Have you ever “trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm?” Having grown up in Iowa, I remember watching many a tree shake in a storm or be left bare from those gusty winds of fall. But even more extreme would be the derecho winds that blew across the state of Iowa a month ago uprooting trees that have been there forever, decimating crops, and causing havoc over hundreds of miles. Now that is fear! When I think of such intense fear, I can think of a few times when I was left shaking. Those are not memories I want to spend a lot of time dwelling on to be sure. But it does give us an idea of how King Ahaz was feeling when he learned about the attack. These other leaders were ganging up on Ahaz. What do you think he was really feeling?
We see again how God was ready to intervene for his people. He enlisted Isaiah to bring a message to the king. God’s message was to tell King Ahaz to “stop worrying.” Sure, those two kings were plotting against him, but they were “burned-out embers.” In other words, they weren’t strong enough to compete with Judah despite their plans to invade and overthrow King Ahaz. I had to smile at the language God used to describe them.
Don’t be troubled by the timing of this reading. There are many who question why Isaiah’s commissioning doesn’t take place in Chapter 1. Is it a flashback? Is it out of order? Does Isaiah have a second calling? We can speculate all day long and read all sorts of commentaries. For me, I accept it as what it is supposed to be. It reminded me of watching a YouTube video. They always grab you in the first minute or two with something bold and eye catching. Then a few minutes in, there will be a break for introductions, intentions, and a bit of promotion. Then it’s back to the meat of the message. Following this pattern, Chapter 7 and following will be amazing!
We should truly savor Isaiah’s vision for the beauty and message it gives us as our focus for today. Isaiah saw the Lord! We get a glimpse into the majesty of the throne room of God. Isaiah heard these words, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.” God is indeed holy. To be in the presence of his holiness was a privilege. Then it dawned on Isaiah what was happening.
You know as I read through today’s reading, I couldn’t help but be transported back to my college years. I can still remember guys in the fraternity, and some girls for that matter, who had all sorts of bragging to do about the amount of drinking they had done. They were proud of their “abilities” to hold liquor and carry on. I wasn’t impressed then, and I’m certainly not impressed now. It’s just one example of how the words of Scripture are alive and should speak to us still today.
Isaiah may have been used by God to bring this message to Jerusalem and the land of Judah, but we can’t let it end there. There is just too much carryover into the world we are now part of. I think as we dig a little deeper into these “woe oracles” we’re going to see some very familiar scenes. For each phrase that begins “what sorrow” we know what is to follow is the woe condemning certain behaviors that have offended the Lord. Various themes of social injustice run through the woes including drunkenness (as I have mentioned), idleness, selfishness, pride, and oppression, to name a few.
Have you ever toured or visited a vineyard? It’s been a while for me, but I enjoy knowing that nature produces fruit that can be cared for by people and then turned into delicious wine. I recently met a man online who calls himself a wine expert. He has a business educating people about wines, and he lives very near to one of our children in the United States.
The vineyard in our reading today is a bit different in that it symbolizes God’s people. When we first encounter this passage, it seems to be a love song, yet it’s not between two lovers. It may take just a moment to realize the singer is Isaiah, singing to the God he loves about God’s true love, his people (the vineyard). Isaiah gives God all the credit for planting a wonderful vineyard, preparing it perfectly on fertile soil. As I understand it, establishing a vineyard is a lengthy, involved process. It’s nothing like planting a bunch of vegetables in your garden.
Today’s reading is full of hope for the future. The warnings of destruction will be partnered with glimmers of hope. We can see that pattern playing out in our lives too. For every trial and valley of struggle, we can rejoice in the light at the end of the tunnel. We know there is an end in sight. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” We can put our hope in Jesus. He was sent to this earth to be our light in the darkness. He is a light so bright that darkness cannot and will not ever overtake it.
Here we see what many Christians believe is a prophetic reference to the Messiah, the light of the world. “But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.” The restoration Isaiah is speaking of will be truly manifested in the coming of Jesus. Years later, Jeremiah speaks of this branch as well, “For the time is coming, says the Lord, when I will place a righteous Branch on King David’s throne. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this is his name: ‘The Lord is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.” What a beautiful word from God to give people hope.