Thursday, August 28, 2014

To Cultivate a Vineyard

Isaiah 5:1-4
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a wine press as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.
"Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?"

The image of God's vineyard is a powerful illustration of his love for his people, and his grief when we ignore him and everything he's done.
This passage tells of the tender care of one planting a vineyard. Working hard to give it every opportunity for growth, all the odds are for this vineyard. The soil is turned, the stones are cleared, good vines are planted—ones that almost guarantee a good result—, a watchtower is built and a wine press cut out in expectation of the good fruit to come.
Everything necessary for a good result is right there.

"...what more could I have done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?" (V.4)

In the book of Isaiah, this passage is tucked in the middle of a large description of all the ways that the people of Judah are blowing God off in favor of temporary pleasure and gain.
They are worshipping idols, the women are entirely self/image obsessed, it's a real mess.

The issue? Materialism, of course. The people are starry eyed at shiny things that offer worldly pleasure and gain. The economy at that time is said to have been thriving. There was plenty to go around and yet there were people doing without, people in need but being ignored. Widows, orphans, outcasts.
How do you suppose God felt about it? He had clearly abundantly blessed and provided for his people, instructing them to care for those in need. What did they do? They kept the riches for themselves and left the needy in need.

The vineyard is planted, ready to thrive!
But the ones tending aren't tending it at all. They are merely playing with the blessings given, not seizing the purpose of them—To glorify the Lord and care for the people in need (and therefore glorify God all the more!)—

"...when I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?"
People's selfishness, egos, pride, money-clenching.
Question: are these things that people struggle with today?
Answer: absolutely. Welcome to the USA, where we have everything at our fingertips.
We have people rolling in riches AND people sleeping on the streets.
We are a nation with a lot of potential and a lot of missing the point.
God didn't plant a great vineyard for us to say "hey, thanks"
He planted a vineyard for us to tend and make thrive. But it's up to us to take up the responsibility. He's gotten us off to a great start, but if we are going to take up the classic selfish gain mindset, we are well on our way to a bitter end.

Isaiah 5:5-7
"Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away it's hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down it's wall, and it will be trampled, I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it."
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

We as Christians really should be seeking to know the heart of God. And if we get to know the heart of God, we find that his heart is for those in need. And we find that we are called to care for those in need and share our blessings with them.
I'm not pressuring you to donate half your life savings to an organization or to go spend the night with a homeless person.
I'm telling you that I personally feel a responsibility to look for the opportunities are in front of me today to be what I am called to be within that opportunity, whatever that looks like. And I'm totally trusting God to make that evident.
I'm seeing the emptiness of the world that will not last and desiring to invest my actions today for the good of eternity and the glory of God.
I'm desiring to cultivate this potentially beautiful, productive, vineyard with the blessings I've been given.

And may this not just be a blog post. Not just something on my mind today that passes away by next week, but a true motivation in my heart to live by the beat of God's heart.