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.
Women are apparently not immune from the wrath of God. Not that I would have thought so, but there are some drastic measures being taken here. I don’t know about you, but when I think of women from Isaiah’s time, I picture more of a servant girl not wearing jewelry or adornments of any kind. The picture here of women is glamorous, “haughty” walking around with their noses in the air. It is obvious these women have great wealth and prestige or have the appearance of that at least.
We see how quickly beauty can be taken away. Is it wrong to want to look beautiful? The problem here was these women had placed importance on their alluring clothing and stylish jewelry rather than on God. Instead of seeing the oppression around them and using their wealth to care for those less fortunate, there was greed and selfishness. Those are traits that keep us from a lasting relationship with God.
Disobedience will bring serious affliction and great destruction. You may recall in Deuteronomy 28, the Lord laid out curses for disobedience. The judgment being proclaimed through Isaiah now is a reminder of those warnings. The people had been alerted years ago.
How often do we ignore warnings that are given for our own good? I can remember as a child when the tornado sirens would sound, we would gather in our basement while the storms passed. Some people would not heed the sirens because they would rather have the thrill of watching the storm. There are even storm chasers who make a living doing that sort of thing.
Have you ever hidden yourself from punishment? As I was reading this passage, I pictured myself as a toddler or young child hiding under my bed to avoid an angry mom. Of course, it was preceded by something I had done wrong. I had been naughty, and discipline was inevitable. What I had done is not part of the memory! I do remember how it felt to get caught and the fear of punishment.
What about our text today? We hear that the Lord “rejected his people” for all sorts of misbehaving! That is a different kind of punishment than the spanking I was trying to avoid. Did the people realize what they were doing was angering God? The people were dabbling in magic, putting their trust in their vast treasures, worshiping idols, and bowing down to things they have made.