plant. I started out with three: one became infested with insects and died before my eyes. I throw it out. The second became infested not to the point of death, but it threatened to infect the third plant. This second plant is awaiting what ever fate comes to it outside on my back porch. The third plant is doing quite well, and I have hopes for it, unless the insects lay waste to it also.
“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 it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” (Verses 5 – 6)
I felt badly throwing out the first plant. But the ground it was in just kept hatching out more insects. The second plant looked like it was quickly falling victim the same insects, and I could no longer take the chance that the third healthy plant might also succumb. It was a matter of saving the third and last plant. Tough choices.
“For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
righteousness, but heard a cry!” (Verse 7)
What was I to do, beloved reader? Sacrifice the third plant by making it keep company with the second one? My options were limited. And, I could not keep these plants inside at my home – I was keeping them at work because we have a cat who might have nibbled at the leaves. And I could not allow my office to be infested with the insects. There was no other choice.
Many portions of the Old Testament tell stories of harsh choices, and disaster and doom befalling the Hebrews. Are we to understand that the Divine makes such harsh choices for the “called” and “chosen” people? Or did the writers of the Old Testament place such a harsh interpretation of the events of their time? Or is it the bible commentators who assume a scurge? It could be any or all three – dependent on which book of the Old Testament one looks at. I know this – I am not the only one who wrestles with this. Plants are not people. Although, one would think with as little regard as segments of humanity treat one another that people are as disposable as unwanted plants. But the is commentary for another day, not today.
I have done my “duty” for this passage, and hope that I have given you something to think about. Shalom!